Humans usually associate the action of “tail wagging” with dogs. Canines are fairly straightforward with their tail communication. Cats, however, are way more subtle in their body language and cat tail wagging is very nuanced.

Related: 6 Ways to Talk to Your Cat

Marilyn Krieger, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and author, says, “Although tails are expressive, eyes, ears and body positions combined with the tail language paint a more complete picture of how cats feel.” Cat tail wagging can mean many different things. Here’s how to decipher the messages sent by cat tail wagging!

A cat thrashing his tail means he wants to be left alone. Photography ©Alexmia | Thinkstock.

1. What “The Swish” Means

Marilyn Krieger advises, “The direction and speed [with] which cats move and swish their tails conveys their feelings. When felines thrash their tails quickly back and forth, it indicates that they are unhappy and want to be left alone. Tails that move slowly from left to right often indicate that cats are mildly annoyed. Sometimes, cats who are playing will swish their tails from side to side before pouncing.” This means we should pay attention to the way our cats swish their tails and not make assumptions.

2. What “The Twitch” Means in Cat Tail Language

We’ve all seen this type of cat tail wagging: A cat is sitting on a windowsill concentrating on nearby birds or rodents, when her tail begins twitching. It’s not the exactly the same movement as the previously mentioned “thrashing,” but it may look similar. Her ears, eyes and vocalizations will indicate if she’s upset or simply maintaining laser-sharp focus on a squirrel. As with the thumping, the twitch also carries the message, “leave me alone.”

3. What “The Quiver” Means

A “quiver” is a quick, tiny cat tail wagging action. When your cat is excited to see you, she may approach you with her tail in a vertical position, with just the tip of it making quick, little quivering…

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