Friday, May 9, 2008

If You're Happy -- Vibrate Your Tail!

More emergency. Couldn't post for a few days, but from now on I'm going to be more consistent.

Thankfully, Mittens is a healthy kitty now. The vet was very impressed, said that we’ve got ourselves a whole new cat. Well, maybe the equivalent of 2 new cats! She looked gaunt and emaciated like a concentration camp victim. The shaved patch on her foreleg – where they inserted the catheter – heightened that impression. You’d almost expect to see a number tattooed there.

Now Mittens looks sleek and happy. She’s gained 1.6 pounds, representing a 25% increase in weight.

Several months ago I started noticing something peculiar. Mittens' tail was vibrating! At first I thought that I’d just imagined it. But then she started to vibrate her tail regularly, almost every day, and I realized that I wasn’t seeing things. My first thought was that perhaps she was spraying. A quivering tail is one of the signs of a cat that’s about to spray urine. Cats spray to mark their territory. It’s more common with male cats but females can engage in spraying behavior too.

It’s evident though, from Mittens body language that she’s not trying to practice spray painting. Every time she vibrates, she sticks her tail straight up while gazing into my face, arching her back, and emitting meows that, to my ears, sound most decidedly happy. She shimmies her tail near her empty food bowls, like an entreaty of some sort. As well as right before she's about to eat, as if she's saying grace. At times she does a quick tail burr after she’s eaten her fill and when she sees me enter the room. Like a vibro-greeting.

I asked around to see why a cat might vibrate her tail. Most people, even long-term cat-lovers, said they had no idea—they’d never seen a cat vibrate her tail in the way that Mittens does. After more digging around, I discovered that I was right, whenever Mittens burred her tail, she was expressing excitement and joy! According to experts, a cat’s tail will vibrate when she’s happily anticipating something desirable, like a treat. Some cats may also quiver their tail when they’re excited but uncertain of a situation. Apparently, it’s a way to release pent-up energy! Maybe the way kids whoop and jump for joy?

Cats have different styles of vibrating their tail. One cat might quiver the tip of her tail while another might just shimmy the base of his tail really fast—like Mittens does.

But don’t confuse the vibro-tail with a tail slashing from side to side. That’s a sign of irritation or annoyance.

Anyway, next time your cat vibrates her tail when she sees you, take that as a compliment!


Sandy said...

Hi Cheryl,

Our Niles, a black male house cat, does the very same thing from the base of his tail as your Mittens does! Yes, he looks exceptionally happy when he does this too, with a special meow, that is very sweet. It is so funny to see this, but I got the impression it was as you said; they do it from happiness and contentment. Thanks for your comments, because I wondered why Niles did that, too.

Sandy ~ Medina, Ohio

Cheryl Chow said...

Hi Sandy,

Thanks for sharing your story of your cat Niles. I'm delighted to hear that other cats vibrate their tail, too.


Patrice said...

Dear Cheryl,
Jack, my Russian Blue mix cat twitches his tail at the top. He has a very long tail and he holds it straight up much of the time. However,I was curious if this twitching was a sign of happiness. I'm glad that you feel that it's a sign of contentment, too.
P.S. Rescued him from a cage he had been in for 9 months awaiting adoption. His gratitude has been overwhelming.

Patrice~Derby, New York

Cheryl Chow said...

Dear Patrice-Derby,

That's fantastic! I'm sure Jack is very, very happy. He's lucky that he was rescued.

Mittens vibrates her tail every day. And looks very pleased as she does so.


Anonymous said...

Okay, my curiosity is cured! I have wondered about this for the past year or so about NEMO, my daughters 3 year old cat. He's must love us and the things we do for him, as well as the things we give him - like Albacore Tuna in Water! He gets just the water and a couple of flakes of tuna, but evertime I grab a can, there goes the tail. Now I know why! And oh, it has to be tuna in water (only), he'll frown and walk right by a fresh can of tuna in oil - go figure - no tail vibrating then.

Harry in VA

Cheryl Chow said...

Hi Harry,

That's so cute! He's definitely a happy cat.


Kim said...

I have 3 female cats(sisters) and all 3 of them do the tail vibrating. They will jump up on the couch and start vibrating their tail from the base to the tip, meanwhile the hair at the base of the tail will spread out like a fan about an inch wider than the width of their tale. Glad to know that this is a good thing. as it so rare I am surprised that I have 3 that do it. My friends think they are wierd but quite fasinated by the tail vibrating. It is quite funny at time too.

Cheryl Chow said...

Hi Kim,

That is really sweet!! Our new addition, Lydia the blink albino cat, also vibrates her tail when she's happy. Usually when I'm about to feed her. Her tail is busy so it's not as easy to see as with Mittens. But it's very cute.

Cats vibrating their tail is quite funny, isn't it?

Elfy said...

Hi Cheryl,

I thought my little Chilli cat was spraying as he started the strange tail vibrating recently. I then rememered that they do not do it after being neutured so googles it, brilliant read, is great to know they are happy, he seems to do it when my boyfriend and I give him cuddles and attention at the same time.

By the way, I had a cat called Mittens, years ago, we found him on halloween and he had 7 claws on each paw :)

Peace and Purrs,

Tracy x

Cheryl Chow said...


Good to know that your cat's so happy! He probably loves the cuddles and affection he gets from you and your boyfriend.

So you had a cat called Mittens, too? I adopted mine from a friend. I think most polydactyl cats have 6 claws, so yours was truly exceptional!


Anonymous said...

My cat does this too. Reminds me of a rattlesnake tail... yet in her case it's obvious she's quite content and happy when she does it.

Cheryl Chow said...

Yes, the cat is happy! Cute, huh?

Anonymous said...

My cat does vibro tail which starts at the base of his tail all the way to the top. He does this when we talk to him. Cats are so sweet.

Anonymous said...

Hello my cat is a grey tiger .He vibrates his whole tail every time he see's me. Especialy so when i come home form work or in the morning...Is very noticable and its only when he is extremly happy and purring!!

Kristen said...

Our cat does this too! He has a chair that is "his" (technically it's my office chair, but we all know who the real boss is!) Whenever he comes in, he goes straight to this chair, backs up to it and vibrates his tail. It's so funny, almost like a rite! He is a VERY happy cat. We still don't know his story, but he was a stray that we adopted. He was homeless for at least 3 years and he was neutered, so we know he was previously owned and someone dumped him. He is an orange Maine Coon (gorgeous!), about 17 pounds and the biggest teddy bear you'll ever meet! He's a VERY happy kitty and it's good to see he's not the only kitty that does the vibrating tail! :)

eVeShakti said...

I adopted a stray cat in the fall and he's gaining confidence and is very attached to me. I've seen my two female cats do this (base of the tail) around food but the new male does it all the time! I just google cat tail shimmy and came up with your blog. Glad to confirm that it means he's happy! He vibrates his tail whenever I invite him over for a pet - ahhh love!!! So glad he is happy and comfortable being a (now pudgy) housecat. While my other cats don't yet want to play with him (they are too dignified) he has a much better life now than on the streets.

Anonymous said...

I have two kittens, a brother and sister, and they both do it. And I just know by the way they are looking at me (or sometimes it's food time) that it is because they are being lovable and affectionate :-)

Cheryl Chow said...

Awwww! How adorable! Rather unusual that she will shimmy her entire tail whenever anyone pets her. That's one affectionate cat. Sounds like the kitty really loves you!

Mittens also shimmies her entire tail. Not when I pet her but when I watch her eat! She always has to have me watch her when she eats.

Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

Never fails that my female cat will follow me into the bathroom. She (others too) like to have bathroom bonding for some reason and that is when she shakes her tail the most going in and out of my legs and along side the toilet.

syl2468 said...

It's funny you said that about the bathroom! My girl tabby kitty will come in, come rub my side, then go to the bathmat and vibrate her tail while taking alternating steps on her back paws! So cute, I figured it was from happiness!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this blog! I was so curious to know why my Misty does this. I only see her doing this sometimes when I'm going to pet her. She's happy and I knew that it was something positive, but I didn't know if she was trying to spray... As if, marking me as her territory.. Thanks again for the clarity.

Anonymous said...

I have had two cats that have done this. My first cat, Tigger (may he rest in peace) and now the newest addition to my family Sky. I thought it was an unusual thing to see Tigger do it when he was happy/excited...but now that Sky does it, I think it's almost normal. The only difference between Sky and Tigger is that Sky tenses up her back legs at the same time and shakes the one at a time like a dog. I think is cute.

Ashley ~Michigan

Nichole said...

Our maine coon does this and since she sticks her tail up and shakes it, I pull it, and she likes it...odd but all my cats have liked that so it made sense LOL It makes her a happy fluffball.

ruby said...

Just adopted Bogart from the humane society 2 weeks ago. He vibrates his tail more every day we have him. I was scared he was spraying at first. So good to know he's just really happy! Thanks everyone!

Surrender17 said...

Adopted our kitty all the way from Michigan. Quite a drive from our home in Indiana. I don't recall when she started the "love vibrations," but I always found it to be cute and unique. It does make me think of a rattlesnake or a fuzzy maraka. And it's always paired with her high pitched meows and rubbing.

Anonymous said...

My Lily cat is the first cat to do this. My mother in law looked and said 'oh look, she is cold and shivering'!! She quivers the whole of her back near the tail and the tail itself and purrs really loadly at the same time. Her tail even goes a bit bushy sometimes, but not in the way it does if she is scared.It is definitely because they are happy, no doubt about it, because you can tell from all the other messages they are giving you at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Our cat, Toby, almost is doing a dance when his body and tail vibrate. He can't stand still! He is a very happy boy! So cute!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering what my cat was doing, she always seems happy when she does it, so I wasn't too worried.. but it's a bit random when it does happen :)
She also lifts up one of her back legs a little and shakes it slightly as her tail vibrates.

Anonymous said...

My boy cat does this, I tease him about shaking his tail feather, but he always rubs against my legs either before or after he did it, and always looks content. His sister's don't do it though!

Anonymous said...

That's what our Chevy does. It's very entertaining. We just yell "Bathroom Party" and both cats come running to be in the bathroom with us :)

Anonymous said...

Our cat, Earl does this when he is excited or happy (in addition to talking our ears off!). Sometimes he even marches his back paws up and down while quivering his tail. Honestly, it's one of my favorite behaviors that he exhibits :) He has never sprayed and I've never seen another cat do this unless they were about to spray.

Brian Woods said...

This story reminded me of how upsetting and stressful it was (not to mention incredibly expensive) to continually clean our carpets and replace our furniture when our cat use to pee in our house and make our home smell like a litter box. We used to mistakenly believe that the problem would go away and even considered giving our cat away in frustration. Other people told us to scream and shout at our furry friend, but this was never an option since it would just make him more anxious and confused. We knew there had to be a better way. We searched all over until we found a simple way to have a happy, contented and loving cat and dramatically reduce our stress levels. I could go on and on, but you would do well to check out this article, which has also been a great help to us and explains how to get the same results (and even better) that we are getting:
Hope it helps anyone reading this!

mr hixpoi said...


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Talk soon,


Unknown said...

I adopted a female cat yesterday she is 8 yrs old and everyone was looking past her...shes shy and skittish but finds comfort in me but runs from everyone.. I named her myshka its russian for little mouse ..she did the tail shaking randomly when she found me in another room wondering why i left her safety room lol...

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