Cat anatomy is really fascinating when you think about it. How can cats jump so high? How do they function so well in the dark? Why is their sense of smell so good? .
This section of the website looks at feline anatomy in detail and answers some of the most common, unusual and fascinating questions about how cats’ bodies work.
First, there’s a table which compares feline and human anatomy. Below this, there are some frequently asked questions about cat anatomy, followed by links to more pages that answer some of the most interesting questions on how and why cats’ bodies work the way they do.
Cat Anatomy vs. Human Anatomy
|No. of bones||290||206|
|No. of muscles||Approx. 500||Approx. 600|
|No. of ribs||13 pairs||12 pairs|
|Normal body temperature||38 – 39.2°C
(100.5 – 102.5°F)
|36.3 – 37.1°C
(97.3 – 98.8°F)
|No. of teeth (adult)||30||32|
|Blood group||A, B or AB||A, B, AB or O|
|Maximum jumping height||6x own height||1.25x own height
How Fast can Domestic Cats Run?
Cat anatomy is designed in such a way that allows cats to run very fast! The fastest domestic cats can reach speeds of up to 30mph. If you ever watch cats walking, you’ll notice that they move their legs alternatively (like humans) – so the front right leg will move, followed by the front left, followed by the front right again etc.
However, when they run, their front and back legs move together, so they are effectively making long, low leaps into the air between landings, almost giving the appearance that they are flying through the air. This ability to run is useful for hunting and also when the cat is fleeing from danger.
Although cats can run fast like this, they can only do it for short bursts of time – so they are great sprinters but wouldn’t do well in a marathon!
How do Cats Jump so High?
A combination of a very flexible spine and powerful leg and back muscles, which are capable of releasing very large amounts of energy in short bursts, gives a cat the ability to jump about six times its own height.
If you ever watch a cat preparing for a particularly difficult jump – e.g. a very high height, or where the landing spot is small or narrow – you’ll notice the preparation that goes into it beforehand, where he seems to be “psyching himself up” to do the jump. What is he doing?
Because he will push off with a large amount of force, he’ll test the surface he’s on with his back legs to make sure it is stable enough. He then judges the distance that needs to be jumped and “calculates” how much force he’ll need to push with from his back legs to complete it successfully.
Once all that’s done, he crouches forward, bends his legs, knees, back, hips and ankles (a bit like a cioled spring) before doing the jump. A great example of cat anatomy at its best!
How does a Cat’s Sense of Smell Differ to a Human’s?
It’s much stronger than a human’s – about 14 times stronger!
Kitty’s sense of smell is extremely important to him, and he relies on it for survival. Cats use their sense of smell to locate food, find a mate, smell enemies and danger and find their own territory (which they mark either by spraying (!) or by rubbing their chin on objects. The chin contains glands which release a scent-producing substance, leaving their unique scent behind).
Click on the title above to find out how cats see in the dark, whether they can see in color, what determines their eye color and more.
Other pages about cat eyes that may be of interest:
Click on the above link for an easy to use conversion table which shows you at a glance how old your cats would be if they were human!
A cat’s lifespan is affected by a number of different things, many of which you can influence. Click on the link above for more information.
Other pages that may be of interest:
Click the title above to find out about the length of a cat’s gestation period and work out when your cat’s kittens are due.
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Do you think your cat my be pregnant? Not sure? Click on the title above for an easy to follow guide on the signs of pregnancy in cats.
As cats age their bodies undergo a number of changes. Click on the title above to read about those cat anatomy changes and how to deal with them.
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A cat anatomy section wouldn’t be complete without mentioning whiskers! Cats use their whiskers for a lot more than you might think! Click on the title above to find out more, and also if you’re concerned about whiskers falling out.
Why are tortoiseshell and calico cats female? Can they ever be male? Click the title above for the answers to these questions – and find out about male calico cats in folklore.