We 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.

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 Nasalis3. Orbicularis4. Temporalis5. Mastoideus8. Infraspinatus11. Prominence of Hip-bone13. Prominence of Thigh-bone14. Gluteus maximus15. Tail Muscles 16. Fascia covering deep muscles
17. Biceps femoralis18. Semi-tendinosis19. Gastrocnemius (indicated)20. External Saphenous Vein21. Point of Heel22. Flexor tendons of sole of foot23. Extensor tendons of toes24. Internal or Inner Saphenous25. Sartorius (indicated)26. Rectus abdominis27. Serratus magnus
28. Pectoralis major29. Elbow or Olecranon Process of Ulna30. Flexor carpi ulnaris31. Superficial extensores of toes32. Annular or Wrist ligament33. Extensor communis digitorum34. Flexor carpi radialis35. Extensor carpi radialis36. Triceps37. Scapular deltoid38. Acromion deltoid
39. Mastoideus40. Sterno-hyoid41. Parotid Gland42. Masseter muscle43. External Maxillary Vein44. Zigomaticus45. 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.

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. http://www.biologycorner.com/anatomy/muscles/cat_muscles_lab_guide.html – permission if granted if these images are used as teaching aids.

2. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Superficial_muscles_of_a_cat.jpg

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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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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