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Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails While Lying Down

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Cats wag their tails while lying down to communicate or express different emotions.
  • A wagging or thumping tail can indicate contentment, playfulness, pain, or frustration.
  • Cats may wag their tail when asking for playtime or feeling energetic.
  • They may also wag their tail while being petted, indicating either happiness or stress.
  • Cats may wag their tails while dreaming or when they want to be left alone.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Taimoor is a well-traveled practicing veterinarian performing duties related to pet care, staff supervision, laboratory work, and diagnoses.
Published on
Tuesday 22 August 2023
Last updated on
Tuesday 22 August 2023
Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails While Lying Down
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Cats use their tails to communicate emotions and intentions. Tail-wagging can indicate conflicting feelings, focus, or mild annoyance. Unlike dogs, a cat’s tail-wag can have a more nuanced range of meanings. Pay attention to the context and other body language cues to better understand the cat’s emotional state.

Main Reasons Why Cats Wag Their Tails While Lying Down

Cat wagging tail while lying down is not uncommon, especially for those who have had these furry companions for years. Seeing them wag or thump their tails while on the ground might seem strange, as it defeats the purpose of relaxing or resting. As it turns out, this tail movement of theirs is not random and could mean a couple of things.

Cats wag or thump their tails while lying down to communicate or express several emotions. To cats, their tails are equivalent to human facial expressions. How they wag their tails could mean an array of emotions — from fear, pain, and annoyance to playfulness, happiness, and restfulness.

To give you a better understanding, here are the reason why cats move their tails while lying down:

They Feel Contented

When lying down, a wagging or thumping cat tail sign can indicate contentedness, especially if the feline does not seem particularly interested in anything. If you are petting the cat and they are thumping its tail gently against the ground, it is a clear sign of enjoyment and affection.

Sometimes, a cat is lying down and repeatedly swishes their tail for no apparent reason other than being happy, relaxed, or content. That said, it is not an open invitation for you to come closer and pet them.

Asking for Playtime

They may appear as comfortable and relaxed as the next kitty lying under the sun, but that tail wagging could indicate they are starting to feel energetic. For those wondering what does it mean when cats wag their tail, it could show that they are asking you to play.

If the cat is lying on their stomach and wagging its tail, it might mean they are about to pounce. Like dogs, cats also have a playful ‘pounce’ stance or position that they like to do. Sometimes, the cats will ‘chatter’ and even wiggle their hind end a bit. Other times, it’s only the tip. The cat wagging tip of the tail can be involuntary and not purposeful.

In Pain

Another reason why do cats flick their tails while lying down is because they feel pain or discomfort. Though, this could be a bit uncommon as cats are masters when it comes to masking their pain.

study conducted by Horwitz and Rodan about behavioral awareness in felines suggests that cats are descendants of solitary animals with instincts to hide pain and illness to survive in the wild. It is normal for domestic cats to show minimal behavioral signs of pain, distress, and disease.

If you see your cat’s tip tail wagging out of nowhere, it could be an involuntary reflex to express its pain. It is not entirely easy to detect, so it would be best to look for other signs, like appetite changes, unusual aggressiveness, and restlessness.


Cats also wag their tail while you are petting them. If you notice this, there are two possible reasons:

  • Stress
  • Feeling happy and content

You can tell which emotion they are leaning towards based on other behavior. If the cat wagging their tail is happy, it will also purr, lean into your touch, and wag its tail slowly. It is essential to note the speed of the tail wagging. If the cat’s tail is moving consistently or slowly on the ground, then the cat is in relaxed mode.

If the cat is growling while you are petting them, it is a sign that they are unhappy about the petting. You will also notice that the tail wagging is irregular, choppy, and sharp.


Every cat owner has theories about why a cat wags the tip of its tail while lying down. One common reason is that they are dreaming. A good indication that cats are dreaming is when they flick its tail during a deep, restful snooze.

It is also typical for cats to move in their sleep, though these movements are small and subtle. You might sometimes catch your cat’s tip of tail wagging back and forth unconsciously.


Sometimes, just like humans, cats can also get grumpy and frustrated. They also have days when they want to be left alone and be given space. If you see your cat swishing its tail in wide arcs while lying down, it could be a sign that they are feeling frustrated.

If you attempt to pet them in this state, they might meet you with a hiss or a scratch. They might also leave the room abruptly. Cats can feel frustration for a couple of reasons, like being bothered, woken up, or simply having a bad day. Wagging their tail is their way of releasing some pent-up energy.

Do Cats Wag Their Tails on Purpose or Voluntarily 

Another thing you might wonder about as a cat owner is whether your cat wags the tip of its tail voluntarily or not. The answer is both. Cats often purposely wag their tail from side to side to communicate something to their owner. They may want to tell you they are happy, relaxed, or playful.

Cats often use tail body language to express something. When cats purposely wag their tails to greet someone, signal happiness, or show affection, it is usually accompanied by other positive behaviors. Usually, that includes purring, meowing, and rubbing their head or body against the person.

While most tail movements are voluntary, some are made involuntarily, usually when the wagging stems from negative emotions. It is likely an involuntary reaction to stressors. The only exception is when the feline repeatedly shows signs of other aversive behavior or stress reactions. Typically, they would resort to a short tail flick to indicate that they want to be left alone.

Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails While Lying Down: FAQs

If your cats’ mysterious actions mystify you, you’re not alone! Here are some of the most common questions shared by pet owners.

Why do cats move their tails when resting?

Sometimes, when a cat is resting, it wags their tails. It usually means that they are relaxed, contented, or happy. Meanwhile, while they are sleeping, a moving cat’s tail is typically a sign that it is dreaming. It could also mean they are relaxed but still paying attention to what’s happening around them.  

Why does my cat wag his tail when I pet him?

If you pet your cat and they acknowledge you by wagging its tail a bit, it could mean they feel safe and secure. That is a good sign that they appreciate you and that you can continue petting them.

What do a cat’s tail movements mean?

A cat’s tail movement can mean various things. For instance, tail up may express confidence and contentment. Meanwhile, a feline tail curved in a question mark sometimes means they are in a playful mood. A cat’s tail down can signal stress or aggression, while a tail tucked away can indicate fear or submission.

Do cats mind if you touch their tail?

Some cats do not mind their tail being touched, mainly if it occurs while you are petting them. Although, there are cats that do not like it at all. It’s because their tail is a sensitive body part and touching it may stress them out.

Do cats show affection with their tails?

Yes. Cats typically show emotional attachments and affection through tail movements and placements. Connection is displayed by twinning their tails around your legs or resting them on you. Sometimes, they sit physically close to you, so the cat’s tail touches you when they swing it.

What does a cat wagging its tail mean? Many things are related to this action, but most involve your pet’s feelings or emotions. The tail is one of the most vital parts of a cat. It provides balance while walking and standing and is a communication tool to express the cat’s feelings and mood. Whether your feline friend is trying to tell you they love you or asking you to back off, it would serve you well to learn their main communication style.

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