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Cat Body Parts, Cat Anatomy and Cat Bone Structure

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Cat Body Parts, Cat Anatomy and Cat Bone Structure

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This post was updated on January 9th, 2024

WONDERING ABOUT YOUR CAT’S ANATOMY?

You landed in the right place cat lover! This post is all about cat anatomy, cat bone structure and cat body parts. Not only have I done a ton of research on this topic, our cat anatomy library has grown! Check out these articles when you are finished here.

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via GIPHY

As cat owners, we know all about our feline’s typical behavior and interests. But how much do we know about our cat’s body parts? And more importantly, how they are used?

Cats aren’t just the cutest pets out there, they also have fascinating cat body parts. Plus, they have muscles that enable them to do incredible things.

via GIPHY

You do not have to be a kitty cat vet to start understanding. If you are a cat lover, you know well the magical ways they have been created. Many of the seemingly wizard-like abilities can be explained through their anatomical features, the anatomy of a cat.

Everything from the cat tail bones to cat tongue anatomy; your feline is a magical species.

Kitten Anatomy

Before we pounce into cat anatomy, let’s review the timeline of kitten anatomy!

  • Kitten Growth Phases (Birth to 8 weeks)
  • Birth (0-1 week):
  • Born with closed eyes and folded ears, rendering them blind and deaf initially.
  • Unable to regulate body temperature or eliminate waste independently.
  • First Week:
  • Begin to perceive sound.
  • Second Week:
  • Eyes start to open, initiating the visual sense.
  • Third Week:
  • Full development of sight and hearing.
  • Fourth Week:
  • Agility development begins, kittens start running and climbing.
  • Eighth Week:
  • Full set of teeth developed, enabling them to eat canned and dry kitten food.

During the first eight weeks of a kitten’s life, they undergo significant growth and developmental changes, progressing from being born blind and deaf with closed eyes and folded ears to developing full sensory capabilities and the ability to run, climb, and consume solid kitten food by the eighth week.

Now, let’s explore a cat’s body and the anatomy of a feline!

Unique Cat Body Parts

Cats have a number of unique body parts that make them stand out as a species.

Their eyes, for example, are not only beautiful but are also highly specialized for hunting and seeing in low light conditions.

Their retractable claws are another distinctive feature, allowing them to climb, scratch, and defend themselves with ease.

A feline’s sensitive whiskers play an important role in detecting their surroundings and measuring distances. Additionally, their flexible spine and powerful hind legs enable them to jump and twist in mid-air with remarkable agility.

These are just a few examples of the distinctive cat body parts that make felines such a fascinating animal.

RELEVANT: Why Do Cats Purr? What Is It A Sign Of?

CAT
ANATOMY
BODY PARTSUNIQUE
ClawsCats can extend and retract claws away or towards their paws.
TongueFeels like an emory board; tiny bristly spikes cover the cat’s tongue making it an excellent built-in grooming device.
Hind Legsextremely strong providing a cat with speed and the ability to jump high in a single lunge.
EyesRetina has a layer of light illuminating coating makes their eyes glow at night.
SkinLittle muscles are attached to the hair follicles – cats can make their fur stand up, making them look bigger than they are; defending against attacks and predators.
SalivaTheir saliva contains a natural cleaning element (like homemade soap!) – thats how their coats get clean and shiny
WhiskersCat’s whiskers act as a measuring stick and radar to detect the width of an opening and if they can fit.
LegsTremendous elasticity, flexible, leg can move at shin area.
PawsThey walk on their toes and this is one of the reasons they can run so fast.
Cat Body Parts

Cat Skeletal System

cat-anatomy

Cats and humans have similar skeletal systems. 

The exterior of each bone is made up of protein and minerals that help give the bone its firmness; its interior, on the other hand, contains a marrow cavity responsible for producing red blood cells.

There are lots of magical pieces making up this unique physique.

Here is a list of the different feline body parts taken from Wikipedia that reference a diagram you can view on their site here.

Interesting Bone Structure Facts

1. Tail Bones (Caudal Vertebrae)

Cats have an incredibly flexible tail, made possible by their specialized tail vertebrae. Unlike humans, cats possess numerous caudal vertebrae, allowing their tail to move gracefully and maintain balance while navigating various environments.

2. Elbow and Knee Structures

Cats have a backward-facing elbow and a knee joint that bends similarly. This design allows them to easily crouch and jump, utilizing their powerful hind legs for swift movements during hunting or play.

3. Floating Collarbone (Clavicle)

While humans have collarbones connected to the shoulder girdle, a cat’s collarbone is a unique structure. This free-floating clavicle contributes to their exceptional flexibility, enhancing their ability to squeeze through narrow spaces effortlessly.

4. Bones in the Ear

The feline ear is an incredible piece of engineering. Cats have 32 muscles in each ear, aiding in precise movement. They also have specialized bones within the ear, enhancing their acute hearing abilities and enabling them to detect the faintest of sounds.

5. Diverse Skull Structure

The shape of a cat’s skull is adapted for hunting. Their short, wide skulls accommodate powerful jaw muscles, equipped with sharp teeth designed for grasping and tearing prey. Additionally, their unique jaw structure allows for a wider gape, assisting in biting and holding onto their catch.

What Type Of Skeletal System Does A Cat Have?

cat-anatomy

A cat skeletal system comprises five main parts: the skull, spinal column, ribs, forelegs, and hind legs. These are compromised of various bones, including but not limited to short and long bones. 

Cat Body Parts – Skull

The tiny 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 head is large enough to contain the enormous eyes of a cat. Also located in the skull of a cat are its teeth.

An average adult cat has 30 teeth. The cat isn’t your average carnivore as it comes built with 12 incisors, four canines, four molars and ten premolars – all made perfect for devouring flesh.

Cat Body Parts – Spinal Column

The spinal column of a household cat comprises five areas: the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and caudal regions. Though there are seven 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.

Cat Body Parts – Ribs

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 make up the thorax within a cat containing 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 tiny spaces.

Cat Leg Anatomy

Cat leg anatomy is quite interesting. A feline’s 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 the pelvis, patella, femur, calcaneum, fibula, tibia, tarsus, metatarsus and phalanges. 

Also, it is essential 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.

cat-body-parts

Cats have nine toes – five on their front paw and four on their back foot. Another cat body part to marvel at!

Anatomy Of A Cat – Muscles

All cats, including domestic cats, are born hunters. Cats come equipped with hundreds of evolved muscles that enable them to quickly pursue, pounce on prey, and carry out many other physical activities.

If you own a cat, you must have witnessed it bolt promptly and efficiently 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 to create a drag and slow its fall.
This feature allows cats 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 feet when needed.


The cat’s muscle helps stabilize its joint when under pressure and can also generate body heat for the cat during cold periods.


Each of its astonishing muscles comprises countless cells held together by connective tissue tendons.
As mentioned previously, cat leg anatomy is quite interesting.

Anatomy Of A Cat – The Brain Of A Cat

A cat’s brain occupies about 0.9 percent of its body mass and does the job of interpreting inputs obtained from the senses. 

Cats are known to have 300 million neurons and many nerve cells in their brain’s visual area. 

Cats have a more complex and advanced brains than dogs and most mammals. Their brain has a complex cerebral cortex, making 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 delicate organs and must be protected at all costs, as even the slightest injury can render it permanently blind.

The eyes of cats are usually large and round and are covered by the cornea; its eyelids protect 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 the pupils open up under dim light to allow as much light 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 can see anything within a distance of 10 centimeters in front of its face.

This explains why your cat cannot grasp a toy or treat in front of his face but can detect a tiny moth flying through the next room and catch it with a single pounce.

RELATED: Do Cats Have Eyelashes? 

The Sense of Smell (Nostrils)

A cat’s sense of smell isn’t as acute as a dog’s, 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 Jacobson’s, enabling them to taste and smell in their mouths. You can find this organ on the roof of a cat’s mouth, mainly 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. There are arguments that cats have a better understanding of hearing than dogs. A cat’s ear is cupped and can 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 allow a cat to pinpoint where even the faintest sound comes from.

Also, around the ears, cats are known to have unique fur that enables them to hear excellently and stay alert. A cat subjected to excessive pressure from sound sticks out its tongue 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 do is inform a cat if it’s about to consume fresh or rotten food.  The cat’s tongue’s upper surface is sandpaper-like papillae that help it groom and scrape every piece of meat off a bone.

The Sense of Touch (Hair and Skin)

A cat’s hair and skin 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. The receptors responsible for communication and anxiety are mechanoreceptors within their sensory nerves.

RELATED: The Anatomy Of A Cat Tongue

The cat paw is also embedded with touch sensors that enable it to determine a prey’s texture, location, and liveliness. 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.

RELATED: The Anatomy Of A Cat Claw

Anatomy Of A Cat – Respiratory and Circulatory System

A cat’s respiratory and circulatory system functions as that of most mammals.

Their respiratory system serves mainly to transport oxygen from the air to the blood and to flush out carbon dioxide from the system.

Plus, the respiratory system of a cat also works to regulate its body temperature.

A cat’s heart is a four-chambered pump of muscles; studies have shown it can produce about 120 beats per minute, an estimated 64 million beats in a year. Its blood vessels comprise arteries, veins, and capillaries for supplying blood to other body parts and returning blood to the heart, as is the case with all mammals.

Anatomy Of A CatDigestive System

A cat’s digestive system is also quite similar to that of most four-footed mammals except for its shorter intestines. Its digestive system is divided into 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; it is an accessory gland, on the other hand, consists of the pancreas, liver, and salivary glands.

These organs of the digestive system help process the food cats eat; the intestine, on the other hand, extracts the nutrients in food and passes out the waste.

Concluding Thoughts

We hope this article has been helpful and provided you with information regarding our favorite feline’s anatomy. 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.

This post is all about cat anatomy, cat bone structure and cat body parts.

Why Is Kritter Kommunity Your Trusted Pet Partner?

Lisa Illman is the Founder of Kritter Kommunity, LLC. She has a tuxedo male adult cat currently, and she has had him since he was a baby kitten; so Lisa knows well the kitten lifecycle, the teenage cat lifecycle, and the adult cat lifecycle (he is currently 11 years old). Before her cat Finnegan, Lisa had two FIV-positive cats for a decade. They inspired Lisa to invent a cat enclosure so they could safely sit outside and enjoy fresh air and sunshine. She brought the product to market and eventually designed a line of portable catios; they sold on Amazon, Skymall Catalogue, Wayfair, and countless other websites. Her experience being a cat parent and her business development and product management experience make her a trusted cat enthusiast partner. She and Finnegan (her cat) test, research, and review pet products to give readers the best feedback possible.

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