Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Tale of Many Tails

Remember the article we did on Unlocking the Secrets of Cat Communication?  In this past posting we talked about various features of a cat, touching a little bit upon the cats' tail.  Well, it's time to take a closer look at the cat's behind!

What is the purpose of a cat's tail?  Balance, rudder,communication, decorative, or no purpose at all?  Hmm...great question, let's  learn more about our exotic wild cats' tails!

Did you know that the bobcat has a black-tipped, stubby tail, from which it derives its name  This cat's tail is only 3.5 to 7.9 inches long, which is rather small in comparison to our other wild cats!  Clearly, this cat does not need a long tail for balance as it doesn't like to climb and live in tall trees or to act as a rudder to help outflank prey!  Wild bobcats prefers to keep on the move from three hours before sunset until about midnight, and then again from before dawn until three hours after sunrise, always on the prowl for food.

Next comes our servals with a tail length of only 7.9 to 15 inches long!  It's tail is a little longer than the bobcat, but not by much!  This wild cat, native to Africa, can be found in the savanna and while she can swim and climb, she prefers not to!

Here comes our big cats! Tiger tails normally are about 24-43 inches in length which is about the same size as our cougars (25 to 37 inches in length) and cheetahs (24 to 33 inches in length); while lion tails are 2 ft 11 in - 3 ft 5 in length and ends with hairy tuft.

Did you know that in some lions, the tuft conceals a hard "spine" or "spur"?  this "spur" is approximately 5 mm long, formed of the final sections of tail bone fused together. The lion is the only felid to have a tufted tail—the function of the tuft and spine are unknown.  

Cougars are not great distance runners or excellent sprinters (like our cheetahs) but ope at a fairly even, long-striding pace.  Their long tail is used to counter-balance their graceful hunting and climbing movements.

Big cats' tails are not only beautiful, but they also serve a purpose.  Did you know that a cheetah uses its tail as a rudder-like means of steering ,to allow her to make sharp turns in order to outflank the fleeing prey?  Cheetahs are not built for running long distances, but rather for short bursts of speed and so their tail aides them in capturing their prey.

Wild cats that like to climb, such as cougars and leopards, need their long tails for balance.  "Butt" other than for physical reasons, does the cat tail serve any other function?

Yes!  Cats use their tails to communicate how they are feeling towards us (their loyal keepers) and other animals. 

You may have observed that when a cat is relaxed he tends to walk with his tail horizontally behind him.  If the cat meets a friend, then the tail tends to rise up to convey friendliness.  If the meeting is friendly but cautious, the cat’s tail upright tail tip is slightly hooked, indicating a degree of uncertainty.

Have you ever been sprayed by a lion or tiger?  If so, then you already know that a spaying cat raises the tail, and with the tail a-quiver, starts treading with his hind feet, trying to raise his hind quarters up higher, projecting a spray of urine—at you!  This happens to be the way the cats conveys he is SO happy to see you!  This is also an invitation for you to sniff the spraying cats’ anal glands to confirm his relationship with you as a member his family.  Needless to say, we at In-Sync Exotics do not recommend you accept the cat's invitation!

When a cat is at rest, but readying for action, he sweeps his tail erratically from side to side.  As he becomes more alert or more emotionally charged, the tail swishes faster, wider and in a more regular manner. If the cat is lying on his side, the tail will be thumping on the floor or ground, often loudly. Though this is most often associated with anger, it may also indicate another highly charged emotion-– excitement!  A swishing or thumping tail is sometimes an invitation for another cat to join in a bout of play. So Smuggler best be careful when he swishes his tail, for clearly he is sending an open invitation to Aasha that he wants to play!

Look at those happy tails!

Here are a couple of grids that may help you in determining the mood of a feline (it did not go unnoticed that there were no complicated communication grids on the Internet for dogs...just saying...):

We hope you enjoyed this brief look at our wild cats' tails!  We shall end this "tale" with a few pictures of Aasha and Kshama's happy tails...

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