Is a tail really that important for a cat's balance?

I was wondering if the tail really is that important on a cat’s balance as it is sometimes stated. I mean, the tail must weight a few grams. The cat weights way more than its tail. I already saw tail less cats doing some really nice jumps…

Cats who lose tails adapt, so how important can it be? We had a cat who had to have her tail amputated at age 5 after an accident - the stump left was about 1/2" long. It didn’t seem to affect her balance much and she was still more nimble than her uncle and cousin.

Sorry, but I’m not cutting the tail off Katie Cat to see what happens. I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid. Or suicidal.

Watch the tail on this kitty and tell me it doesn’t make a difference. Tailless cats can adapt but tiny things can make a life or death difference in the wild.

One of my cats has a ridiculously long tail. The other was born without one. They’re both 15, and they’ve got virtually the same balance.

I think it’s fair to say that among cats that are equipped with a tail, they do indeed make use of them for adjusting their center of mass and orientation. For cats that lack a tail, they use whatever else they have available to them to make those same adjustments.

Manx cats seem to manage.

This is key. Cats without tails do fine, but on average, cats with tails do slightly better. That’s enough evolutionary pressure to make tailed cats the norm.

Most animals, tailless or not, tend to thrive when a human being reliably provides them with food and shelter every day. I don’t think Manx cats or other domesticated/custom-bred animals are a good example of natural selection resulting in a tailless cat.

However, bobcats and lynxes probably fit the bill.

My Googlefu is failing me today, but I recall watching a documentary that mentioned certain cheetahs who lost their tails (to traps IIRC). They could still perform many tasks, but their turning ability at speed was apparently quite affected.

Does every thread about animals have to be about natural selection. :rolleyes: There is nothing about evolution in the OP. I didn’t mention it either.

The OP wondered about the “importance” of a cat’s tail. I presumed he meant important for doing things that serve the animal’s survival needs, e.g. maneuvering in pursuit of living, breathing, running prey. I contend that domesticated animals have far less stringent performance requirements than wild animals, and so tailless Manx cats are not good evidence of the lack of “importance” of a tail.

You could have a breed of housecat that is deaf and blind, and I wouldn’t regard it as indicating that vision and hearing aren’t “important” for a cat.

If the OP had some other definition of “important” in mind, I’m listening…

Our cat, Midnight, had a paralyzed tail. We realized this shortly after we first got her from the shelter as a kitten – the tail always dragged after her, and she never moved it.

Nevertheless, she jumped and climbed like any other cat, dragging that dead weight of a tail after her. She righted herself when she dropped as well as a cat with a prehensile tail – and that, I was given to understand, is the main use of a tail. Somehow or other, she coped without that angular momentum control.

Actually, the tail doesn’t participate much in cat righting:

Hmm. This goes against what I had been told (and shown, in stroboscopic photos) years ago. Thinking must have changed.

Nonetheless, it’s consistent with our cat’s righting ability. And her tail could arguably be a liability in this action.