Structure and Function of the Tail in Cats

Below is information about the structure and function of the feline tail. We will tell you about the structure of the tail, how it works, and common diseases that affect the tail in cats.

What is the Tail?

The tail is the posterior elongated part of a cat that extends beyond the trunk or main part of the body.

Where is the Tail Located?

The tail is located at the end of the vertebral column. It is the hind-most part of the backbone.

What is the General Structure of the Tail on a Cat?

The tail is composed of up to 20 supple and articulated caudal vertebrae, depending on the species, breed and individual. These vertebrae are enclosed by a versatile musculature making the various segments, especially the tip, capable of finely graded movements that lift the tail, move it from side to side, or draw it down toward the anus or between the hind legs. The caudal or tail muscles lie on the lumbar vertebrae and sacrum (of the lower back) and tail vertebrae, and insert on the caudal (tail) vertebrae exclusively. The muscles are attached to the tail vertebrae by tendons. The most posterior tendons attach to the last tail vertebrae.

Part of the musculature of the tail is formed from muscles associated with the rectum, the anus, and the pelvic diaphragm. Four to seven paired nerves serve the tail muscles. These muscles have many tendons that insert from the fifth or sixth caudal vertebra, then onto the next vertebra, and so on to the end of the tail.

What are the Functions of the Feline Tail?

Your cat’s tail is sensitive and responsive, and often signals his mood and motivation. You can usually tell what your cat is feeling by watching his tail movements. Some basic movements and their significance are listed below:

Cats don’t only use their tails to display emotion; they also use them for balancing (although cats without tails also manage nicely). If a cat is walking along a narrow ledge and wants to look to one side, he will automatically shift his tail to the other side to reposition his body’s center of gravity, so that it remains directly over the ledge.

Your cat may swish his tail, too, which adds to his skill as a hunter. By swishing his tail, he mesmerizes his prey. Since your cat can’t see his prey well if it becomes still, he moves his tail to entice small movements by his target, which he can then see.

What are Common Diseases of a Cat’s Tail?

What Types of Diagnostic Tests are Used to Evaluate the Tail?

Various tests are used to diagnose disorders of the tail. These include: