Cats Poof up Their Tails for a Very Specific Reason


Our precious little kitties can turn into ultra-aggressive, violent monsters in the blink of an eye. Anyone who has owned cats or spent a lot of time around them knows exactly what I’m talking about.

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And when a cat is scared or feels threatened, you see its tail puff out to twice its normal size. Cat behavior consultant Dr. Mikel Delgado says frightened cats are “basically trying to make themselves look as big as possible, and that’s because they detect a threat in the environment.” But what actually causes the tail to expand like it does?

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The tail puffs out when the muscles in the cat’s skin (where the hair base is) contract in response to hormone signals from the sympathetic nervous system. Basically, it happens when a cat finds itself in a fight or flight situation, and sometimes the hair on the back raises up as well. The technical term for the phenomenon is called piloerection.

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Other animals experience this phenomenon as well, including certain birds. Dr. Delgado says:

I think it is a universal response among animals to try to get themselves out of a [potentially dangerous] situation. Really, the idea is that you don’t have to fight because if you fight, you might lose an ear or you might get an injury that could be fatal. For most animals, they’re trying to figure out how to scare another animal off without actually going fisticuffs.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

h/t: Mental Floss