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Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails While Lying Down? 7 Reasons

David Fields
Last Updated on
by David Fields

If you have a furry feline friend, you’ve likely witnessed them display all sorts of questionable behavior.

A common behavioural question that has people scratching their heads is, “why do cats wag their tails while lying down?” A cat would wag its tail while lying down to relax or express playfulness.

It could also be to sleep or express frustration and pain.

Cats Wag Their Tails While Lying Down
Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails While Lying Down?

7 Reasons Cats Wag Their Tails While Lying Down?

Let’s go over the possible causes of this interesting mannerism, so you can learn the meaning of all the different cat tail signs when lying down.

1. Frustration (Tail Thumping)

Sometimes, just like humans, cats can get frustrated and grumpy. Their irritability may have a specific cause, for example too many people in their space, being woken up, being hungry, etc.

When they’re in this state, you might notice them swishing their tail around widely (it can appear very dramatic, as cats often are).

If a cat is displaying clear signs of frustration, it’s best to leave them alone until they appear more relaxed.

If you try to pet them or lift them while they’re irritable, it may result in scratching, hissing, or fleeing. Once your cat appears to have calmed down, it’s safe to approach them.

2. Greeting

Typically when you think of being greeted by a wagging tail, you picture a dog. However, cats can show their excitement to see you in this way, too!

When a cat is laying down and feeling too tired to stand up, they may greet you with happy little tail thumps. This is just their way of saying “hello friend.”

As long as your cat appears relaxed and has its eyes fixed on you, there’s a good chance that the tail wagging is just an affectionate greeting.

Other possible greetings include your cat sticking its tail straight upwards (with impressive confidence) and head rubs against your ankles.

3. Relaxing

If a cat doesn’t appear to be interested in anything in particular, their tail wagging could signal that they’re feeling at ease.

This can be confusing because much like purring, tail thumping can also signal that they are frustrated. It’s not always easy to figure out what mood a cat is feeling, so it’s important to be aware of their body language.

Cat relaxing with tail up

For example, if you pet your cat and they wag their tail while nuzzling your hand, they’re in a good mood. If the tail wagging comes off as aggressive rather than gentle, that’s a telltale sign not to approach your cat.

Most cat owners have likely become accustomed to mood swings.

4. Playfulness (Tail Wiggling)

It’s fairly easy to determine if a cat is playfully wagging its tail. If a cat wants to play or is feeling frisky, its pupils will enlarge and its eyes will be fixated on something.

Sometime’s, they’ll even roll over (belly up) or make that silly chattering sound.

To check if a cat is feeling playful, try swinging a string or toy in their field of view. You might see them wiggle their behinds in preparation for a leap.

If the cat isn’t in the mood to play, it may flee the area, remain interested, or hiss at your attempt to play.

Kittens tend to feel playful more frequently than older cats, but regardless of age, it’s good to play with them once in a while! They love it, and it’s good exercise for a housecat.

5. Hunting

Cats’ hunting mannerisms are similar to their playful ones. However, if a cat is hunting, it’ll likely appear to be more determined or focused.

If you have a housecat, it’s less likely that you’ll see them attempting to hunt. But of course, cats being cats, they still can manage to find things to “hunt” (like your unexpecting feet moving around under the blanket).

If you observe that the cat is laying down with its eyes intensely focused, butt wiggling upwards, and dilated pupils, likely, it’s about to pounce on its prey. Cats like to hunt bugs, birds, and, as stated: feet.

6. Pain

Although less common, pain can be the possible cause of your cat’s tail-wagging. Cats hate showing their pain; it makes them appear vulnerable to larger animals.

They prefer to suffer in silence, but if you take note of small changes in behavior, it helps you determine whether or not a cat is feeling pain.

If the cat’s tail wagging seems to be involuntary and sporadic, your cat could be experiencing pain or discomfort. For further confirmation, observe your cat and see if you observe any appetite or mood changes. If so, take your cat to the vet as soon as possible for a checkup.

VetsNow also suggests keeping an eye out for changes in posture, excessive sleeping, and reluctance to walk or move around.

7. Sleep

Just like humans, cats can have very vivid and intense dreams! According to Purina, cats dream of running, hunting, playing, eating, etc. If you notice the cat wagging its tail while it’s asleep, it’s likely dreaming.

Apart from dreams, cats tend to twitch or make subtle movements while they’re in REM sleep. That means they’re in a deep slumber, and it will likely be more difficult to wake them up. (I’m not kidding. I had to shake my cat awake once. It was concerning!)

Try leaving them to rest if they’re in REM sleep; they may become irritable and grumpy if they’re woken up from this state.


Cats exhibit all sorts of fascinating, strange behaviors.

Although it may be difficult at times to determine why a cat is wagging their tail, it usually all circles back to its mood. However, if a cat is behaving abnormally, be sure to take them to the vet just in case! If anything is wrong, it’s best to catch it early.

About David Fields
David Fields
David Fields is a long-time animal lover and has been blessed to share his life with many companions. A short list includes ragdoll cats, siberian husky and greyhound dogs, an African Grey parrot, many fish of all sorts, and a pandemonium of parakeet. He writes most of the articles on iPetCompanion and is regularly featured on other popular websites on the Internet.
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