Comparison human hand and arm to cat paw and foreleg

We know that cats are digitigrades and walk on their toes but how would it be if we walked like a cat? It can be difficult to work out exactly what part of the cat’s foot is making contact with the ground other than the toes.

So, having checked out the bone structure of both the cat and the human, I took this snapshot of my hand to show how a cat walks on her foreleg and paw. You can see that first contact with the ground is not at the wrist but the end of the palm of the hand where it joins with the fingers. The palm is the metacarpus. The fingers are the phalanges.Human hand being used a cat paw

The same applies for our feet. If we go up onto our toes that is how a cat walks on her hind legs.

As for the bone structure of the cat’s leg and paw compared to a human’s arm/leg and hands/feet – they are the same. It is just the length of the bones that vary and the way they are used.

Cats foreleg and paw anatomy

Associated: the anatomy of the cat’s claw for kids and cat anatomy tag.

Note: I have used a drawing from Pictorial Anatomy of the Cat – revised edition Stephen G Gilbert University of Washington Press ISBN 0-295-95454-X. I claim fair use for educational reasons and because I am promoting the book there is no financial loss to the publisher or author.




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Comparison human hand and arm to cat paw and foreleg — 6 Comments

  1. Interesting – similarity. What’s left of the ‘thumb’ on cats is bizarre. That little bit sticking out futher up the leg half way between a finger/claw and a pad. Little nobby thing.

    • I am glad you commented 😉 — because it is a personal and slightly odd article. I was not completely clear about the anatomy and where the forelimb first contacted the ground? The bone structure is quite complicated and it is quite hard to correlate the cat’s use of her limbs to ours.

      The thumb is bizarre. There is a clear correlation in anatomy. Very similar to ours but for some reason cats decided to walk and run on their toes or the end of the metacarpus. You could say that cats walk on the distal end (far end) of their metacarpus rather than their toes but that is just me exploring the subject. The toes grips through the claws. The metacarpus is “the intermediate part of the hand skeleton that is located between the phalanges (bones of the fingers) and the carpus which forms the connection to the forearm”. The carpus is the wrist as far as I am concerned.

      • This article is perfect for the declawing debate! Here, you show exactly what anti-declaw advocates have been saying all along: Cats need the ends of their toes in order to walk properly. Thanks for sharing!

        • Thank you. I did it because I know it is difficult to understand what vets are removing when they declaw. So I decided to cross-reference to the human forearm and hand.

  2. I used to have a horse 25 to 30 years ago. As I learned to ride,I thought how funny strange it would be if a horse would whinny and say, “Excuse Ehrr, Me, get off,I have to go to the bathroom! Even cats are more human like because the cats use a specific place & bury excresions. Horses just go pee or poo, wherever they happen to be!

    • Hi Brenda. I like the analogy between human and cat when it comes to going to the toilet! Horses are less polite 😉 .

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