Today, I'd like to take a minute to appreciate one of our most beautiful features.... the Tail!
Your tail can vary in position from a graceful swirl around you as you sleep, an elegant lazy feather that floats behind you as you walk, or a perky straight antennae as you run to something with interest. It can also be a thrashing missile as you swish it back and forth.
Your tail is actually pretty amazing. Did you know that about 10 percent of your bones are located in your tail? That is right - up to 20 vertebrae! The vertebrae are enclosed by muscles that allow finely graded movements that lift the tail, move it from side to side, lower it or curl it around the body. Interestingly, the domestic cat is the only cat species able to hold their tail vertically while walking.
Like the cat, many animals use their tails to communicate with other animals. For example, the position of a wolf's tail can tell what kind of a mood he's in. A confident wolf holds her tail up high, and a frightened wolf holds her tail between her legs; a white-tailed deer shows alarm by flicking her tail; and horses flatten their tails between their legs when frightened and lash them back and forth when they are irritated or annoyed.
Likewise, your tail is a barometer of your feelings. A high vertical tail is a sign of happiness. If that high tail quivers from the base up, it indicates that you are really happy and excited. If that tail goes in the opposite direction and is tucked between the legs, then you are afraid or trying to avoid a confrontation.
Wagging your tail means various things, each wag is slightly different. Broad wagging, even whopping, indicates annoyance. You may be curled up next to your human enjoying a nice petting session when suddenly you decides that you've had enough. You will signal this to your human by swishing your tail up and down or its tip from side-to-side. If the human misses the signal, then you may bat at them with your paw, or worse, put the bitey on them, to make your point.
If you're really agitated, you will wag your tail rapidly back and forth from the base. This is a threatening signal to warn other cats (and humans) to back off. On the other hand, a tail that waves back and forth slowly and gently indicates that you're relaxed and happy.
Dogs are different of course, they wave their tails vigorously when they are happy, and slowly when they are tentative about something. No wonder it is so hard to get used to a woofie! We don't speak the same language!
Your may swish your tail when you're in hunting mode. By swishing your tail, you are trying to mesmerize your prey. Since you can't see your prey if it becomes still - our eye sight is geared to notice things in motion -- moving your tail initiates the slightest movement of your target, which you can then see. Mother cats train their kittens in the fine art of hunting by twitching the tips of their tails to provoke playful attacks.
Then there's that little tail flick, which involves just a quick movement of the tail. You may be resting at the foot of your bed and your human says your name and there it is - a little flick. Your eyes are closed and you appears to be sleeping, but you hear your name again, and there it is again – a little flick. That is to let the human know you hear them, even though you're pretending you doesn't. This is a movement of happiness and contentment. It means you trust your human enough to remain sleeping in their presence – and in our own way, we're letting the humans know that we hear them and that all is well.