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My family has a cat and lives a more or less balanced life (from sleeping wherever she wants to being chased by young teenagers and actually waiting for them when they do not chase her fast enough).

Whenever I make a funny sound (kind of meowing, or gurgling, or bêêê - in other words sounds which are not similar to spoken language, but do not try to mimic true meowing either), the cat waves her tail a bit. It does not matter what she does (sleep, sit and watch, takes a sunbath on her back...), she would slightly wave once or twice her tail (horizontally, with the tail laying on the floor).

What can this mean?

I would like to avoid raising her anxiety level (which is not high by any means, I just read somewhere that cats are anxious animals by nature) so I like to think this is just her acknowledging that there is a different sound than usual. Or her acknowledging that I exist (I have been doing this for two years or so, this is hardly a surprise for her). Or something else?

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Cats wave their tails for many reasons. Other aspects of what it does with its tail and its general body posture can help inform what is the exact reason it's waving it.

How intensely is it waving its tail? Is it rather slow and gentle? Or is it waving it hard enough to thump against things, and rather quickly? Is it mostly the tip of the tail that's twitching, or is it the entire tail?

Generally the more intensely the tail is being waved, the more alert or agitated the cat is. A rather violently lashing tail usually indicates the cat is very tense, and either that it's mad or afraid or maybe that it's very stressed out. A more medium level generally indicates the cat is riled up over something, but it's not necessarily a negative thing. For example, a cat might lash its tail some while playing or watching prey. A little bit of twitching may indicate the cat is on the alert, even if it otherwise seems sleepy, or it might twitch its tail a bit while being friendly.

The tail's position, if the cat is standing, might also indicate something about the cat's mood as well.

Held straight up indicates confidence. Generally when the tail is straight up, cats only might wave it a bit as a friendly sort of greeting. They also might keep it steady with a hook at the end. This is a very friendly and inquisitive posture, which people often call "question mark tail."

A tail held low indicates the opposite. The cat is not confident at all, and a waving tail is generally more of an indication of stress.

If the tail is more in a neutral position, the cat might be unsure, or if the tail is waving, it might indicate things like stalking prey or playing.

Lastly, if the cat's tail is arched, and may or may not be fluffed, that's usually a sign it's very afraid or aggressive. However, this also can be a play behavior which is more common in kittens, but some adult cats may also do it. You can try to tell the difference by how generally intense the cat is being, (a cat that is serious is much more intense than one that's just playing), but it also helps to know the animal. If the cat does this same behavior while attacking toys, then you know this is one of those cats that likes to make that posture during play.

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  • Thank you for the detailed answer. She waves her tail in the position she is in at that time (sitting, laying, sleeping, ...). She never adjusts the position, it is just the tail. The tail (which was not moving so far) just makes one single move, still one the ground. It is rather the end (say, 1/3 of the length) which moves, at an average speed. Otherwise it looks like the cat did not register the sound (no matter her position, she stays like this, even when belly up in the sun). – WoJ Apr 5 at 15:04
  • From your description, it's hard to say if the cat perceives the noise negatively or not. If it does perceive it negatively, it's only very mildly so, as that type of tail movement is pretty mild. In other words, maybe it does find the noise irritating/stressful, but if so, only in a very minimal sort of way. But it also could just be a sign that you've drawn its attention. – Kai Apr 5 at 15:43
  • the tail moving a couple of times is only a signal that the cat hear you and know you are talking to her,if you keep talking in your regular voice to her she might come to you to see what you want.one can see on the tail what is going on in your cats head,when i ask my cat if she wants to go outside her tail moves from side to side while she thinks about what she wants staying inside or to go outside. – trond hansen Apr 5 at 18:14
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If the cat waves the tip of its tail a few times but otherwise doesn't change its posture or tail position, that is a sign the cat has taken a mild interest in the sound but does not consider it a threat, probably in this case because it recognizes you're the one making it.

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