The Anatomy Of A Cat Tail [2023]


Cats have a unique and fascinating anatomy, especially when it comes to their tails! A cat’s tail is composed of a specialized set of muscles, bones, and skin that helps them balance, communicate, and express themselves. This post is all about the anatomy of a cat tail: from the muscles that help it move to the sensitive skin that allows them to sense the environment. 

In my post, The Anatomy of a Normal Cat several of the cat features, limbs and body parts were explored; but not the blessed tail!

Let’s drill down that puffy, swinging, sometimes curled up swooshing magnificent feline communicator.

In this article, you can expect to learn:

  • Do cats have bones in their tales?
  • Base of a cat tail
  • Tip of a cat’s tail
  • Conclusion
  • Relevant reading list


Do Cats Have Bones in Their Tails? Unraveling the Feline Tail Anatomy

Cats are intriguing creatures, and one of their most captivating features is their tail. As cat enthusiasts, you may have often wondered about the structure of their tails, particularly whether they have bones in them. Let’s delve into the unique anatomy of a cat’s tail and uncover the presence of bones in this flexible appendage.

As devoted cat lovers, we’re naturally curious about every aspect of our feline friends, including their enchanting tails. The question that often arises is whether these tails contain bones.

The answer is a resounding yes! Approximately 10 percent of a cat’s total bones are housed within its tail. This extension of their spine comprises a series of vertebrae that play a crucial role in various aspects of a cat’s life.

Cat Tail Anatomy Table of Parts

Tail PartFunction
VertebraeProvides structural support and flexibility for the tail, allowing different movements.
Intervertebral DiscsAct as shock absorbers between vertebrae, protecting the tail during jumps and landings.
MusclesAllow the cat to move and control the tail, expressing emotions and maintaining balance.
NervesFacilitate communication between the tail and the brain, coordinating various movements.
Tail SkinProtects the internal tail structures and contains sensory receptors for tactile input.
Tail HairMay aid in communication, especially when the tail is used to signal moods and intentions.

Function of a cat’s tail

  1. Balance and Agility: Cats are known for their exceptional balance and agility, and the tail plays a crucial role in this. By moving their tail, they can adjust their center of gravity and maintain stability while navigating different terrains and performing acrobatic feats.
  2. Communication: A cat’s tail serves as a means of communication. Different tail positions and movements convey various emotions and intentions. For example, a raised tail indicates friendliness, while a puffed-up tail may indicate fear or aggression.
  3. Bowel Control: The muscles in the tail also contribute to bowel control in cats. Tail movements are involved in defecation, as cats often position their tail in a specific way while using the litter box.

Keeping it real simple, lets start at the beginning.

Anatomy of a Cat Tail: Base of the Tail

Starting at the base of the tail, cats have a group of muscles called the caudofemoralis muscles (say that three times real fast)!

These muscles are responsible for the up and down movement of the tail. They attach to the pelvis and provide the cat with extra balance and stability, especially when jumping and running. 

The tail is made mostly of bone and cartilage. The vertebrae make up the majority of the tail, but there are also several small bones in the tip of the tail. These bones give the cat extra flexibility and range of motion. 

RELEVANT: The Second Life Cycle of a Cat: Adolescent (6-12 months)



The Tip of the Tail


Much like cat whiskers, the tail acts as a sensory preceptor for the feline as she moves around her environment.

The tail is covered in a thin layer of skin that helps the cat sense its environment. Cats have a special organ called the vibrissae, which is a group of sensory hairs located near the tip of the tail. These hairs act like a sixth sense, providing cats with information about their surroundings. 

Pretty cool, right?!

The tail also has a variety of glands that allow cats to communicate with other cats. These glands produce pheromones, which are chemicals that cats use to send social messages. 

Decoding the Mysterious Cat Tail Language: Unraveling Feline Communication

Cats, those enigmatic and captivating creatures, have a unique way of communicating that extends beyond their vocalizations and facial expressions. One of the most intriguing aspects of their communication toolkit is their tail language. A cat’s tail can reveal a plethora of information about its mood, intentions, and feelings. In this article, we’ll delve into the captivating world of cat tail language, exploring the significance of different tail positions and movements, and how they contribute to our understanding of feline behavior.

The Art of Cat Tail Position: A Silent Dialogue

A cat’s tail acts as a versatile and expressive tool for communication, often conveying emotions that words cannot. The tail position holds vital clues about a cat’s current state of mind. Whether it’s held high, low, puffed up, or tucked away, each position tells a unique story.

The High and Mighty: A Sign of Confidence

When a cat holds its tail high in the air, it typically signifies a sense of confidence and contentment. This prominent tail position often comes into play during friendly encounters, as cats greet each other with raised tails, showcasing their approachability and trust.

The Subtle Curve: Relaxed and At Ease

A slightly curved tail, resembling a gentle question mark, indicates relaxation and comfort. This position suggests that a cat is in a tranquil and non-threatening state, possibly enjoying the company of its human companions or other feline friends.

Puffed Up and Frightened

A puffed-up tail, resembling a bottle brush, is a clear indicator of a cat’s fear or agitation. When faced with a perceived threat, a cat will fluff up its tail in an attempt to appear larger and more intimidating. This defensive stance serves as a warning to potential adversaries.

Deciphering Tail Movements: A Window into Feline Intentions

Beyond static positions, a cat’s tail movement adds depth to its nonverbal language, offering insights into their intentions and emotions.

The Flick and Twitch: Concentrated Focus

Quick, subtle tail flicks often indicate a cat’s focused attention. Whether observing a potential prey or tracking a moving object, this movement signifies the cat’s engagement with its environment.

The Lashing Fury: Anger and Irritation

A rapidly lashing tail is a telltale sign of a cat’s annoyance or anger. This movement is often accompanied by other warning signals like flattened ears and narrowed eyes, conveying the cat’s dissatisfaction.

The Playful Dance: Joyful Interaction

A cat’s tail that sways gracefully from side to side, especially during play, signifies a joyful and interactive mood. This movement is an invitation for companions, whether human or fellow feline, to join in on the fun.

The Complexity of Feline Body Language

While the tail is undoubtedly a prominent component of cat communication, it’s essential to consider the context of the entire body language to gain a comprehensive understanding of a cat’s emotions and intentions.

A cat’s tail can play a pivotal role in reinforcing or contrasting the signals conveyed by other body parts. For instance, a cat with an arched back and an upright tail might be feeling threatened, while a relaxed body posture and a gently swaying tail indicate contentment.

Tails and Beyond: The Intricacies of Feline Behavior

In the intricate tapestry of feline behavior, the language of tails weaves an essential thread. However, it’s crucial to recognize that tail language is just one layer of a cat’s multifaceted communication system. A cat’s vocalizations, facial expressions, and overall demeanor also contribute to the full picture of their emotions and intentions.

Understanding a cat’s tail language requires keen observation, patience, and a willingness to learn the nuances of individual cats. By paying attention to their tail positions and movements, we can deepen our bond with these captivating creatures and create a more harmonious and enriched human-feline relationship.

The captivating world of cat tail language opens a window into the intricate realm of feline communication. The positions and movements of a cat’s tail provide valuable insights into their emotions, intentions, and well-being. By deciphering this silent language, we can bridge the gap between humans and cats, fostering a deeper connection and enhancing the mutual understanding that enriches our lives alongside these mysterious and wonderful companions.


Can the tail be injured easily?

While a cat’s tail is flexible and agile, it can still be susceptible to injury. Falls, accidents, and aggressive encounters with other animals can result in tail fractures or sprains. If you notice any signs of pain or unusual behavior related to your cat’s tail, it’s essential to seek veterinary attention.

Do all cat breeds have the same number of tail vertebrae?

No, the number of tail vertebrae can vary among individual cats and even among different cat breeds. Some cats may have shorter tails due to genetic variations, while others may have longer, more flexible tails.

Can cats feel pain in their tail?

Yes, cats have nerves in their tails, making them sensitive to pain. Injuries to the tail can cause discomfort, and a cat may react by hissing, growling, or avoiding touch.

Concluding Purrs

Cats use their tails to express a range of emotions, from happiness and excitement to fear and aggression. A cat’s tail can help tell us what type of mood they’re in, making it an important part of feline communication. 

The anatomy of a cat’s tail is complex and fascinating. From the muscles and bones that help them move to the sensitive skin and glands that help them communicate, cats have a unique way of expressing themselves.

For more information about feline anatomy and all the unique ways a cat’s body works, check out our other articles:

Lisa Illman is the Founder of Kritter Kommunity, LLC. She has a tuxedo adult cat and has had him since he was a baby kitten. Before her cat Finnegan, Lisa had had two FIV-positive cats for over a decade. They inspired Lisa to invent a cat enclosure and a portable catio so they could safely sit outside and enjoy fresh air and sunshine. Lisa had a Poodle and a parakeet growing up. She currently loves to pet-sit for her neighbors’ dogs and cats.

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