As cat owners, it’s clear we know all about our feline’s typical behavior and interests, but how much do we know about our cat’s anatomy?
Cats aren’t just the cutest pets out there, they also have a fascinating body and muscles that enable them do incredible things. In Leonardo da Vinci’s words, “The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” And when da Vinci spoke about a cat being a masterpiece, he wasn’t just talking about the behavior of a cat, he rather referred to its anatomical features.
In this article, we would be exploring the anatomy of a normal cat. Just as the one(s) you have in your home.
Cats are built with a skeleton that’s almost similar to that of humans. The skeleton of a cat is made up of 244 bones to include clavicles (collarbones), but unlike that of humans, the collar bones aren’t connected to other bones. The exterior of each of its bone is made up of protein and minerals that help give the bone its firmness; its interior on the other hand, contain a marrow cavity responsible for producing red blood cells.
A cat’s skeleton comprises of five main parts namely; the skull, spinal column, ribs, forelegs and hind legs.
The small skull of the cat is attached to the vertebral column as is the case with other mammals, and it contains air filled sockets also known as sinuses. There are two sinuses within a cat’s skull – the frontal sinus and the maxillary sinus. The eyes socket within the skull, are large enough to contain the huge eyes of a cat. Also located in the skull of a cat are its teeth. A normal adult cat has 30 teeth. The cat isn’t your average carnivores as it comes built with 12 incisors, 4 canine, 4 molars and 10 premolars – all made perfect for devouring flesh.
- Spinal Column
The spinal column of a household cat is made up of five areas, namely; the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and the caudal regions. Though there are a total number of 7 cervical vertebrae, the first two are the most popular: Atlas and Axis. A cat’s tail is an extension of the spinal column and contains 10 percent of a cat’s body bones, this is known as the caudal vertebrae. The cat’s incredible tail helps keep it balanced when climbing, running or jumping. The way a cat’s spinal column is built is what makes the cat very flexible and gives it the ability to arch its back in a “U” like shape. The flexible nature of a cat’s backbone also helps it orient itself as it falls to the ground. This why cats never land on their backs.
A cat has a total of thirteen pairs of ribs. Its upper ribs are connected to the thoracic region, while its lower ribs are attached to the breastbone and sternum. The ribs alongside the spine and sternum all make up the thorax within a cat that contains its heart and lungs. Cats are known to be built with floating clavicles and compressible rib cages. This makes it easy for them to squeeze into very small spaces.
- Forelegs and Hind legs
Its foreleg bones are made up of the scapular, radius, humerus, ulna, metacarpus, wrist bones and digits; its hind legs on the other hand, consist of pelvis, patella, femur, calcaneum, fibula, tibia, tarsus, metatarsus and phalanges. Also, it is important to note that the cat is a digitigrade animal – what this means is that the cat’s heels never come in contact with the ground. When a cat runs, it runs on its toes. Cats have nine toes – five toes on its front paw and four on its back paw.
All cats to include domestic cats are born hunters. Cats come equipped with hundreds of evolved muscles that enable them easily pursue, pounce on prey, and carry out a great deal of other physical activities. If you own a cat, you must have witnessed it bolt at a great speed, and easily leap to incredible heights. This is all thanks to its powerful muscles.
During a fall, a cat’s magnificent muscles help to spread its body in order to create a drag and slow its fall. This feature gives cats the ability to land from great heights without getting injured. All cats are built with retractable claws – this feature is made possible with the help of muscles that pull the tendons back to expose deadly claws when the need arises.
The muscle of a cat helps to stabilize its joint when under pressure and can also generate body heat for the cat during cold periods. Each of its astonishing muscles are made up of countless cells held together by connective tissue tendons.
The Brain Of A Cat
The brain of a cat occupies about 0.9 percent of its body mass, and does the job of interpreting inputs gotten from the senses. Cats are known to have 300 million neurons and a lot of nerve cells in the visual area of their brain. When compared to dogs and most mammals, cats have a more complex and advanced brain. Their brain comes equipped with a complex cerebral cortex, this makes the average cat far more intelligent than a dog. As a result of this feature of their brain, the tendency for aged cats to develop a medical condition quite similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans is very high.
The Five Senses
Cats as humans possess five senses that enable them experience the physical world. These senses include: the sense of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch.
- The Sense of Sight (Eyes)
Every cat has an exceptional eyesight. While they can see as much as humans during day light, their night vision isn’t as impaired as that of humans. Cats are nocturnal creatures and can see very clearly even in the darkest places. One thing that makes the cat a mysterious animal to most is its tapetum lucidum or eyeshine as some like to call it. A cat’s eyes glows in the dark, sometimes this feature makes the cat look scary, but it’s nothing to be afraid of. This phenomenon is caused by a layer of iridescent cells behind its eyeballs that reflects light. Without this feature, cats won’t be able to see clearly at night.
A feline’s eyes are very delicate organs and need to be protected at all costs, as even the slightest injury to its eyes can render it permanently blind. The eyes of cats are usually large and round and are covered by the cornea; its eyelids serve as protection to the eyes. A cat’s pupil changes shape in response to light. Under bright light, the pupil contracts to lineal slits – looking exactly like a snake’s, but under dim light, the pupils opens up to allow as much light in as possible – taking a round-like shape.
The only downside with the eyes of a cat is its inability to perceive colors. Scientists claim the cat is color blind. Cats are also known to have a blind spot. No cat is able to see anything within the distance of 10 centimeters in front of its face.
- The Sense of Smell (Nostrils)
A cat’s sense of smell isn’t as acute as that of a dog, but that of humans pale in comparison – with a cat’s nose having over 200 million scent receptors and humans having just 400 scent receptors. Apart from their nostrils, cats are also equipped with an organ known as the Jacobson’s organ that enables them taste smell in their mouths. This organ can be found on the roof of a cat’s mouth and is mostly used to sniff other felines.
- The Sense of Hearing (Ears)
A cat has a tremendous sense of hearing and can hear even the slightest sound from a great distance. In fact, there are arguments that the cat has a better sense of hearing than dogs. A cat’s ear is cupped and is able to serve as a receptor and conductor of sound. The 32 muscles in a cat’s ears, and the impressive ability to rotate their ears 180 degrees allows a cat pinpoint where even the faintest sound comes from. Also, around the ears, cats are known to have a special fur that enables them hear excellently and stay alert. When a cat is subjected to excessive pressure from sound, it sticks out its tongue – this is because its middle internal ear is connected to the throat by an internal organ known as the Eustachian tube.
- The Sense of Taste (Tongue)
Cats unlike humans have a poor sense of taste. While humans boast of 10,000 taste buds, cats on the other have just 500. This makes it impossible for cats to taste sweetness. All their taste buds does is inform a cat if a food it’s about to consume is fresh or rotten. The cat’s tongue upper surface is covered with a sandpaper-like papillae that helps it with grooming and scraping every piece of meat off a bone.
- The Sense of Touch (Hair and Skin)
A cat’s hair and skin both play a huge role in serving this function. A cat’s touch receptors are located on the surface of its skin. A cat’s whiskers also serve as one of its touch sensory mechanisms. Specialized nerves exist on the skin to help it detect heat, cold, touch, pain and pressure. The parts of the skin with touch receptors are called tactile dermatomes. Within its sensory nerves, the receptors responsible for touch and pressure are known as mechanoreceptors.
A cat’s paw is also embedded with touch sensors that enables it determine the texture, location and liveliness of a prey. By the way, have you ever seen a cat sweating? I doubt that. But does that mean cats don’t sweat? The answer is, cats do sweat, and it’s done through their paws.
Respiratory and Circulatory System
A cat’s respiratory and circulatory system functions as that of most mammals. Their respiratory system serve mainly to transport oxygen from the air to the blood and to flush out carbon dioxide from the system. The respiratory system of a cat also works to regulate its body temperature. A cat’s heart is a four-chambered pump made up of muscles; studies have shown it is able to produce about 120 beats per minute, and an estimated 64 million beats in a year. Its blood vessels are comprised of arteries, veins and capillaries for supplying blood to other parts of the body and returning blood to the heart as is the case with all mammals.
The digestive system of a cat is also quite similar to that of most four footed mammals except for its intestines which are shorter. Its digestive system is divided into two regions: the alimentary canal and accessory glands. The alimentary canal of a cat consists of the mouth, pharynx, lips, teeth, tongue, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines and the anus; its accessory gland on the other hand consists of the pancreas, liver, and salivary glands. All organs of the digestive system help to process the food cats eat; the intestine on the other hand works to extract the nutrients in food and passes out the waste.
We hope this article has been helpful and provided you with information as regards the anatomy of our favorite animal creatures. And we also hope that as a cat owner, learning a thing or two from this article inspires you to have a deeper appreciation for your feline friend.
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Kritter Kommunity Contributor
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