The Telltale Tail
Feline body language is universal and cats around the globe use it to express their every mood. Your cat's tail is like a big old apostrophe at the end of her body that puts a fine point on affection, aggression, fear and happiness.
One of the most primal tail movements is the violent back-and-forth swish, sometimes called a Sword Tail. Whether it's a wild cat stalking a zebra, or a housecat stalking a gopher, she'll swish her tail to prompt the prey to move, which allows the cat to zero in for the attack. In the house, either leave her be until she relaxes, or toss her a toy to attack. It's usually not a good idea to pick her up when she's in "swish mode", because the object of her attack will likely be you.
You also don't want to mess with your cat when her tail is in a position of defensive aggression. In this orientation, the tail is lowered, but the tip is curved upward. This indicates that something has attracted her attention, and she is very nervous, defensive, and unsure of her surroundings. If you try to pick her up, she may attack.
A happy cat holds her tail high, and if she greets you at the door with her tail quivering, she's happy to see you. That's the time you want to shower herwith affection.
If you're introducing a new cat into your home, reading your cats' "tail language" can be helpful in breaking up fights before they start. You don't want to pick up the aggressor at this point, but a few squirts with a squirt gun can persuade him to beat a retreat.
A tail is a perfect extension of feline expression. There's poetry in the way a contented cat will artfully wrap her tail around her, or in the way a Balinese will proudly strut her tail like a flame behind her.
Cats even use their tails when asleep. The flicking tail on your snoozing Snowshoe? She's dreaming of her life as a mighty lion on the Serengeti, stalking a wildebeest.
Don't forget! You can leave a comment on this post for an entry in The Cat's Meow's giveaway of a custom oil painting of your cat by Linden Alley.
[PHOTO CREDIT: The one and only Curly]