Cat Muscles

domestic cat jumpingWe are all aware of the cat’s athletic abilities, its balance and power, which is usually demonstrated in jumping and climbing.

This is due to a combination of its specialised skeleton and its powerful and fast acting muscles. This musculo-skeletal combination has evolved for survival, enabling skillful hunting and escape.

There are three muscle types and three types of muscle cell within muscle tissue3.

Muscle type:

  1. Cardiac muscle – found in the heart.
  2. Smooth muscle – this controls the internal organs and as the name indicates is smooth in appearance. It is outside of the cat’s direct control.
  3. Striped muscle – this is the muscle that controls limbs etc. and facial expressions. It is controlled at will.

Types of muscle cell:

  1. Fast-twitch fatiguing cells – these work and tire quickly.
  2. Fast-twitch fatigue resistant cells – these work quickly and tire more slowly than the former.
  3. Slow-twitch – work and tire slowly.

superficial muscles of the cat drawing

Some descriptions of what the cat muscles due starting top left going clockwise, in the drawing above:

  • Dorsals: these twist and turn the torso.
  • Oblique abdominals: layers of muscle that hold in the internal organs.
  • Gluteal: extend hip.
  • Tail muscles are sacrocaudals and intertransversials: these raise, lower and curl the tail.
  • Gastrocnemius: extends the lower leg and points the toes.
  • Biceps femoris: flexes or bends the leg.
  • Sartorius: raises the knee or rotates the thigh outwards.
  • Pectorals: draws back the shoulder and foreleg.
  • Digital extensor muscles: extends the toes and claws.
  • Triceps: straghtens the elbow in drawing back lower leg.
  • Trapezius: draws the shoulder up.

Code to above numbered cat muscles, tendons and some veins including some of those as indicated:

2.Caninus or Nasalis 3. Orbicularis 4. Temporalis 5. Mastoideus 8. Infraspinatus 11. Prominence of Hip-bone 13. Prominence of Thigh-bone 14. Gluteus maximus 15. Tail Muscles 16. Fascia covering deep muscles
17. Biceps femoralis 18. Semi-tendinosis 19. Gastrocnemius (indicated) 20. External Saphenous Vein 21. Point of Heel 22. Flexor tendons of sole of foot 23. Extensor tendons of toes 24. Internal or Inner Saphenous 25. Sartorius (indicated) 26. Rectus abdominis 27. Serratus magnus
28. Pectoralis major 29. Elbow or Olecranon Process of Ulna 30. Flexor carpi ulnaris 31. Superficial extensores of toes 32. Annular or Wrist ligament 33. Extensor communis digitorum 34. Flexor carpi radialis 35. Extensor carpi radialis 36. Triceps 37. Scapular deltoid 38. Acromion deltoid
39. Mastoideus 40. Sterno-hyoid 41. Parotid Gland 42. Masseter muscle 43. External Maxillary Vein 44. Zigomaticus 45. Zigomaticus labialis

Here are some more images of cat muscles. These are from Biology Corner1 a teaching aid site. This page is intended to be for the same purpose.

forelimb and thorax muscles of a cat hind leg muscles of a cat hind leg muscles of a cat 1 neck and shoulder muscles of a cat

Cat’s muscles are as expected mainly made up of fast-twitch fatiguing cells – hence the cat’s speed (30 mph max for domestic cat and 64 mph for cheetah) and ability to jump up to six times its length. When sprinting a cat generates a lot of heat and pants within a short time. The slow-twitch muscles are used for slow stalking, almost slow motion walking when approaching prey.

Cats have flexible muscles and they are mainly attached to either side of the joints of bones to articulate them, which is achieved by the muscle contracting. Muscles often act against each other, e.g. one extending a limb and the other contracting it3. Muscles can only contract.

Associated Pages:

Cat Falling

Bengal cat jump

Margay cats – spectacular tree climbers

Cat muscles – References:

The large image is free to use under an Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic creative commons license. Please credit Michael Broad of Pictures of cats org.

1. – permission if granted if these images are used as teaching aids.


3. The Encyclopedia Of The Cat by Dr. Bruce Fogle

4. Link to original Flickr photo of cat jumping.

Cat muscles to cat anatomy

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