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Why Cats Puff Their Tails? 5 Common Reasons

Cats may not be able to speak in the human sense, but they transmit their emotions to one another and to humans in a variety of ways. Its eyes, ears, and general body position reveal a great deal about how a cat is feeling, but their tail is among the most expressive body features.

Whether it is twitching, swishing, or straight, your cat uses its tail to express mood. It is essential to note that each cat is unique, and that various breeds wear their tails differently.

Perhaps one of the most reliable indicators of a cat's emotional health is when its tail is puffed up.

In "Why Cats Puff Their Tails? 5 Common Reasons" by BestForPets (bestforpets.org) are five reasons why your cat's tail may be blown up, but nearly all of them boil down to the fact that a cat puffs up its tail to make itself appear larger.

5 Common Reasons Why Cats Puff Their Tails

1. Scared

Some cats, particularly anxious and excitable ones, are easily frightened. If your cat is startled or frightened, it will puff out its tail in an attempt to appear larger.

The larger a cat appears, the more dangerous it appears to a potential predator. Even if there are no predators in the area, this is your cat’s normal response to loud or strange noises or quick movements.

2. Aggressive

Similar to a fearful cat, an aggressive cat puffs up its tail to appear larger. Instead of doing this as a protective strategy, the aggressive cat is attempting to appear larger and more threatening as a warning.

It could be a warning to other cats or animals to back off, or it could indicate an impending attack.

In this situation, a cat’s puffed-up tail is typically accompanied by hissing and retracted ears. Even if this is intended as a warning, it can soon become an attack.

3. Playtime

As cats play, they imitate their fighting behavior. This includes body language in addition to the rolling, scratching, and biting they would use in a catfight.

Your cat may puff out its tail during play fighting since it would do so during an active fight. Cats may quit puffing up their tails when fighting as they age, but some adult cats retain the behavior.

Determine whether your cat is playing or serious by observing its ears. If the ears are perpendicular to the ground, the animal is more likely to be playing than to be aggressive.

4. Submissive

Cats can be perplexing and transmit mixed signals, and the puffed-up tail is no exception. As an indication of aggressiveness, some cats can elongate their tails. In these instances, the cat would typically tuck its tail between its legs. It may also express literal submission by laying down.

5. Defensive

In other circumstances, a cat may not be the attacker but will nonetheless defend its ground. A defensive cat puffs up its tail to appear larger, which may be sufficient to discourage the assailant and defuse the situation.

How to Tell What a Puffed-Up Tail Means

There are numerous interpretations for a puffed-up tail, ranging from submission to aggressiveness and beyond. Consider the surrounding circumstances to determine why a cat’s tail is puffed up.

If you are currently playing with your cat, or if your cat is playing with another animal, a puffed-up tail is more likely to indicate that your cat is pleased and engaged in play.

If a quick noise or motion scared the cat, it most likely fluffed its tail in alarm. If a cat in the street puffs up its tail as you approach, you should avoid it and give it space.


As mentioned in “Why Cats Puff Their Tails? 5 Common Reasons” by BestForPets (bestforpets.org), cats have an abundance of non-verbal methods for expressing their thoughts and sentiments.

Observe the ears, eyes, and tail in particular. Consider context as well, as the cat’s body language signals have many meanings depending on the situation.

For instance, a puffed tail could indicate that your cat is furious or playful. The purpose of the puffed-up tail is identical for both emotions: to make the cat appear larger.

Author Image

Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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