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I was walking near a park around the neighborhood and encountered a cat. It approached me, meowed, laid on the ground and stretched in front of me and I continued walking without petting it.

However I was curious about its tail- as it walks, its tail lines up against its back (pictured in my masterpiece below)
When it laid on the ground its tail did move around but once it got back up its tail went back to "sticking" against its back:

cat with tail stuck to back

Why is the cat's tail doing that? I found a helpful diagram on Google but I didn't find what I was looking for.

enter image description here

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That is not a normal tail position for a cat. In fact, I don't think cats normally can lay their tails on their back like that.

I suspect the cat you saw may just have a kink in its tail that is causing the strange position. This can happen from normal genetic variation, or from a break in the tail not healing correctly.

  • Oh dear- I hope its okay! It didn't seem like it was in pain but it sure did look unnatural – aaa Sep 18 '18 at 20:28
  • It is most likely not in pain. Even if the position of the tail is due to an old break, once it is healed, the cat shouldn't be in pain. And it is not very likely a cat in pain would approach you like that. If it is normal genetic variation, it looks odd, but it does not hurt. Kinked tails are relatively common; cats can still live a normal life with one. – Kai Sep 18 '18 at 20:47
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I was able to dig up some more information. The cat I encountered may have been an "American ringtail cat". Like Kai has mentioned in the other answer, the tail bend may be caused by a genetic variation or mutation.

American ringtail cat

The American Ringtail Cat (also known as the Ringtail Sing-a-Ling) is a fairly new experimental breed that started with a rescued cat named Solomon in 1998. When Susan Manley found him, he was a 2-day-old kitten who needed to be bottle-fed in order to survive. As he grew and reached the age of 4 weeks, she noticed that he had a unique tail that would curl over his back.
After having Solomon examined by a veterinarian, it was determined that there was no underlying medical issue or deformity that caused his tail to curl. The cat seemed perfectly comfortable and content, holding his tail curled over his back when relaxed.

And this chart outlines the Ringtail tail range in the blue box below:

Cat tail types

Sources:
https://www.petguide.com/breeds/cat/american-ringtail-cat/
http://messybeast.com/curly-tailed.htm

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