Pet cats are cute and loveable, but also mysterious. It can be tough when our kitties fall ill, made even tougher when the vet is explaining parts of our pets that we haven't heard much about beforehand. A quick overview of a cat's basic anatomy can help us understand our furry companions a little better!
Mouth Cats have specialised teeth, including the premolar and first molar (the carnassial pair - located in each side of the cat's mouth) which are highly developed to tear meat apart like scissors.
A cat's tongue is also useful for holding and tearing flesh by containing shapr spines (papillae), which are keratin containing hooks that face backwards. These also help with grooming.
Ears Cats can move each ear independent of the other using 32 muscles in each ear that allow for directiona hearing! A cat can also point its body in one direction and its ears in another.
Eyes Cats' eyes have larger pupils than human eyes and are controlled by muscles that act like shutters to create a slit-light pupil when a cat is in bright light.
In the dark, light entering the eye is reflected by a membrane behind the retine which acts like a mirror (the tapetum lucidum) to allow the cat to see in minimal light, and for their eyes to glow in the dark. Any light absorbed reaches this structure and then bounces back to the retina, which lets the retina take in additional light.
These ingenious eyes allow cats to function in the dark with only one-sixth the light humans need!
Nose A cat's nose is highly adapted to create a sense of smell some fourteen times stronger that a human's sense of smell. The leathery part of the nose is tough so that it can withstand the rough treatment of investigating new items first.
Legs Cats walk on their toes (they are digitigrades) and directly register - they walk by placing their hind paws nearly directly in the prints of the respective forepaw! This minimises noise and visible tracks, while providing sure footing for the hind paws even in rough terrain.
A cat's back legs enable them to fall and leap without injury. Cats also walk with a pacing gait - they move the legs on one side before the legs on the other side of their body. But their gait will alter to a diagonal gait when trotting and running, in which the opposite hind and forelegs move at the same time.
Claws Most cats have retracteable claws that keeps their claws sharp by preventing wearing from too exposure, and allows cats to silently stalk prey.
A cat's normal body temperature is between 38 and 39 degrees celsius. They have loose skin to enable then to turn and move easily.
Cats have 7 cervical vertebrae (below the skull), 13 thoracic vertebrae (middle back segment), 7 lumbar vertebrae (lower back), 3 sacral vertebrae (at the base of the spine), and 22-23 caudal vertebrae (in their tail, except for Manx cats and short tailed varieties).
The extra thoracic and lumbar vertebrae (humans have 12 and 5 respectively) enable cats to maintain enhanced spinal mobility and flexibility. The tail bones act as a counterbalance for the body when moving rapidly.
Also differering to humans, the cat have forelimbs which are attached to their shoulder with a free-floating clavicle bone. This enables them to get their bodies through any space that their heads can fit through.
A cat's skull also contains large eye sockets and a powerful jaw.
A cat's stability, flexibility and mobility is also assisted by a strong network of muscles which compress and flex various parts of their body!