Cat Tail Vibrates: What does it mean?

What if a cat tail vibrates? What is your pet saying to you?

We all know dogs wag their tails when they are happy, and cats do when they’re mad. Or do they?

Cats are complicated. When is the last time you saw a cat lash its tail and leave it at that? Often a cat’s tail seems to be a separate entity to itself.

Sure, cats communicate through facial expressions. One of their best means of telling the world what they think, though, is through their tails.

A cat’s tail can move in several ways, conveying evident and subtle messages.

We will delve into the various reasons cats vibrate their tails and the different movements involved.

Tail movements

Tail movements are like dance steps.

If you have never seen your cat vibrate her tail, a good description benefits from an illustration of the other tail movements.

  • Lash – When people discuss a cat wagging its tail from displeasure, they most likely are referring to lashing. Lashing or whipping the tail forcefully from side to side often expresses imminent aggression. Rare cats lash their tails from exuberance.
  • Wave – A slow movement like the gentle flow of a flag, a cat may wave her tail in friendliness. It indicates contentment and calm.
  • Flick – A flick of the tail resembles the same motion of your wrist. It generally targets the lower half of the tail and is one or two abrupt jerks. Your cat may be displaying mild annoyance or a cursory acknowledgment of your presence.
  • Thump – Part of lashing, cats may thump their tails on the ground. Your cat may be annoyed, restless, or agitated, or she feels like playing.
  • Twitch – Similar to a flick, a cat usually focusses a twitch on the tip of his tail. It may indicate playfulness or that your cat is on the hunt. Sometimes you may see it in relaxed or sleeping cats.
  • Vibrate – When your cat vibrates her tail, it is a very distinct movement. You will immediately recognize it as it is exactly like the quick shaking motion of a baby rattle.

Look, I Can Shake My Tail All round.

How your cat positions her tail will tell you immediately about her mood and motive.

Depending on your cat’s individuality and intensity of emotion, she can vibrate her entire tail, or just the base or merely the tip.

  1. Pointed straight up – Your cat is happy, excited, or about to mark her territory. If your cat’s tail bristles when straight up, she is angry or agitated.
  2. Level with concurrent waving – A cat who twitches her tail while slowly moving it from side to side is likely annoyed or agitated.
  3. In a relaxed state – Your cat may twitch her tail, hold it still, wave it, or thump it on the ground when laying down. Reading other signals will help you gauge her mood.

Your cat has several tail positions that are not generally compatible with vibration.

A vibrating tail, whether in anger or hooked in uncertainty, is usually one held straight up.

This video is a classic presentation of a cat vibrating its tail with a hook in the tip.

However, you may very well see cat tail twitching in the following postures.

  • Tail carried low – Unless your cat is relaxed, carrying her tail down is potentially a sign of aggression or insecurity.
  • Tail tucked – If your cat tucks his tail, he is trying to show submission. He is either avoiding a fight or is anxious or insecure with his current situation.
  • Tail held to the side – Cats sometimes hold their tails to the side while swishing it. Imagine a young girl in a play swishing her dress with the part. This is not to be mistaken for your cat whipping her tail in a lash. Swishing is usually playful or uncertain.
  • Hook – A crook in your cat’s tip or a hook suggests ambivalence. Your cat can crook her tail in any position.
  • Tail down but humped at the base – If your cat humps her tail, she may be on her way to a strong emotional display. It is a defensive action and can quickly lead to aggression.
  • Tail at a 120-degree angle – When your cat lowers his tail from a straight-up position, he could be indicating wavering confidence. However, it is generally not a threatening posture. Cats may drop their tails a bit in the presence of strangers.
  • Tail horizontal – The lowest your cat’s tail can go and still be considered relaxed and friendly is level with the plane of his body.

How do you put your cat’s vibrating tail in context?

A tail is one of the most apparent means cats have to communicate. However, it is crucial to incorporate other signals throughout the body to indeed interpret your cat’s emotional state.

  • Facial expression – Cats express contentment, fear, and aggression, among other emotions in their faces. Their eyes are very telling, becoming full of anxiety, glancing away with fear or defensiveness, and becoming fixed in anger or aggression. The mouth may gape with nervousness or snarl in frustration.
  • Ears – A cat’s ears often back up any message from her tail. They come forward in interest, lay back in fear or when about to attack, and move to the sides or back and forth in alertness.
  • Body – Cats twine in friendliness, arch themselves in defensiveness, and bristle in aggression. Cats at peace relax in their bodies, whereas tension creates tightness, even extending to their paws.
  • Vocalization – Some cats back their body language with vocal expression, and others are completely silent. Your cat may greet you with soft chirps, loud meows, or purrs. He may warn of an imminent attack with a growl, screech, or snarl, or express nervousness through wailing.

Note in the image this cat is angry and showing aggression from a defensive position. The tail is close to the body in a downward position.

What reasons could cats have to vibrate their tails?

Your cat is happy or excited to see you.

One of the reasons cats vibrate or quiver their tails is out of extreme happiness or excitement.

They can manifest this emotion when you come home from a long day in the office. Or perhaps they anticipate a juicy tidbit.

Are you accustomed to a dog’s enthusiastic expression of happiness with the whole-body wag? You will be struck by a cat’s subtlety when it comes to joy.

Sometimes it is exactly what it looks like.

Often you may think your cat’s behavior indicates he is about to spray. Sometimes your cat is indeed about to mark or spray.

Cats generally have a couple of reasons why they would mark in your house.

  • Establish territorial boundaries – Imagine the Florida panther. It became endangered because its expansive territory was fragmented by urban development. Domesticated cats maintain similar territories through marking.
  • Advertise mating status – Spraying disperses both your cat’s scent and pheromones. Female cats mark to communicate their readiness to mate and males spray to attract the opposite sex and warn off rivals.

How can you tell if your cat is about to mark?

‘Greeting’ and ‘marking’ present surprisingly similar displays of body language.

Cats typically mark against vertical surfaces. In the wild, this might be a tree or a rock, but in your home, it may be the wall or your leather sofa.

A cat who is greeting you will come towards you vibrating its tail while a spraying cat will back up to the target.

Cats sometimes express displeasure with a vibrating tail.

Occasionally a cat may become stressed out or nervous, manifesting anxiety through his tail. A cat may also twitch or vibrate his tail when irritated by someone or something.

If your Chihuahua puppy has been tormenting your cat all day, a vibrating tail could signify the end of your feline’s tolerance and good humor.

How can you ultimately determine why your cat’s tail is vibrating?

  • Age – Kittens are playful and full of energy. Body language that does not involve their tails is essential. It may indicate they are about to pounce even if their tails quiver in a seemingly friendly manner.
  • Breed – Some cats are more expressive than others as are some breeds. Siamese cats, for example, are typically quite vocal but also utilize body language effectively. Bengals are not very vocal but are quite expressive with their long tails.
  • Temperament – If you know your cat’s temperament, you can better determine why she may be vibrating her tail. You can tell if she has a nervous or aggressive nature and whether she is vibrating her tail as a warning or in welcome.

When is your cat telling you something is wrong?

Often your cat’s tail will indicate a problem in his entire body. If your cat’s tail is vibrating, make sure you are not seeing a cat shivering.

Several health problems can cause generalized shaking in cats.

  • Hypothermia – It may seem obvious, but sometimes you may overlook the fact your cat is cold. If your cat gets wet, she may shiver. Make sure to dry your pet with a sturdy towel after a bath or coming in from the rain. Some hairless breed may have a difficult time keeping warm.
  • Skin disease – Itchiness may cause your cat to shiver, leading to a vibrating tail. Allergies, bacterial infections, and fleas can each cause itching, which may manifest as quivering.
  • Distress – Cats can work themselves up to a highly emotional or psychological state that manifests as shivering. A quivering body and vibrating tail can indicate your cat is extremely anxious or frightened.
  • HypoglycemiaLow blood sugar in your cat can cause weakness and concurrent tremors to seizures.
  • Hyperthermia – Fever can lead to shaking from general malady or chills. Viruses, bacterial infections, and fungi can cause hyperthermia.
  • Pain – The more independent your cat is, the more adept he will be at hiding illness and pain. Tremors or quivering may be the only symptom of pain.
  • Seizures – Seizures originate from several pathological conditions in cats. Among these are epilepsy, low blood glucose, kidney failure, hepatitis, and digestive upset.
  • Shock – Dehydration from severe illness and trauma can deteriorate to shock, a leading cause of death in pets. Shivering is a sign of shock, especially if body temperature begins to drop.

If your cat resorts to shivering or shaking from an illness, take it seriously.

If you suspect your cat is not feeling well and she is shaking all over, seek immediate veterinary attention. Other signs and medical history may help you and your veterinarian determine and resolve the problem.

When does a vibrating tail signify your cat’s worst nightmare?

A vibrating tail could in rare cases be a sign of urinary blockage. This is an important part of knowing your cat’s unique language and being able to read him.

In cases of urinary blockage, a vibrating tail is secondary to whole-body tremors. Shaking can be a result of discomfort or dehydration.

Feline urinary tract blockage almost always involves neutered male cats. Crystals that form in the urine from various causes drop into the urethra and block urinary output.

Feline urinary obstruction is a medical emergency because it can lead to life-threatening electrolyte imbalances.

How do you tell the difference between a vibrating tail from urinary blockage versus marking? Here are signs of urinary blockage.

  • Distress – Cats with a urinary obstruction are often clearly distressed. Some even yowl and pant amidst the straining. A vibrating tail can spread through their bodies and indicates discomfort.
  • No urine – Your cat may not produce much urine when spraying, but with a blockage, he may produce none or only a few drops. Moreover, any urine produced often has blood in it.
  • Varying locations – Your cat likely has one or two favorite areas to mark. With a blockage or even an infection, your cat will strain in different spots. This is presumably an attempt to avoid the pain associated with urination.
  • Signs of illness – Spraying cats are healthy and behave normally. Felines with urinary blockage become dehydrated and may show listlessness, vomiting, and inappetence.


Have you ever watched your cat and felt excluded from an important conversation? As mysterious and elusive as the feline family may see, cats try to communicate with those around them constantly.

All animals need to communicate effectively for survival. Body language helps cats to avoid any harmful situations and physical altercations.

Domesticated cats have evolved communication patterns to grab our attention and get what they need or want. They can ask for assistance or reprimand us for causing them displeasure.

You can decode a lot of what your cat is saying by watching his tail. Specifically, when a cat tail vibrates, you can obtain answers about mood, emotional well-being, and health.

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