What does it mean when a cat puts its tail between its legs?

  • Mochi
  • September 17, 2023

When a cat tucks its tail between its legs, it's a clear and strong body language signal. Here's what this behavior typically indicates:

Fear or Submissiveness
The most common reason for a cat to put its tail between its legs is fear. The cat is feeling threatened or intimidated and is trying to make itself appear smaller or less threatening. This posture is a submissive gesture, signaling that the cat does not want to engage in conflict.

Anxiety or Insecurity
A tail tucked between the legs can also indicate general anxiety or insecurity. A cat might display this behavior in unfamiliar environments or situations, signaling its unease.

Physical Discomfort or Pain
If a cat suddenly starts tucking its tail when it hasn't shown this behavior before, it could be a sign of physical discomfort or pain, especially around the base of the tail, hindquarters, or lower back. It's essential to rule out any potential health issues if you observe this behavior consistently and without an apparent external cause.

Past Trauma
Cats that have experienced trauma or abuse might tuck their tails more frequently, even if the current environment is safe. It's a learned defensive posture from past experiences.

Social Dynamics
In multi-cat households, a cat might tuck its tail when a more dominant cat is present, signaling submission and acknowledging the other cat's higher status.

As always, when interpreting feline body language, it's crucial to consider the broader context. Look at the cat's overall posture, facial expressions, vocalizations, and the environment or situation they're in. If a cat frequently tucks its tail without an apparent reason, or if it's accompanied by other signs of distress, anxiety, or health issues, consulting with a veterinarian or feline behaviorist is advisable.