Cats basically cannot talk. However, I have seen videos where some cats learn to speak a few words because their human parents train them to talk. Being a cat parent for over 30 years to several different cats, I have seen and heard a lot that I would never have believed had I not seen or heard it with my ears and eyes as a truthful witness.

At one time, I had two cats that spoke two English words. The words were, “Thank you,” which was as plain as any human saying the same thing. I have had numerous cats that, on occasion, said, “Yes or No.” However, these are rare instances.

Cats rely on unique ways to communicate with other cats and humans. Cats rely on various movements of the following to express their moods, behaviors, fears, joys, needs and wants.

  • Tails
  • Ears
  • Eyes
  • Paws
  • Meows

Cats don’t only use their tails to communicate with humans and other cats, but they also use their whole body in various ways.

Why Does My Cat Flick Its Tail When I Call Its Name? 

Seasoned cat parents and professional cat researchers at many universities agree that the ability of humans to understand cat behavior is complex and sometimes confusing. However, a cat’s behavior is not that complicated if you learn, as I did, what and how a cat communicates using its tail. A cat’s tail movements tell you precisely what it wants you to know.

A bit of homework and studying the actions of a cats’ tails will enhance communication between you and your cat. Knowing what your cat wants or needs through the movements of its tail may prevent your cat from showing its nails across your arm to get your undivided attention.

I know that not everyone will agree with this statement; cats talk with their tails. The disagreement comes from those who are not cat parents and others who really dislike cats and would not spend a minute of their day with this fantastic furry critter. Devoted cat parents, vets, and researchers know differently.

There are various tail movements that a cat performs to help get its point across to its human parents and other cats. The most interesting of these movements is when a cat’s name is called, it flicks its tail. Many want to know what this means.

When I call my cat by its name, and all six of my cats definitely know their names, I may see it flick its tail at me. A cat can use its whole tail or just the tip of the tail to communicate with me when I call its name.

Cat behavior researchers find that a flick of the tail tip can mean the following.

  • Stop it!
  • The cat is annoyed
  • The cat is overstimulated
  • Is frustrated
  • Wants to be left alone

If you are close to your cat and notice this flicking, you might stop what you are doing and leave your cat alone or pay the consequences of a nail scratch or nip with the teeth on your hand or arm.

My Cat Mia’s Story

Mia is one of my six cats. Mia’s domain is my bedroom off from our main living room. Every evening at about 8 pm, Mia wants me to brush her. If I do not get to her by 8 pm, she comes looking for me and will sit and stare at me until I follow her to her room. I brush her for several minutes, and she will lay down with me and expect my hand to scratch her head or back. However, when Mia has had enough, her little tail begins to twitch or flicker.

If I am watching TV and not paying attention, she will nip at my hand or lay her paw on my hand to say, “I said stop!”. She may attempt to scratch me, but she knows better than to show her nails on my arm. So, she slaps me with her paw. She becomes mad, and I can see the fire in her eyes; her ears twitch, and she runs away. After about five minutes, she returns and headbutts my arm for attention.

I believe she is saying, “I am sorry, OK?” I kiss her head and scratch her whiskers a bit, and all is OK.

On occasion, Mia succeeds in making me mad. I point my finger at her and say, “Naughty girl!” She looks at me and slaps my finger away with her paw, saying, you stop it! That’s not nice; you have three fingers pointing back at you! It is so difficult not to laugh at her, and if I do, it only makes her angrier.

After all is said and done, I think Mia and I have certainly learned how to communicate effectively. And I now know what it means when she flicks her tail.

Meanings of a Cat Flicking Their Tail

You do not always have to call your cat’s name to get a tail flick in response. As with my Mia, you could be playing with or brushing your cat, and if their tail flicks, they tell you, “Stop doing what you are doing, I have had enough!” I think that when a cat gives you a quick flick of its tail, it is equal to a human waving you off after you tell them something that makes them irritated or angry.

Quick Flicks can involve the tip of the tail or the whole tail. If your cat moves its tail slowly from side to side, it is in a friendly, playful mood. They are enjoying the moment. However, if the tail or tip is rapidly moving or thumping, they could be feeling the following, and you need to take this as a warning to back off and leave them alone. The faster and stronger the tail is flicking, the deeper the agitation. This is not the time to talk to your cat, pet your cat, or point a finger at your cat. Walk away and allow your cat a cooling-off period.

  • Fear
  • Stress
  • Agitation
  • Aggressiveness

What Should I Do If My Cat Flicks His Tail When I Call His Name? 

When a cat starts flickering its tail, it is not always due to calling its name. There can be other factors involved. Sometimes it depends if your cat is inside or outside. If this happens when your cat is inside or outside, it may be getting ready to fight. If it were me, I would explore the surroundings and certainly intervene.

For example, two of our cats, Lil’ Luke and Willow, friends, and playmates, gang up on the Twisted Sisters, Isabella and Sophia. They do this occasionally, and thank goodness they do not make it a daily habit. I believe they think it is fun, and they do it because a cat will do what a cat does.

These youngsters get it into their kitty brains to chase one of the sisters. All the sisters can do is scream bloody murder and run upward out of their way. You can bet we have a lot of flickering tails going. We send Lil’ Luke and Willow to the porch and close the door for a spell to help everyone cool off. However, Lil’ Luke has now learned how to open the door.

You need to understand that cat parents are on their cat’s time clock, like it or not. Your cat is telling you that they heard you. However, they will get back to you at a later time.

I have noticed that when one of my cats is resting, and I think they are asleep, I know they are not sleeping because their tail is flickering. If I touch them, all I get is more flickers. Your cat is telling me not to bother them; they are comfortable, cozy, and trying to rest, so go away!

When you see your cat flick its tail, you must assess the situation and surroundings because there can be a vast difference in each case. Flickering tails can be a good thing or a bad thing.

For example, when the Twisted Sisters are chased by Lil’ Luke and Willow versus a cat curled up on their cat’s bed trying to sleep, or perhaps you see your cat’s tail flickering because it is outside having a standoff with another cat or a stray dog. All cat tail flickers need immediate assessment and possible quick intervention.

 

Author

I created and currently run Kitty Cat Tips, the website that you can go to when you have questions about your cat's behavior. It's my hope that you find Kitty Cat Tips to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your cat. You can read more about me and my website here.