Why Do Dogs And Cats Have Tails

Why do animals have tails, Dear Pet Talk? — Austin from Fitchburg, third grade

Hello, Austin The tail is fantastic. Do you aspire to possess one? If you enjoy climbing trees, you might benefit from having a prehensile tail like opossums do. If you were a gecko, having a tail that can separate might come in handy if you needed to flee from predators rapidly.

Many mammals have tails as part of their evolutionary makeup. Tails aid in balance and give an additional channel of communication for dogs and cats.

When discussing pets with children, we discuss “reading the tail of a pet. A happy dog with a tail that is wagging vigorously “A dog’s smile indicates that the animal is content. Low tails may be an indication of apprehension or worry.

A cat’s tail moving fast back and forth conveys irritation. And a cat with her ears back, tail fluffed out, and tail standing straight up is a puss not to be trifled with.

Animals can be amused by their tails, and it is entertaining to watch a dog or cat chase its tail.

So why lack tails in humans? We walk on two legs, just like the “Great apes can balance without a tail because they can walk on two legs. However, we’ve all had tails before. Between days 31 and 35 of fetal development, we increase one. After that, it degenerates and joins other vertebrae to form our coccyx, or “as it is frequently called, the tail bone.

What function does a cat or dog’s tail serve?

Dogs and cats have tails for a reason. The majority of the time, both dogs and cats communicate using their tails, from the wide, sweeping wag of a joyful dog to the fast tail flick of an irritated cat. Canine tails can also act as a kind of rudder to help dogs stay upright in the water.

What function do animal tails serve?

Animal stories frequently take up this section. Animal endings and their tails also come to mind as the year draws to a close. So, let’s look at a tails story.

Animal tails are intriguing appendages that can take many different forms and have many different purposes. Animals with tails can move, talk, and stay warm. All creatures that have tails can survive, from humble crustaceans to tropical monkeys.

For instance, crayfish may quickly bend their strong, muscular tail to drive themselves down the bottom of the waterways they call home. Few would manage to avoid the teeth of ravenous predators without this quick means of escape.

No true tails

True tails are absent in insects, however luna moths and swallow-tailed butterflies have projections that resemble tails on their hind wings. Such “tails” might be used as a breeding display or they might just be a disposable target for predators. The insect’s body avoids serious harm, though the predator may take a bite out of a wing.

The tails of aquatic vertebrates including fish, seals, dolphins, and whales are essential for propulsion. Many aquatic vertebrates are among nature’s most graceful species, while others that live on land are helpless or at best clumsy. Only powerboats can match the speeds at which their strong tails carry them across the water.

Life preservers

The simplest way to characterize the tails of many lizards is as “life preservers.” Some lizards need to be vigilant, swift, and have breakaway tails to survive predator attacks. Predators typically reach out and seize their prey’s closest body part when pursuing them from behind.

Many lizards profit from this tactic. Simply put, they lose the part of the tail that predators frequently snag. Only a meager fragment of the lizard’s squiggly tail remains for the predator. The lizard manages to get away, but with a short tail. Such escapes are made possible by tails that have a built-in weak place that snaps off when gripped firmly.

On the other hand, turtle tails are often tiny and plump. In order to survive the long, chilly winters, turtles store fat in their tails.


Different sizes and types of bird tails are used for different purposes. They function for birds in flight as both a brake and a rudder. For instance, a bird without any tail feathers can still fly, but it loses a lot of its agility and finds it difficult to slow down and land gracefully on a perch. Watch a hummingbird move around a nectar source while fanning its tail to understand how a tail contributes to airborne agility.

Birds use their tails for a variety of purposes. To entice females, male turkeys, grouse, and peafowl fan theirs in elaborate displays. Similar airborne displays are made by scissor- and fork-tailed flycatchers, as well as a variety of tropical hummingbirds. Additionally, some members of the cuckoo family balance themselves as they scamper along tree branches by using their long tails.


But among mammals, there is a peak in tail form and function. Opossums use their prehensile tails, which are not covered, as a fifth leg to support themselves while they climb trees. A few New World monkeys zip across the treetops on the tips of their prehensile tails. On chilly winter evenings, coyotes, foxes, and squirrels wrap up inside their long, bushy tails to remain warm. Flying squirrels use their flat tails as rudders to glide from tree to tree.

Beavers warn other beavers when danger approaches by slapping their flat, scaly tails on the water’s surface. Horses use their broom-like tails to swat flies on hot summer days. Additionally, when in danger, cottontail rabbits and white-tailed deer both flash their white tails like flags.

In addition to using their tails for warmth, wolves also utilize them for communication. A tail carried above the back’s plane poses a danger. A tail between the legs means you’re giving up. The tail should be wagged loosely to convey benevolence and tightly to indicate aggressiveness.

Who hasn’t watched videos of cheetahs hunting over the African savannah? As it twists and rotates at up to 70 mph, its long tail balances its entire body.

Even though they are frequently overlooked, many animals’ tails are crucial anatomical parts that allow them to survive from one year to the next.

What function does a cat’s tail serve?

1. The tail of your cat aids balance. When cats walk on small surfaces like shelves or fences, the tail helps to balance them. The tail also helps the cat stay balanced when it is chasing or jumping on prey.

2. Damage to the tail may be irreversible. The muscles in the tail and the nerves that control urination and feces are both controlled by the tail. The tail might suffer nerve injury if it is pulled. While nerve injury may eventually heal, it frequently remains permanent.

3. Cats do not need tails to survive. Despite the fact that cats rely on their tails to help them balance, if a cat’s tail must be severed as a result of an injury, the cat will quickly learn to make up for the missing tail. In actuality, Manx cats are born without tails and are just as nimble as cats with tails.

4. The tail gene is required because the tailless gene is dominant. Breeders will cross a tailed cat with a tailless cat for breeding Manx cats. When a tailless cat breeds with another tailless cat, the fetuses frequently spontaneously abort due to the semi-lethal nature of having two copies of the tailless gene. In fact, a medical ailment known as “Manx Syndrome” affects many Manx cats. Spina bifida, fused vertebrae, and bowel or bladder issues are some of its symptoms.

5. Cats communicate via their tails. Like other animals, cats primarily express themselves through body language. A fantastic mood indicator for cats is their tail.

6. When cats approach other cats, it may be interpreted as an invitation for the other cat to smell them.

7. The domestic cat is the only feline species that can walk with its tail vertical. The tails of wild cats are held horizontally or tucked in between the legs.

Why do animals like dogs and other pets have tails?

There are three main purposes for why dogs have tails: They help a dog move and balance better. Some dogs use them to remain warm. A dog may communicate with people, including you, through them.

Tails aid balance

Dogs’ tails serve as a crucial counterweight when they have to jump and maneuver through tight places. In order to improve the direction of their jump and, ideally, let them land on their front feet, they fling their tail upward as they leap to clear something.

A dog’s tail will also aid in fast turns when running or swimming, much like a rudder. According to Dr. McCarthy, dogs keep their balance by purposefully swinging their tails in the opposite direction of any body tilt, much like a tightrope walker in a circus would do with a balancing bar.

Tails provide warmth

Some northern breeds of dogs, including the Shiba Inu and Siberian husky, utilize their thickly furred tails to cover their faces and noses when it’s too cold for them to go outside.

Tails help with communication

Dogs can move their tails, as is well known. Can they manage them, though?” Dr. McCarthy claims that a dog’s tail is more like our eyebrows in that it expresses our emotions to others while being somewhat uncontrollable.

Dogs start using their tails to communicate when they are very young. “After only a few weeks of age, puppies start to use their tails to convey messages to their mother and littermates, and later, they start to signal their pack mates, according to Dr. McCarthy.

Tails clearly communicate dominance and submission to other canines when speaking with them. The carrying up of the tail, which often denotes dominance, releases more of the dog’s natural scent from the anal glands. Dogs who are submissive and attempting to blend in lower their tails to cover the stench.

Can a cat lose its tail?

Cats’ tails move, it is a simple reality. When a cat does not move her tail, it is a sign that something may be amiss because cats use tail movement as a form of communication.

The tail, which is an extension of the spine, is a crucial component of the feline anatomy. Vertebrae are the bones that make up the tail; they are larger at the base and get smaller near the tip. Flexible gaps between the vertebrae are padded by soft discs. Movement of the tail is aided by the tail muscle and nerves. This intricate network of blood arteries, muscles, nerves, and bone in the tail can easily be hurt.

What are some common tail injuries, and what should I do about them?

The following are some of the most typical feline tail injuries and how to treat them:

Abrasions. When a cat flicks its tail against a sharp object (such as wire fencing) or catches it beneath something, it may receive minor scrapes (like a rocking chair). Clean the area with mild soap and warm water if the hair has been removed and exposed red skin. Instead of using sticky tape, apply antibiotic cream and lightly bandage the tail. Avoid wrapping the bandage too firmly in order to prevent restricting blood flow. Every day, reapply the antibiotic ointment and change the bandage. A cone-shaped Elizabethan collar or bitter apple may prevent gnawing on the bandage.

Take your cat to the doctor if there is persistent bleeding, swelling, or color changes in the tissue. Medical intervention is advised if the damage to the skin and muscles is severe. Antibiotics and painkillers can be necessary for your cat’s proper recovery.

Lacerations. Lacerations, which can be deep incisions that reveal underlying muscle and bone, can be more serious than ordinary abrasions. Some lacerations are caused by cats who are anxious, bored, or who exhibit other behavioral issues. Additionally, allergies to fleas or impacted anal glands may cause a dog to bite its tail. Particularly with bite wounds, infection is likely to develop, and some lacerations will need sutures (stitches). To stop the bleeding while you transport your cat to the veterinary emergency facility, wrap the tail with a towel.

When a cat becomes entangled in a car’s fan belt, it is one of the more frequent ways that they might lacerate their tail. Many cats seek out the warmth of a car engine in the cold weather and get hurt when the engine is turned on. Before starting the ignition, slam on the hood and honk the horn of your automobile to prevent this scenario.

Fragmented Tail The tail’s vertebrae can shatter just like any other bone in the body. When a cat is hit by a car, falls off of a porch or bed, or has her tail smashed in a door, a fractured tail frequently develops. The severity of the damage is greatly influenced by the site of the fracture.

Even though the tail may have a lump or kink where the fracture is, the fracture at the tip of the tail typically heals nicely without any treatment. A portion of the tail may need to be removed if the bones there are crushed. Near the base of the tail, injuries are more severe and frequently involve nerve injury.

Take your cat to the vet for a thorough examination if she suffers a terrible fall or is struck by a car. It’s possible that something other than her tail requires attention.

nerve harm. The bone vertebrae in the spine provide protection for the nerves in the tail, but they are still vulnerable to damage. Nerves may be stretched or torn in avulsion injuries, which occur when the tail is dragged forcefully, while nerves may be severed in breaks around the base of the tail. Tail pull injuries have the potential to harm the nerves that regulate urine and feces further up in the spinal column.

Your cat might develop urinary and fecal incontinence if the nerves that regulate those functions are damaged. Nerve function may eventually recover, but some cats will never be able to control their bladder or intestines. The tail may hang slackly due to nerve injury as well. When having a bowel movement, the cat might not be able to raise her tail at all. Having limp tails may also cause skin problems. Consult your veterinarian if you find that your cat’s tail hangs limply and cannot flick or move.

While small cuts and scrapes can usually be treated at home, many tail injuries need to be seen by a veterinarian. As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to evaluate the situation and, as necessary, seek veterinarian assistance. In order to treat the injured tail, your cat’s veterinarian may advise oral or injectable antibiotics, pain relievers, or even surgery. With the right care, your cat should quickly resume moving her tail.