Cat anatomy: everything you need to know

Everything you need to know about the Cat

A flexible and agile feline, the cat fascinates us with its elasticity and its ability to sneak into places that seem inaccessible. An animal with exceptional physical abilities, the cat would be incapable of doing all this without its very special body structure. So let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of the cat.

The skeleton and muscles of the cat

The cat’s skeleton consists of 250 bones. The cat has short vertebrae in the neck and a very flexible spine. The caudal vertebrae extend the spine. Their number varies according to the breed of the cat. It is important to note that the tail plays a vital role in balance. The cat’s dentition includes incisors, canines and carnassials, but no flat, molar-like teeth. Indeed, the cat does not crush its food, but tears it and swallows it without chewing.

The fore and hind legs ending in fingers with retractable claws. The muscles of the hind legs are very strong. Associated with those of the back which are very flexible, the cat is equipped with a great flexibility.

The muscular apparatus in cats is very developed and powerful. Few ligaments and tendons connect the bones together. They are replaced by small muscles, which allow the cat to stretch and lie down further.

The hair of the cat

The cat has longer hair on top. It is the one who bears the color or the marks of his dress (striped, with spots…). Below, we can observe shorter hairs (called fluff), then finally the down. This set gives it very good protection and good insulation against bad weather.

Depending on the breed, the coat is different since there are cats with long or short hair, curly or even a little frizzy, but also hairless cats, such as the Sphynx. The color of the fur is also very varied, because some cats have a plain, two-tone or three-tone coat, others have stripes or spots.

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Cat anatomy: everything you need to know

cat’s senses

The cat has very developed senses, some even lend it supernatural powers because it has this ability to get out of perilous situations thanks to extraordinary agility and balance.


The cat has a very developed view which allows him to see very far day and night, with a field of vision much wider than that of humans. But contrary to popular belief, the cat is unable to see if the black is complete. The cat’s eyes are phosphorescent at night thanks to a tissue in the retina, called “Tapetum Lucidum”, which acts as a mirror and reflects light.

Its pupil dilates according to the amount of light it receives. Thus in full light, the pupil is elongated and in the form of a narrow slit, whereas it rounds and expands when darkness arrives.

The cat does not see colors and does not distinguish the movements in the same way as us. Up close, he sees very badly. It is then his mustaches, the vibrissae, which take over and help him to assess distances.


It is his mustaches, called vibrissae, which will help him in this area. They allow him to take over sight, when he is very close to an object. The vibrissae work a bit like a radar and allow him to feel the pressures or vibrations around him. This is why it is absolutely not necessary to cut the whiskers of a cat, which will then be completely lost and will also lose agility.


Cats have large, mobile and well erect ears on their head. Its large pavilions allow it to capture the slightest noise around it. Each ear pivots independently of the other.

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Its hearing is very sensitive: the cat can perceive ultrasound up to 60,000 Hz (against 20,000 Hz in humans). It also hears low frequency sounds that we don’t even perceive. The ear in cats is an important organ since it not only plays an acoustic role, but also serves for its balance.

The smell

Less important than hearing or sight, the sense of smell is however well developed since the cat perceives odors 50 to 70 times better than we do. His nose is also an organ that plays a role in communication with his congeners.


The cat has a developed sense of taste, but less than in humans. Its sense of taste is located at the end of its tongue, which allows it to taste without swallowing. This feline is sensitive to bitter, sour and salty tastes, but not sweet!

An additional sense: Jacobson’s organ

This is the name given to the vomeronasal organ possessed by mammals, but it is more developed in some, such as in the cat. It’s a real sixth sense for him!

This organ is located between the septum and the palate of the cat. The latter rolls up his lips so that the odors go up through ducts located behind the incisors to reach the nasal cavities which concentrate the odors. This organ also allows the cat to perceive pheromones. Our felines therefore have a very developed and surprising olfactory system, because compared to other animals, the cat has a very impressive number of receptors.

The cat’s digestive system

If you are the proud owner of a cat, you must have noticed that the cat eats often, but in small quantities. This is simply because its intestine is rather short (20 to 40 cm for the large intestine and one meter for the small intestine), which is typical of hunters of small prey. In addition to this, the cat chews little and digestion begins directly in the stomach, which is also small (about 300 ml). You now understand why your feline may ask you to eat several times a day!

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It is also interesting to note that it is better to avoid food diversification because the cat’s digestive system is not at all adapted to it. This causes him to vomit and have diarrhea. Avoid changing his kibble too often (except in cases of intolerance of course) and do not try to vary his diet, you will make him sick. The cat likes its habits.

An important element: the cat’s tail

In the cat, the tail is an essential means of communication, but also the main instrument that serves it in its balance. Indeed, without its tail, a cat would have a hard time finding this balance. Moving it from one place to another allows it to change its center of gravity.

Unfortunately, in the event of injuries or accidents, tail docking is unavoidable. The veterinarian must then remove all or part of the tail. If this happens, do not worry too much, because despite everything, the cat shows a faculty of adaptation and will gradually get used to this new state and a new balance. It will only take a few weeks for him to climb his favorite places again!


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