Why Do Cats’ Tails Puff Up? (The Tail Doesn’t Lie)

why do cat's tail puff up

There’s nothing like watching your cute kitty enter the room like royalty with its tail pointed straight and high.

Our cats aren’t able to verbalize their emotions with words but your cat’s boy language speaks a thousand words.

Your cat’s tail can be a very accurate barometer for its current mood or state of mind.

What is your cat trying to tell you when it puffs up its tail?

Cats puff up their tails as a part of their body language, often expressing emotions such as fear, aggression, or excitement. This action, also known as “piloerection,” is a natural instinct that aims to make the cat appear larger and more intimidating when they feel threatened or overly stimulated.

In this article, you will gain insights into the fascinating world of feline body language, focusing on the reasons and meanings behind a cat’s tail puffing up

Anatomy Of A Cat’s Tail

A cat’s tail is an important part of its body and an extension of its spine.

The cat has 10% of its bones located in the tail. The bones are wider at the base and get narrower towards the tip.

The tail also contains muscle and nerve endings which helps to facilitate movement of the tail.

There are some cat breeds that have longer and fluffier tails like the Maine Coon, Siberian and Persians.

While some cats have very short tails like the American Bobtail, the Highlander and the Manx.

What Makes A Cat’s Tail Puff Up?

“Tiny muscles near the hair follicle on the tail will contract thus causing the hair to stand.”

When a cat puffs up its tail, it is usually an involuntary reaction by the nervous system to an emotion that they are feeling at that moment.

It is similar to when we as humans get goosebumps when feeling excited or fearful.

The phenomenon where your cat’s tail transforms from its usual state to resembling a feather duster is known as piloerection.

Piloerection basically means ‘hair standing on end’ which looks that way with the puffed-up tail of your cat.

Tiny muscles near the hair follicle on the tail will contract thus causing the hair to stand.

It definitely looks more prominent on a cat since they have a lot more hair or fur than us.

Why Is My Cat’s Tail All Puffed Up?

It’s important to note that context matters when your cat is puffing up its tail.

Observing your cat’s overall body language and understanding the situation is crucial to accurately interpret what your cat is trying to communicate.

Your Cat Is Being Fearful

scared cat puffy tail

Cats are rather jumpy animals and do get scared or startled by the smallest things at times.

It is also an innate survival instinct that helps keep them wary of danger in the wild.

If you have ever seen videos of cats being afraid or startled by a cucumber, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

When a cat is feeling this emotion, it will automatically puff up its tail. The tail can be fully erected or in between its legs.

Causes of fear in cats can be due to:

  • Strangers or unfamiliar people
  • Other cats
  • Loud noises
  • Dogs or other predators.

Your Cat Is Feeling Angry

“Cats can get angry due to fear, territorial conflicts and even medical reasons.”

Cat owners who have cats that are more confrontational or fearless will have their puffy tails standing up and high when angry.

A puffy tail is also a sign of an aggressive cat and one that is ready to strike.

Cats that puff their tails in fear tend to run and hide. But an angry cat will stand its ground and be ready for conflict.

Chances are the cat will also have its ears folded back, fangs exposed that’s accompanied by hissing or growling.

If your cat’s fluffed up tail is standing tall and erect, it usually means that the cat is in fight mode.

The fur on its body will also puff up to give the give a larger than life appearance to its ‘enemy’.

Cats can get angry due to fear, territorial conflicts and even medical reasons.

Most cats would prefer to avoid getting into a catfight but will not hesitate to lash out with their claws or fangs when cornered.

Your cat’s body will be turned sideways, ready to claw or bite.

Your Cat Is Feeling Happy

Many cat owners always jump to the conclusion that it is a sign of unhappiness or anger when the cat’s tail puffs up.

There are some cats that will also puff up their tail when it is happy and contended.

My friend has a Siberian whose tail becomes a bushy and fluffy waving wand when you pet her. She just lays there purring like a lawnmower looking like a happy cat.

When cats are happy, they often show it by holding their tail high with a relaxed and smooth appearance.

A light quivering motion at the base of the tail can also indicate happiness or excitement.

On most days when I’m back, my cat will slowly saunter up to me with his tail all high and fluffed up. Once he reaches me, he will flop himself down right at my feet.

The tip of his tail will be slightly bent when shows a sign of being friendly.

Why Does My Cats Tail Puff Up When I Pet It?

“The cat will not hesitate to use its claws or teeth if rubbed the wrong way.”

There can be a wide range of reasons why your cat’s tail is pussy when you pet it. Your cat can be feeling anything from happiness to fear or aggression.

Not all cats liked to be touched in certain areas of their bodies.

Most cats are not fans of getting their bellies touched as the belly is considered a vulnerable area for them.

Having a cat expose its belly to you is not an invitation for a belly rub.

The cat will not hesitate to use its claws or teeth if rubbed the wrong way.

If you notice your cat’s tail puffing up, pay close attention to its body language to know what your cat is trying to tell you.

Why Do Cats’ Tails Puff Up When Playing?

Another time where you will see your feline friend puff up its tail is during playtime.

Cats are naturally good hunters and any game or toy that activates their strong prey drive will get them all excited.

You will tend to see kittens puff up their tails when playing but even adult cats do it from time to time when the excitement gets the better of them.

Get your cat toys that they can chase or stalk, like a remote-controlled toy mouse.

Even toys with feathers on them can cause some cats to start chirping and chattering.

Why Do Cats Puff Up And Run Sideways?

Probably one of the funniest things you can see your cat do to the point of looking comical.

Not only will some cats puff up their tails when feeling startled or fearful but they will also turn and run sideways.

They do this to appear larger to their opponents and running sideways gives them a chance to get away faster if need be.

What To Do If Your Cat Puffs Up Its Tail?

As cat owners, seeing your cat puff up its tail will happen from time to time.

The first thing to do is to closely observe your cat’s body language.

If your cat is showing signs of aggression, step away and give your cat some time to calm down.

If your cat is more fearful than afraid, try to ascertain what is scaring your cat.

Cats can get startled by the silliest things but if that object is causing your cat unnecessary stress, it is best to remove it.

Having your cat puff up its tail during playtime is normal and nothing to be concerned about.

It is good seeing your cat so excited and stimulated while having fun.

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