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RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

No really... Why don't cats wag their tails like dogs?

Asked by RealEyesRealizeRealLies (30938points) May 18th, 2010

Why are they different?

My cat uses her tail to show one emotion. She whips it around when she’s pissed off at the dog, or me, or my son. She doesn’t like to be held or petted. So when that’s forced upon her, she gets really pissed off and hisses, whipping the tail madly.

She’s a bold and crabby little bitch that will walk right between the dogs legs underneath him and growl, sticking her face in his food bowl until he backs off with his ears down and tail between his legs. He’s a big dog! Nearly 100lbs wolf/shepherd hybrid mix. He’s really alpha around other dogs, and ferocious towards the mailman. But the little black cat has his number. Not uncommon to catch her chasing him across the room.

But the dogs tail displays all sorts of emotions… excitement, fear, aggression, happiness (it whirls in a circle like a propeller). Why don’t cats do this too?

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15 Answers

njnyjobs's avatar

Because cats and dogs are wired differently. It could be said that cats show their emotions by the sounds they make, ie hissing, purring, meowing, etc.

tinyfaery's avatar

Cats use their tails to communicate. A gentle sway means happy and content. A tail that is parallel to the body means the cat is on alert, possibly stalking prey. A wild, flailing tail means kitty is pissed and it’s time to back off.

It doesn’t seem like your cat has been properly socialized.

primigravida's avatar

Some cats DO do this, they just show their emotions differently. Cats tend to use their ears and tail (which you already know) to show different emotions. Sorry to say though, it seems like your kitty only has one emotion = bitchiness. Maybe she wishes she were an only cat, if you know what I mean? My cat wags her tail when she’s feeling playful and coy. There are times when I swear she thinks she’s a dog.

jazmina88's avatar

wow, she’s got some hormone issues. yep, cats aren’t wired to wag…..the noises are much more effective. I miss my venus…....

Mikelbf2000's avatar

Well. Cats are cats and dogs are dogs.

Kayak8's avatar

Cats and dogs each approach hunting very differently. Cats hunt alone and dogs in packs. A biologist friend of mine showed me a cool experiment when I was a kid. The cat was lying on the couch and the friend would scratch his finger on the couch fabric. When he moved his finger, the cat’s tail didn’t move. When he would stop, the cat would flash his tail. He explained that it was an innate part of their hunting strategy. When the prey was moving, the stealthy cat was still and would the prey stopped moving (perhaps hiding), the cat would flash its tail to get the prey moving again so he could see it. I have tried it with every cat I have had since and it has always worked just as he described it.

Dogs have a completely different approach. They too use their ears and tails and the fur along their back to communicate any number of things to other dogs (and people who are tuned in). But because they hunt in packs, they can afford to be more expressive with their body language to communicate with the other dogs as it is one against many and the other dogs will help chase down the prey.

Buttonstc's avatar

When a cat is happy, glad to see you it holds it’s tail perpendicular in a “salute”.

Sometimes the top only curves
Like a candy cane and also indicates happiness and a relaxed attitude.

Just a different set of signals, that’s all. If a cats tail is wagging (more like flailing) that’s a clear signal to back off before more drastic consequences follow (as you and the doggie have learned)

I see she has trained the two of you really well. Ha ha.

But I presume that if you’ve been gone for awhile she gives you the happy tail flag salute to indicate she’s glad you’ve returned ( that is unless she’s busy getting her beauty sleep and chooses not to inconvenience herself overly much)

I’m sure the sound of the can opener produces the same result :)

syz's avatar

Dogs are pack animals and have evolved complex and rich body language to facilitate communication and the development and support of relationships (as well as vocal signals, scent signals, etc). Cats, on the other hand, tend to be solitary animals and have not had the same pressure to develop the same complexity of signals. That’s not to say that they they don’t use any body language – they do, but not to the same degree as canines.

Buttonstc's avatar

Also the cats social signals are more subtle and easily missed.

Dogs greet each other much more effusively with butt sniffing and face licking.

Cats give a quick little barely-there nose touch to say hi and move on.

They do some delicate butt sniffing if the other will permit it but don’t overdo it like dogs do:)

And many a rambunctious doggie has learned this the hard way with a quick swipe on the nose from miss kitty annoyed by this violation of her personal space.


gailcalled's avatar

Milo here; When I am happy and contended (rarely), my tail sticks straight up with the top shaped like a question mark.

My hunting skills are complex and intricate and make that dimwit Gail laugh a lot. I can imitate a cheetah running, a tiger pouncing and a leopard hanging out while lounging in a tree. I can be the lion king or Marcel Marceau; I can inch through the tall grass like an infantryman or freeze for several minutes. I am cat; hear me roar.

GingerMinx's avatar

Because they’re not dogs.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Cats do use their tails to show emotions, just in different ways. It’s like asking why dogs wag their tails to show that they’re happy instead of smiling.

MrItty's avatar

Why would they? They’re different species.

Why don’t cats chew their cud like cows?
Why don’t dogs live in the ocean like whales?
Why don’t cats eat cheese like mice?
Why don’t dogs feed their young via regurgitation, like birds?

Because they’re different species.

gailcalled's avatar

@MrItty: Funny answer with one exception. I buy Milo local organic mozzarella cheese and give him a few snippets several times a day. He does, however, scorn cheddar, swiss and provolone. He will eat snippets of a mouse, and if the mouse has eaten cheese, so much the better.

Buttonstc's avatar

Actually wolves, the dogs’ direct ancestors, DO feed their pups by regurgitation.

The pups greet the mom with vigorous face licking which stimulates the regurgitation response.

Obviously this isn’t prevalent with domesticated dogs but the instinctual face licking behavior is still present.

It also indicates submission by the sub dog acting like a puppy to communicate that he’s not a threat.

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