The cat's tail is an amazing part of the anatomy. It has several functions including helping the cat to balance as well as communicating his mood. Different positions can tell you a lot about your cat's current mood. Some of which include:
An upright quivering tail means he is happy.
Firmly tucked in between the legs means he's submissive.
Upright means he's friendly.
If the cat is sitting and his tail is flicking, he's agitated.
If the cat's tail is horizontal he's relaxed.
So, what does it mean when my cat puffs up his tail?
You may have seen your cat get a fright and puff up his tail so that it resembled a bottle brush? He is feeling threatened, defensive or excited. The purpose of the tail actually puffing out like that is to give the impression that he is bigger than he really is. You may notice the hair running along the spine may also stand up at the same time. He wants to show that he is as big and as scary as possible.
I don't necessarily think that the puffed up tail is always a sign of fear or defensiveness, however. I have also seen my own cats excitedly running around, stalking a killer piece of fluff or toy mouse, jumping, pouncing and the tail is all puffed up. There is no fear, they do appear to be enacting stalking/hunting behaviour, which leads me to assume that the puffed up tail may also occur when a cat is hunting. Kittens are especially likely to puff up their tail during hunting/stalking games. I will have to get back to you on that one! I personally think it is a sign of excitement.
Basically, any time your cat is feeling an extreme emotion, be it fear, anger, excitement, he may puff up his tail.
Do you have a photo of a cat with a puffed up tail? We'd love to hear from you, please email me.
Second photo kindly submitted by Nikki.