Have you ever noticed your cat napping on the sofa, and suddenly its tail starts wagging? Have you ever wondered what it means? We have all heard the saying ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul,’ but with cats, it’s their tails! Read on to find out why cats wag their tails in their sleep and what it means!
So, why do cats wag their tails while sleeping? Cats wag their tails for a number of reasons, from happiness to irritation. If your cat is wagging its tail from side to side in slow motion whilst sleeping, this usually indicates a comfortable and happy feline. Rapid swishing movements can indicate anger or even pain.
For these reasons, you should observe your cat regularly to pick up on any behavioral changes and always seek the advice of a vet if you are concerned.
But let us delve deeper into the potential reasons so you know exactly why your cat may be doing this.
We will then look at how to respond, so keep reading!
What Does It Mean When A Cat Wags Their Tail While Sleeping?
Cats wag their tails in their sleep for many reasons. There is a common misconception that cats only wag their tails when they are angry. However, cats can convey all sorts of emotions through the position and movement of their tails, from contentment to agitation.
Cats rely heavily on body language to express their feelings, but it is often very subtle and easy to miss!
By paying attention to the direction, speed, and position of your cat’s tail movements when he is sleeping, you can assess his mood more easily and determine when intervention might be necessary.
Below are a few of the main reasons why your cat wags his tail while sleeping:
A sleeping cat is usually a content cat!
There has been some research done to determine whether animals like cats can actually dream. The results are not yet conclusive, but it seems very likely that they do!
So, it is more than possible that your cat is dreaming of eating his favorite food or even stalking a mouse!
However, just because it looks like your cat is in a deep sleep, it doesn’t mean that he always is. Cats can sleep for up to 20 hours a day, but this is often taken in short mini naps.
During most of these naps, your cat will still be alert enough to sense his surroundings. This allows your cat to react to danger swiftly if it arises.
Although cats are predators, they can also be threatened by larger animals in the wild, such as dogs and even birds of prey.
If you notice your cat napping near your and his tail is gently tapping the floor or twitching slightly, he is most likely paying attention to your voice and your movements.
In simple terms, he is telling you that he knows you are there, but he feels safe enough to continue snoozing.
A slow side-to-side wiggle also usually indicates happiness.
A good rule to follow is if the last quarter of your cats’ tail is moving, it is safe to assume your cat is content. If the whole tail moves rapidly, this usually indicates something else.
Agitation or Stress
If your cat appears to be sleeping yet his tail is swishing vigorously; you may need to tread carefully!
While your cat may be having a very intense dream, these movements can also indicate that he is agitated or stressed by something in the surrounding environment. It could also indicate playfulness.
If your cat is aggressively tapping his tail on the ground, something has definitely annoyed him!
In these circumstances, it is best to leave your cat alone until he has calmed down.
Otherwise, you may find yourself the target of a swipe!
Similarly, if you move to stroke your napping cat and the tail twitches in rapid motion, your furry companion is warning you that he does not want to be disturbed or that he is being overstimulated.
So, you should give your cat some space!
Tail swishing is a good way for your cat to release some of his pent-up frustrations, especially if it is accompanied by groaning and restlessness.
A puffed-up tail is another warning sign that could indicate stress or nervousness.
Cats generally puff up their tails as a defense mechanism to protect themselves from injury. So, in this case, it is likely that your cat is feeling uncomfortable or even fearful.
If you notice your cat regularly hitting the floor (or an object) with his tail while sleeping, then it may be worth a trip to the vet.
Especially if it is a new behavior or it is accompanied by other worrying symptoms such as a loss of appetite or withdrawal.
Cats are incredibly good at hiding signs of pain or illness. So, by paying close attention to subtle tail movements, you will be more able to decipher what is going on.
A slight tail twitch accompanied by a slow flick often indicates pain.
Your cat may also display other signs such as eye or ear twitching and may resist when the affected area is touched.
It is important to note that the pain-induced tail flicking can appear very similar to playful twitching.
So, you will need to observe your cats’ other behaviors as well to determine whether intervention is needed.
Cats in a lot of pain may also vocalize to indicate their distress. If this occurs, it is best to seek the advice of a vet immediately.
Do All Cats Wag Their Tail In Their Sleep?
All cats communicate through subtle body postures and tail movements, even in their sleep. However, you may find that some of the more affectionate breeds are more prone to tail-wagging than others!
For instance, the Sphinx breed is well known for being incredibly attentive and dog-like.
These cats will happily follow you around the home, wagging their tails in excitement!
Sphinx cats and other similar breeds will love being in your company, which will manifest as happy tail swishing!
Main Coons are also known to display this behavior.
A bored cat may flick his tail regularly out of frustration while napping.
Particularly if the behavior is seen alongside aggressive tendencies and other irritation indicators like flattened ears.
You should schedule at least one play session per day with your cat, especially if he is indoor-only.
Ensure you work off that frustration and allow him to use his hunting skills with the use of wand toys and laser pointers.
Playing regularly with your cat will also help to enforce your bond.
Active cat breeds such as the Bengal, Savannah cat, and Egyptian Mau are more likely to exhibit boredom-induced tail flicking as they require constant stimulation to remain content and happy.
You may also notice a difference in tail wagging as your cat gets older.
Kittens are highly active, even in their sleep!
So, expect your little kitty to be wagging non-stop as he becomes settled in his home and dreams of all the novel stimuli he has experienced!
Depending on the breed, older cats may wag their tails less in their sleep, but it is always important to regularly observe your cat for any new behaviors that may indicate a health issue.
What To Do If Your Cat Wags Its Tail In Its Sleep?
Tail wagging is perfectly normal behavior for cats, so in most cases, it should not be a cause for concern. However, cats are very good at hiding signs of pain, so any sudden changes in tail behavior can potentially indicate a health problem.
If you suspect an issue, you should look at more than just tail movements to get an accurate representation of your cat’s emotional and physical state.
Constant tail swishing accompanied by a loss of appetite can indicate a potential health problem.
So, it is always best to seek the advice of a vet if you are concerned.
Conversely, an unusually floppy tail or lack of movement can suggest a tail injury. Other symptoms to watch out for include:
- Hair loss on the affected area
- A puffy tail
- Excessive vocalizations like howling or crying
- Lack of control over bowel movements.
If you think your cat has hurt its tail, it is important to offer comfort by talking in a calming voice.
You will also need to ensure your cat has easy access to food and water bowls until he can be seen by a vet.
Keep him in a quiet, secluded area to reduce stress. Minor injuries such as tail fractures often heal on their own. However, more serious injuries may require surgery.
If you notice a hard lump on your cats’ tail that is painful to touch, your cat may have developed a tumor.
There is no easy way to identify the seriousness of a tumor, so you must take your cat to the vet as they will be able to take a sample of the lump to be analyzed.
If a tumor is benign, no more treatment should be necessary. If it turns out to be a cyst or cancerous, your cat may need surgery.
Cats are enigmatic creatures that express their feelings through body language, especially through tail movements!
For this reason, it is important to understand your cats’ usual behaviors, so you can more accurately identify when something is wrong.
Besides, the behavior of cats can be quite interesting.
Sleeping with their eyes open or in funny places such as your pillow are other such examples!
Just be sure to keep an eye on them. They can experience night terrors too.
Up next: Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails While Lying Down? [Is It Normal?]
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.