Have you ever just casually wondered to yourself why exactly cats have tails? Perhaps it was one of those random questions that occur to you when you're in the shower or just staring deep into space daydreaming.
However it came to you, the answer is actually very fascinating, because cats have tails for a few different reasons rather than just one specific one. And these reasons might be very familiar to you if you’re also a cat owner.
For example, if you do happen to be a cat owner, then you’ll know that cats are very expressive animals and one of the ways in which they use their tails is to actually tell you how they’re feeling and what they want!
So, read on to learn more about the ins and outs of why cats are born with tails - plus about why some breeds are born without them - and what they use them for!
WHY DO CATS HAVE TAILS
There happen to be three main reasons why cats have tails, which we’ve listed below.
Have you ever wondered how cats walk across narrow ledges without falling off or why they’re so good at landing on their feet when they jump off a wall?
This is all thanks to their tails, because they help them to maintain their balance.
Their tails act as a counterbalance or counterweight, similar to when we, as humans, put our arms out to try and keep our balance, or when tightrope walkers use their poles to stabilize themselves as they walk across the rope.
Cats’ tails even help them with the simpler things, such as when they’re walking, running, jumping on prey or escaping from predators.
If you’ve ever seen your cat in action trying to catch their prey, or running away from a dog or another cat, you might have noticed that as it darts to the left, for example, its tail actually bends to the right. Again, this is all about counterbalance!
Another key reason why cats have tails is because they use them to communicate with other cats or with humans. They’re a big indicator of how they’re feeling and what kind of a mood they’re in.
You might have seen your cat’s tail in many different positions but not been totally sure what each position meant.
These differences in position are probably something you’ll want to understand because then you can better comprehend how your cat is feeling. Here’s a list of the key tail movements you’ll see your cat make and what it is they mean exactly:
Understanding their surroundings
This is a slightly lesser reason as to why cats have tails than the first two, but they do use their tails in a similar way to their whiskers - it’s a part of their sense of touch.
Their tails can help them check out their surroundings by feeling certain areas or surfaces to figure out if they are safe enough or comfortable enough.
Plus, because their tails contain nerves, they help to send signals to their body to help them then respond to whichever environment they happen to be in. This is part of why they have such fast responses and reflexes.
WHAT ARE CATS’ TAILS MADE OF?
Cats' tails are actually an extension of their spines and are made up of a number of different elements. These include vertebrae, nerves, blood cells, muscles and scent glands.
Caudal vertebrae are the bones that make up their tails and they have from around 18 to 23 of these vertebrae, depending on each individual cat.
And, because their tails are part of their spinal cord, they contain nerves that are from the central and sympathetic nervous system.
WHY DO SOME CATS NOT HAVE TAILS?
Some cats, such as the Manx cat, are born without any tails at all. This is due to some sort of natural genetic mutation that once occurred with these cats.
Although cats' tails are extremely important for them, cats that are born with no tails manage quite well without them, simply because over time their bodies have adapted to not having one.
These cats tend to have stronger and more muscular hind limbs than cats who are born with tails, and their back legs are also usually slightly longer than their front legs, which compensates for their lack of a tail and allows them to balance well.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A CAT BREAKS ITS TAIL?
Just like any other bone, cats’ tails can break. This could occur from injuries sustained when being attacked by a larger animal or getting their tails trapped in a door, for example.
But, the good thing about a simple fracture is that it’s an injury that will, with most cats, heal fine and won’t affect them in the long run.
If your cat has what we call a tail pull injury, though, which is when its tail is pulled too forcefully and it separates from its spine, it will cause nerve damage.
This means your cat could then permanently be unable to hold its tail up and will lose its coordination and perhaps suffer incontinence.
Although some cat breeds have adapted to being born without tails, most cats need their tails to balance themselves and to communicate with both other cats and humans.
We hope this guide has helped you to understand all you need to know about why cats have tails!
At Love4Cats, our practice involves consistent collaboration with licensed veterinarians and reputable industry experts. However, it's important to note that the content provided on Excited Cats is not intended as veterinary advice. While we strive to enhance your understanding of feline care, the information presented on this blog should not replace professional veterinary guidance.