Infographic on cat muscles and movement

A bit of feline anatomy for those who are interested. It is an overview by dint of the fact that it is an infographic with limited space. If you are interested in this important aspect of domestic cat anatomy, I have a page in on cat anatomy for kids. Also, an overview but in more detail.

Infographic on Cat Muscles and Movement
Infographic on ‘Cat Muscles and Movement’ by MikeB. It is free to use under a Creative Commons: ATTRIBUTION-NODERIVS CC BY-ND license. Click on the image and right click on the subsequent image.

The fact of the matter is that for the domestic cat their muscles and flexibility are integral to their abilities to hunt so effectively and survive so efficiently. It’s what contributes to that well-known saying that cats have nine lives. It means that they are great survivors. And it is thanks to their persistence, athleticism based upon their anatomy which is so finely tuned to predation and survival which has so impressed humans resulting in them awarding the cat with this accolade.

I haven’t referred to the domestic cat’s jaw muscles! Many cat owners will have felt the effects of them. I certainly have. Domestic cats have a healthy bite force. The important point is that this strong bite is focused on the tip of their canine teeth (the upper canines) which bear down on their prey with great precision and force. It is the reason why domestic cats can thrust those canine teeth into the spine of prey to kill them instantly and regrettably, sometimes, into the hands of their cat owners where they penetrate right to the bone.

Here is a selection of pages on cat anatomy.

Cat Claw Anatomy Facts For Kids

Cat Anatomy

Constantly Smiling Cats are an Accident of Anatomy

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Why do cats have good balance?

There are a few reasons why domestic cats have better balance than people although there is an overlap in the anatomy of cats and people with respect to balance.

Margay resting in a tree, typical behavior
Margay resting in a tree, typical behavior – Photo copyright Adriane Taylor

Vestibular apparatus

Cat ear anatomy diagram
Cat ear anatomy diagram. Image: PoC.

Both humans and cats have a vestibular apparatus. It is in the inner ear. It is made up of three fluid-filled semicircular canals. They are lined with fine hairs called cilia. The canals are positioned approximately at right angles to each other. When the cat moves, changes direction and accelerates the tiny cilia are moved by the fluid inside the semicircular canals. This sends sensory information to the brain which allows the cat to orientate themselves. In addition, there are two other chambers in the vestibular organ – the utricular and saccular otolith chambers – which function to provide information to the brain about gravity and linear motion.

Apparently, a cat’s balance is enhanced by the alignment between one of the semicircular canals and the position of the cat’s head.

Flexibility

Cheetah galloping
Cheetah galloping showing flexibility of their anatomy compared to e.g. a horse. The horse has greater endurance and the cheetah has a greater speed.

Another aspect of the domestic cat’s anatomy and that of the wild cat species is that they are incredibly flexible. Flexibility combined with an abundance of fast twitch muscles allows them to make adjustments almost instantly which aids balance.

Tail

If you stand on one leg you have to maintain your balance. If you wobble slightly you will move your other leg outwards or to one side to counterbalance your body and thereby retain balance. These are the same principles with respect to the physics as the use of a snow leopard's tail when hunting.
Glorious snow leopard. Photo: Danny Sullivan

You’ve probably noticed that the wild cat species which live in trees or in high places on rocky surfaces have the longest tails in proportion to the rest of their body. I’m thinking of, for example, the snow leopard hunting on 40° rocky slopes in the Himalayas. I’m also thinking of the wild cat species who tend to live in trees i.e. are arboreal, such as the margay and the clouded leopard. Both these elegant wild cat species have long tails because they use them to balance. When a human needs to balance themselves they use their arms and perhaps legs to get back into balance because they can adjust the position of their weight. A cat’s tail achieves the same goal. You will also see the cheetah using its tail to balance themselves as they zigzag behind an antelope that they are chasing.

Righting mechanism

Cat falling
Cat falling. Image: PoC.

The domestic cat is famous for its ability to self-right when falling. This is not strictly a part of the cat’s ability to balance well but it does serve as a protection when a cat’s balance fails them. When domestic cat’s fall a sufficient distance they are able, within that timeframe, to ensure that their bodies are in a position to land on all four legs. This protects the cat. The physics of falling from a height are quite complicated. You will find that at a certain distance a cat is more likely to survive without significant harm because there is a terminal velocity and the cat is able to be in a position to land relatively safely.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

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