Why Do Cats Have Tails? Different Length Kitty Tails And Their Purpose | Kidadl


Why Do Cats Have Tails? Different Length Kitty Tails And Their Purpose

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If you're just an inquisitive cat parent wondering what's the purpose of your cat's lovable, swishing tail, we're here to help.

Almost any animal we come across has a tail which probably leads to most of us wondering about whether this sort of dormant appendage has any purpose at all. In the case of cats, there's a lot they wouldn't be able to do without a tail, and for you to understand the concept of a cat's tail, all you have to do is keep reading.

One major factor to keep in mind is that cats are highly expressive, especially through body language. Every move in each part of its body has a story of its own, and similarly, the tail can tell a tale too! From long tails to short and slender to fluffy, every tail is trying to communicate. Keep reading to learn your way around the mysteries of your cat's tail.

If pet tails are on your mind now, you might enjoy reading through why do cats wag their tails and why do animals have tails!

What do cats use their tails for? Can they control them?

Although it may seem like a simple aesthetic, a cat's tail is crucial for several aspects and functions of its daily life like walking, jumping, keeping warm, and communicating. Apart from the advantage of structural balance, cats use specific tail movements to communicate, which can give the owner a lot of cues about their cat's mood as well as behavior.

We already know that balance is one of the key purposes of a cat's tail, but that's not all the support it provides. Cats have a unique physical form while jumping so that they land on their feet, and for a successful landing, the tail provides counterbalance by adjusting the weight and avoiding injury. Communication with humans as well as other animals is also a feature of a cat's tail, especially when accompanied by characteristic vocalizations such as purrs, growls, yowls, meows, or hisses. For example, an upright, puffed tail means scared or angry, if the tip twitches, it's either into play or hunting for prey, when it's between the legs, it's a sign of anxiety, and when it's straight but the fur is flat, you have a happy cat! In addition, cats' tails are crowded by nerve endings of the motor as well as sensory nerves, allowing them to feel anything by touch, which means that these nerves allow the cat to control its tail without any hindrance. Cats dislike their tails being touched because of this reason, so keep that in mind when you're meeting another kitty.

What are cats' tails made of?

Apart from all the fluffy goodness that is known as the 'fifth' limb, a cat's tail is simply an extension of its spine with additional vertebrae, nerves, and flesh.

Although the number of cervical vertebrae in cats is equal to those of other mammals, their thoracic region has an additional vertebra while the lumbar region has two more. These features allow increased agility and body flexibility, however, using these skills would be almost impossible without the tail. An average cat's tail is around 12 in (30 cm) long and houses around 10 % of the total bones in its body. Although it stems from the spine, the spinal cord does travel through the tail's 19-23 caudal vertebrae. In addition, an intricate pattern of ligaments, muscles, nerves, and tendons assist movements like a simple swish to the mobility of the hindquarter. The presence of nerves in the tail helps the cat feel its environment and keeps the rest of the body in the loop via the brain to facilitate coordination and response. All the movements in the tail are possible because of the presence of muscles, especially the Sarcocaudalis muscle which is used even if the tail needs to move slightly. In addition, there is a network of blood vessels and the tail vein, and at the base of the tail, there are scent or caudal glands which help the cat mark its territory. While tail movements and balance are a significant part of a cat's life, some felines have bobbed tails or are born without one due to breed variations or injury, and this does not pose drastic inconveniences for the cat's ability to function normally.

Cat long tail starring at camera

Why do cats have different length tails?

Cats use their tails for almost everything and we can read their body language better because of this marvelous appendage. However, genetics play several tricks and the among cat breeds, pure as well as mixed, a short, bobbed or no tail is observed.

To name some stubby-tailed furballs, the Chinese short-tailed feral cats, the Manx, and the Japanese bobtail truly display how tiny some cat's tails can be. Genes play a major role in determining the size of the cat's tail before it's born, and across various breeds, there are further changes that take place because of the gene pool. For example, a mutated gene, HES7, is the cause of bobbed tails in several cats such as the Manx. Apart from breeds and genes, injury or breakage is the reason why some cats have short tails. Losing a tail is like losing a part of the spine and cats struggle with balance in the beginning. However, they are resilient creatures who work their way around any obstacle, and they eventually get used to living without a tail or just a stub.

Cat tails vs. dog tails: what is the difference?

Tails are intriguing features among all animals, especially when it comes to understanding their mood, and believe it or not, cats and dogs use their tails for similar purposes such as movement or a sign of emotion, but in a different context.

The overall behavior is a stark difference between the tails of dogs and cats. For example, an upright tail in cats means happy, whereas the same with a dog could mean extreme aggression. Similarly, a cat flicking the tips of its tails or wagging it like a dog means it is annoyed and is waiting to unleash whereas dogs wag their tail energetically and it means they are excited. When a cat's tail is down it usually means fear or that the cat is uncertain, whereas, in dogs, it usually means you need to do a house search because it could mean they have done something wrong, probably destroyed your shirt. Apart from these, there are tremendous structural as well as anatomical differences between the tails of cats and dogs, for example, you'll notice cats have a liquid-like tail while dogs have stiffer, curved tails.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do cats have tails, then why not take a look at why do cats growl, or Siberian cat facts?

Written By
Joan Agie

<p>With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.</p>

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