Not as vocal as dogs, cat communicate with one another and people by means of silent body language, according to “The Character of Cats.” Although each individual cat communicates in his own way, cats generally use the same tail positions for the same meanings. A cat with a tail up with the tip curled to one side is a sign of a happy, friendly cat.
“ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats” notes that all cat body language falls into one of two main messages to others – either come closer or go away. A cat with a tail up is curious and feels confident enough to check out what is interesting her. The tail tip sometimes moves slowly as the cat walks over to whatever piqued her curiosity. When the back is stroked, a cat often raises her tail and curls it at the tip to signify pleasure. In contrast, frightened cats lower their tails as they move away quickly. Cats also raise their tails straight up when arching their backs and hissing in order to appear larger.
Kittens stick their tails up when seeing their mother. Sticking the tail up and curling the tips is a food begging gesture, according to “The Character of Cats.” Cats also raise their tails in greeting animals or people, or before engaging in play. Adult cats sometimes stick their tails up and curl them in an attempt to beg for food, affection or play from people.
Some cat breeds such as the Japanese bobtail are bred to sport short, kinked tails. This makes the cats appear to always have a raised tail curled to one side. In cases of cats with extremely short or curly tails, check the ear position and overall body position to see if the cat is inviting people to come closer, or to get away quickly. A friendly cat has his ears forward, mouth closed, whiskers spread out and fur that isn't puffed out.
Cats stick their tails up when urine marking or spraying. Usually the tail is straight up, but sometimes individual cats curl the tail tips, according to “ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats." No matter in which position the tail is held, it quivers slightly as the cat sprays. Before spraying, the cat sniffs a site surface such as a tree trunk or armchair, and then turns around so his tail faces the object. Both male and female cats spray, but males do so more than females.