Cat Anatomy Fundamentals

Some knowledge of cat anatomy can help you better care for your cat. Once you have an understanding of basic cat anatomy, you can be better prepared to spot any health problems your cat might display. Here's some more information about basic cat anatomy.

The Feline Skeletal and Muscular Structure

Your cat's skeleton and muscles form the basis of feline anatomy. The bones of your cat's skull, pelvis, spine and limbs provide the basic support and structure of his body. Important muscular structure includes such muscles as the masseter muscle, biceps femoris, triceps, hyoideus, supraspinatus, and infraspinatus muscles.

The Role of Your Cat's Coat

Your cat's coat plays an important role in feline anatomy. Features such as color and pattern are genetic. However, the appearance of your cat's coat depends on nutrition. Your cat's coat should be sleek, shiny and soft; changes in the appearance of your cat's coat are one of the first indicators of health problems.

Your cat's coat is made up of two layers of fur, a primary and a secondary layer. The secondary, or under, layer is usually thicker than the primary or upper layer.

Claws, Eyes, Mouth and Teeth

Your cat's claws are retractile in nature. They are the most specialized structures in cat anatomy. The soles of your cat's feet have thick-skinned pads that protect him from injury.

Your cat's eyes have evolved to help him detect the movement of prey, so his vision isn't as good as you might expect. It's a myth that cats can see in the dark; their irridescent eyes might reflect small amounts of light, but this doesn't mean especially good night vision. In addition, you may have noticed that your cat can't see things that move fast; instead, his eyes can only detect slow movements.

Your cat's mouth is the beginning of his digestive system. He has sharp teeth to allow him to cut and tear the flesh of his prey. Your cat's jaw is incredibly strong; cats kill by crushing their prey's windpipe in the vise-like grip of their jaws. When your cat reaches his later years, he may need teeth extracted. This doesn't present a problem because your cat's jaws are strong enough to allow him to chew kibble without the help of teeth.

Your Cat's Digestive Tract

Food from your cat's mouth passes down the esophagus into his stomach. Your cat's stomach is attached to his small intestine, which serves an important physiological function in your cat's digestive tract. Here, your cat's body absorbs the nutrients in his food. Waste material passes from the small intestine into the large intestine, and then down the colon to the rectum where they are eliminated.

Your Cat's Nervous System

Your cat's nervous system is divided into two parts, the central and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system includes the feline brain, brain stem and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system includes the nerves that carry messages from your cat's brain to various parts of his body.