Can You Pick a Cat up by the Tail? (safety and risks)

The cat’s tail is a sensitive part of the body. While some cats may tolerate being pulled by the tail, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy or recommended, and we’ll explain why.

Quick Answer

If you understand cat anatomy, you’ll realize that their tail is a part of their spine. A cat’s tail contains many nerves (especially at the base), and damage to those nerves can result in various medical issues, including paralysis, which is why you should never pick up a cat by the tail.

In this article, we’ll look at how sensitive a cat’s tail is, whether cats enjoy when you do it, and how to pick up the cat correctly.

a person grabbing an angry cat's tail

Is It Harmful to Grab a Cat by the Tail?

As long as it is not bent or twisted, the cat’s tail is not easily injured. Pulling hard on a cat’s tail, on the other hand, can cause serious problems, including paralysis.

Most cats’ tails have weaker joints than their legs, making it easier to injure the tail because it isn’t supposed to support any weight. However, it is not attached by a string, and significant force is required to cause actual harm.

Cats use their tails for balance and to talk to each other, but they also have nerves that can affect the muscles in the tail and how they control urination and bowel movements.

If the tail is pulled violently, it can cause other problems than just breaking off. It has the potential to harm the spinal cord. Because the neurological signs are primarily related to bladder and anal sphincter dysfunction, tail pull injury can be fatal in otherwise healthy cats.

Also, a tail injury can alter a cat’s gait and posture, potentially leading to longer-term musculoskeletal issues.

If the cat appears to have injured its tail, it is critical to determine whether it sustained any serious injuries other than the tail. If you pulled your cat by the tail, have the tail examined by a veterinarian, just in case.

Do Cats Like Having Their Tails Touched or Pulled?

Most cats enjoy having their tails petted but dislike having their tails pulled. It highly depends on how they are treated as kittens. Cats either love their tails touched, or they absolutely hate it.

If the cat was raised with children pulling on its tail, it is more likely to dislike having its tail touched.

My cats don’t mind if I touch their tails. I can grab their tails and drag them on smooth floors, and they’ll shrug it off. I’ve met cats who enjoy pulling their tails to the point of strangeness.

Things start to go wrong when people begin pulling, twisting, and yanking or when a cat’s tail gets caught in a door or hinge.

The point where the tail meets the back is extremely sensitive. There are numerous nerve endings where the tail meets the rest of the spine. Petting them there generally feels good, and some enjoy scratches, which is why they raise their buttocks when you rub them. Sudden jerks or pulls at this sensitive junction can also lead to skin tears or abrasions, which are prime sites for infections.

If your cat allows you to touch its tail, it shows that they trust and care about you. It takes trust for a cat to let you pet it and even more trust for you to touch its belly or tail.

person scratching cat at the base of the tail

If you accidentally pulled your cat by the tail, you most likely did not harm them or their tail, but holding the tail causes pain, which may cause the cat to scratch or bite you.

Remember never to move or pick up anyone by just a limb – tail, arm, or leg – and never just around their head or neck.

How to Properly Pick up a Cat?

One of the best ways to pick up the cat is to have one hand under the chest and one under the abdomen. Then we can pick them up with an even force across the body, so they’re not swinging, hanging down, or flopping about.

Picking them up just by the chest may cause them to swing and try to scramble up to something and may scratch you. It’s one of the most common reasons people get scratched.

You can also pick them up by the chest with one hand and squish their hind legs gently with your forearm. You can support them by extending your palm under their front legs.

Cats find it comforting to have their feet resting on something, and once they’re close to your chest, you can usually free up one hand to pet and comfort them while holding them.

Except for kittens, never pick them up by the scruff of the neck or just by the tummy without supporting their back legs. Put them down if they squirm and try to flee. They’re saying they don’t want to be restrained.

Here’s a helpful video from the vet on how to pick up a cat:

The tottom line: Though cats may appear agile and robust, their physiology is intricate. Just like you wouldn’t shake a person’s hand too vigorously, be gentle with a cat’s tail.


Do cats mind if you play with their tail?

If the cat has been adequately raised and enjoys being petted, it will not mind if you play with its tail. Some cats generally enjoy touching and stroking their tails, while others do not, and it always depends on the cat. Most cats don’t mind, just be gentle and avoid pulling on it.

Can you pull a cat’s tail during playtime?

Try not to yank your cat’s tail. While some cats enjoy petting their tails, a cat is unlikely to enjoy having their tail pulled during playtime. Gentle strokes are acceptable, but pulling on their tail may cause damage, and the cat may scratch or lose trust in you.

Can the cat’s tail break?

Pulling on their tail may cause it to break at the tip or lower part of the tail. If your cat’s tail appears to be sprained or broken, take them to the vet as soon as possible. Always keep an eye on it. This type of injury can cause nerve damage, leading to other problems.

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