67 Tale of the Tail...

As all cat lovers know, the key to knowing what your cat is thinking or feeling is in watching the tail. Of course there are other clues as well, the ears, eyes and posture in general but the most expressive is the tail. Nothing tells more than the position and movement of the tail. Roy had sort of noticed that Tigger was not as active as usual and probably saw but didn't notice the change in Tigger's tail in the week after Tigger had a run-in with Misty over custody of Thomas. Misty knew Thomas was at Tigger's house and she was MAD and wanted him back. Tigger happened to be blocking the kitty door and couldn't get his rear end through before Misty delivered a bite on his flank. Roy was aware of the incident and checked Tigger as best he could with Tigger trying to make sure no further harm befell his rear end.

In the week following the incident Tigger became less active. But more than that his tail told of how he was feeling but no significance was placed on these signs. Tigger often slept long naps in the day and he just wasn't very peppy. After a week it became apparent that there was something wrong when the infection under his skin finally broke out and there was a hole the size of a dime and bleeding.

In the interest of gleaning all that we can from this incident we will now review the meaning of the tail in the language of the cat... the Tale of the Tail!

Most of the time Tigger demonstrates the attitude and interest of a happy, healthy cat. He does this with his tail erect, like a flag pole. If he is especially interested in something, like when his plate of chicken is being prepared, the tip will wiggle and curl. This is the best of all possible signs because he is feeling good and is happy, interested in what is taking place around him. It is always wonderful to see him running up to you with his tail standing tall. He is happy to see you and is confident that it is safe to run up to you. Tall tail... happy cat.

The flip side of this is... well the flip side. When the tail is formed in the shape of an upside down U then he is not a happy camper. This is the aggressive position of the tail and usually but not always has other indicators such as ears back and flat against the head and fur puffed out to make him appear as big as possible. He is seldom observed in this condition but when he is , stay clear if you happen to be the focus of his attention.

Now, sometimes he is going from the tail erect mood to the inverted U mood but not on an emergency footing. In this case there is a intermediate step in which the whole tail will wave from side to side. If the Defense Condition is elevated then it will whip from side to side. Stand by, it will soon switch to inverted U. If you are doing something to him when it starts to wave or whip back and forth... stop doing it! He is asking as politely as he can for you to stop and will take more overt action if you don't. If it is just petting him where he doesn't want you to or something like that he will bite at you. Usually this is a ‘soft' bite which will become less soft if you still don't heed his warnings and stop doing what he doesn't like.

When he isn't particularly happy, interested, mad or aggressive he just lets his tail sort of tag along behind. He doesn't exert any particular control over it and may sort of continue on behind him like a banner pulled by an airplane. It may just droop and drag along behind him. When he isn't up to snuff it usually assumes this latter position. That is what it was doing late in the week after the encounter with Misty. It isn't a very glaring statement in itself. What should have been noticed was that the tail up mode was absent or seldom seen. The day after the trip to the Vet's it was flying high and twitching at the tip. What a wonderful sight!

Other signs that were not noticed or understood clearly enough were that he did purr but not the full throated purr that is normal for him. It was weak and hard to pick up unless listened for closely. Roy noticed that but failed to give it much thought at the time. He is now back to a full, healthy purr. A wonderful thing to hear!

His daily routines should be an open book to his state of health and well being. They were but not interpreted properly. He usually will start the day, even rainy days, with a good long time in the yard and woods. He takes care of his morning needs and checks his area throughly. If the weather is nice, he will spend about half a day outside doing his various duties and just having a good time. Then he spends most of the afternoon sleeping. After supper he usually spends several hours outside and comes in about nine o'clock or so. He may sleep a little and go back out for a good portion of the night or may sleep with Roy depending on his mood.

Late in the week after the wounding he was spending almost all his time sleeping. He would go out in the morning but come back in and go to sleep without spending much time outside. He slept until evening and would go out again for a brief time and come back to remain in... and sleep... for the rest of the night. Again, these signs were missed. Roy thought he just was sleepy now that the weather is much warmer. Wrong!

Put all these signs together and Tigger was saying loud and clear that he was not feeling up to his usual good health. It bears close attention to all the signs of attitude and health.

Lessons learned... watch the tail!

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