The Anatomy of the Cat

Regardless of the height, cats have mastered the fine art of almost always landing on their four paws. The elegant animals have this special ability due to their refined physique. The reason: a perfect interplay of defined muscles and the bony skeleton. Find out everything about the cat’s anatomy here.

Cat Anatomy: Musculoskeletal Disorders

The musculoskeletal system is made up of muscles, bones, and joints including tendons and ligaments. If it is impaired by illness or injuries, the cat is also restricted in its movement.

Bone disease

Bones can be altered by congenital diseases or malnutrition in the early years. More often, however, cats break their bones in a car accident or fierce turf war. Veterinarians can reliably detect a broken bone with an X-ray examination.

Diseases of the muscles and joints

Muscles and joints hold the cat’s anatomy together. If they are not intact, the entire cat’s body will suffer and the affected cat will limp or lame. In particular, degenerative joint diseases such as osteoarthritis (joint wear and tear) play an important role in cats.

How to Protect the Muscles, Bones, and Co.

Keep your cat’s musculoskeletal system healthy by maintaining them appropriately and eating a balanced diet. It is important that you adapt the food to the condition of your cat. While senior cats require comparatively less energy, cats with kidney disease are dependent on food that is low in protein.

To keep your cat’s anatomy stable and muscles strong, you should pay attention to the following ingredients, among other things:

Vitamin A

Vitamins are important and contribute to many vital functions. This includes vitamin A, which is necessary for your cat’s eyes, skin, and coat. But be careful: Too much vitamin A can lead to pathological changes in the skeleton of your velvet paw. If your balanced cat weighs three kilograms, you should not feed it more than 300 IU (international units) of vitamin A per day.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D regulates the body’s calcium and phosphate balance. It thus has a positive effect on the bones and thus also on the entire anatomy of the cat.

Since the liver only produces the important vitamin through contact with sunlight, indoor cats in particular often suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. At a young age, this can lead to what are known as hypocalcemic rickets. The bones of affected cats are then too soft.

Calcium and phosphorus

It is widely believed that calcium should be good for your bones. But it all depends on the ratio of phosphorus in cat food. The optimal calcium-phosphorus ratio is around 1.2: 1.

The Anatomy of the Cat: This is the Structure of the Cat’s Skeleton

The skeleton of cats is made up of over 230 bones. The number of bones depends on the breed of the cat. In comparison: the human skeleton has only about 206 to 112 bones.

The head

The shape of the skull reveals a lot about the species. So the cat skull is very short and compact compared to the skull of a dog. It protects the brain and has around 30 permanent teeth in its lower and upper jaw. At first glance, the extremely sharp canine teeth that the carnivores use to catch and eat their prey are noticeable.

The spine

Whether big cats (such as tigers or lions) or house cats – the stable spine of all types consists of around 44 to 58 individually assembled vertebrae:

  • 7 cervical vertebrae
  • 13 thoracic vertebrae
  • 7 lumbar vertebrae
  • 3 sacral vertebrae fused to form the sacrum
  • depending on the length of the tail, about 20 to 23 caudal vertebrae

The more tail vertebrae the cat has, the better it can keep its balance when climbing. The tail is therefore indispensable as a balancing aid for most types of cats and an important part of the cat’s anatomy. However, there are also breeds (e.g. Manx) that genetically do not have a tail.

The limbs

Cats owe their legs to an extreme bounce and speed of up to 48 kilometers per hour. These characteristics make them perfect hunters in the great outdoors.

Another special feature of the cat’s anatomy: the shoulder blade is not connected to the ribs by a collarbone. Only ligaments and muscles connect the bony structures with one another. This allows the cat to bend badly and crawl through the narrowest of slits.

At the lower end of each limb, there are cat paws with sharp and movable claws. While the hind legs only have four pads, the front legs have five pads. The latter is also more highly trained and allows the cat to defend itself against enemies or to beat the prey.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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