These "Tell-Tail" Signs Reveal What Your Cat Is Thinking


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer


As soon as they learn how to Google, we're done. garetsworkshop/Shutterstock

Cats are clearly up to something. Seeing us as rubbish landlords or giant useless cats, these tiny lions are without a shadow of a doubt trying to take over the world – so it’s not surprising that, in a race against time, scientists are desperately trying to work out precisely what they’re thinking.

Carlo Siracusa – a clinical assistant professor and behavioral medicine expert at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine – may be the one to save us all before it’s too late. He suggests that one of the best indicators of a cat’s mood is actually its tail, something that will come as no surprise to dog owners.


Speaking to National Geographic, he reveals that a straight-up tail implies that it’s acting aggressively. If the tail is straight but the tip is turning into a hook-like shape, then it’s actually a benevolent greeting – or at least it is for the time being. If the hook transforms the tail into a downwards-trending curve, then that cat is probably acting defensively.

If the cat is whipping its tail around, then it’s nervous, on a state of high alert, and is aggressive enough to warrant staying away. Normally this behavior is accompanied by long, drawn-out mewing. If the cat is asleep and doing this, then the cat’s probably dreaming – likely about hunting down some prey.

If the tail is puffed out and arched back, then the cat is probably fearful of something nearby. In fact, almost all the tail stances are related to fear or aggression; apart from the small hooked-tip variant, the only other passive form is when the tail is low and fairly motionless, which is the sign of a rather chilled out kitty.

Siracusa also explains that when a cat suddenly bolts off somewhere, even if it was relatively calm beforehand, it’s because it is needing to release a lot of pent-up emotional energy, likely either frustration or fear.


Cats are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk, due to somewhat of a “misfiring” of their hunting instincts. Consequently, they tend to get the “zoomies” at these times. For the rest of their generally lazy day, they look at the humans around them with utter contempt.

A recent study revealed that cats also have at least three major facial expressions. Unsurprisingly, these are “relaxed engagement”, “fear”, and “frustration”. This implies that two-thirds of their emoting is driven by negativity.

And yet, despite the fact that cats are clearly Nietzsche-inspired fluff balls full of anger, disappointment, and hatred, we love them anyway. More fool us, really.

[H/T: National Geographic]


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