This is a page on cat anatomy written for children and people who like straightforward English. The page focuses on the important bits only as this a very big subject.
The anatomy of the domestic cat which includes its muscles, nerves, bones, teeth, claws, hormones and senses, is almost perfect for hunting prey or escaping danger and is also almost exactly the same as the anatomy of a tiger or lion.
The cat can survive where other animals can’t, going without water and particularly food for longer than other domestic animals. There are lots of stories of cats being trapped for ages and surviving.
The cat can mate and produce kittens with great success. The domestic cat’s anatomy makes him very athletic with fantastic running, climbing and jumping skills. The anatomy is truly very impressive.
[“prey” means the animals the cat chases, catches, kills and eats]
The skeleton is light and strong. The bones of the skeleton are joined together by ligaments. Ligaments are like strong threads of string that connect one bone to another so the bones can work together. Cats have more bones than humans. The cat has 244 bones. A person has 206 bones. The biggest difference is in the cat’s tail where there are 19-28 bones.
The cat’s skeleton does these things:
The cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal because it has long bones, a big chest and a bendy body thanks to its skeleton.
A message is sent from the cat’s brain through the nerves to certain muscles. The message makes the muscles contract (get smaller) or relax, which moves the bones of the skeleton and so the cat moves. Most of the cat’s muscles are able to contract very quickly. This means the cat moves fast and can jump long distances. The cougar is known as a great jumper. Two of this cat’s muscles are shown in the picture. Names in anatomy are always in Latin, a very old language. Experts like it that way.
Some of the muscles work without the cat asking them to work. An example is the muscles of the heart, which pumps blood around the body, keeping the cat alive.
This picture shows how the nerves are set up in a cat:
There are millions of nerves inside a cat. The nerve cells are called “neurons”. Nerves carry “messages” from the brain. They work a bit a like sending a letter to someone you know only the message in the nervous system is carried by a substance, a chemical called a “neurotransmitter” that creates an electrical “impulse”.
Cats control one part of the nervous system. So, for example, if a cat wants to jump the cat’s brain tells the muscles in the legs to contract (become shorter). The other part of the nervous system makes parts of the cat’s body work automatically like the heart and lungs.
The cat has high quality senses that are nearly always better than ours. They are:
Cats have a heart and lungs that are made for controlled movement and moments of high activity that requires lots of energy. The cat breathes in air through the nose, where it is filtered. The air passes through the windpipe to the lungs where oxygen in the air is transferred to the blood. The heart pumps the blood around the cat’s body.
The amount of blood in a cat is about the same as the amount of coke in a can. The cat has three blood types: A, B and AB. Most cats have type A. The type of blood in a cat depends on where the cat lives. In Switzerland all the moggies have type A. In Italy 89% of the cats have type A blood.
The adult cat has 30 teeth. They are called incisors, canines, premolars and molars:
Adult (permanent teeth) – emerge at about 4 months of age: I – 3/3 C – 1/1 P – 3/2 M – 1/1 = 15 x 2 = 30…
Food that is eaten is broken down so that is passes through the intestine into the blood to feed the cat. The cat’s “digestive system” is like ours but a bit simpler. The intestines are shorter than ours because the cat does not need to break down fiber in plants as it is a carnivore (the cat only eats the flesh of animals).
A cat’s claws are extremely important. They allow the cat to defend himself, catch prey, run and turn, mark places with scratches, groom himself, grip things so he can stretch, grip things he plays with. You can read all about a cat’s claws on this page. Cats walk on their toes. They are “digitigrades” which means an animal that walks on its digits (toes). When they run the claws help the cat to grip the ground. The claws of cheetah stay out because it needs them a lot of the time to run well.
This pictures shows the organs inside the cat’s body.
This is what the organs are:
The cat’s coat is what see most when you look at a cat. Hair is mainly made of a hard susbtance called “keratin”. It is the same stuff that makes claws. There are hundreds of different colours and patterns of cat coats. The most common pattern is called a tabby cat. You can read about the tabby cat coat on this page. There are short haired and long haired cats. The long haired cats live in colder places. Whiskers are part of the coat and they are very sensitive to movement of any sort. Whiskers are thick hairs. They are not just around the mouth. If you look carefully you will see them in other places especially on the face.
There are three types of fur: undercoat (down), middle and top (awn) and top and the longest hairs (guard hairs). You can read more (for adults but straightforward) on this page.
The skin defends the cat’s body from disease. There are two layers of skin: epidermis and dermis. The cat’s skin not only protects the organs of the body and makes fur it also makes scent which is the liquid that smells in a way that tells other cats that it belongs to a certain cat. Cats put this scent on things to tell other cats that they are around. This stops fights. It also tells other cats where a place is owned by a cat. The skin also makes an oily substance that keeps the skin elastic and helps protect it.
This diagram shows the skin glands of the cat:
If you click on this link you can read about these glands.
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