The Veterinary Student's Guide to Cat Skeleton Selection

A cat skeleton can show an animal lover how a feline is able to be so active and athletic. The finesse felines demonstrate is essential, as a cat fracture can happen to almost any bone in the body. Selections of a cat skeletal system include the axial skeleton and the appendicular skeleton.

Cat Axial Skeleton

The axial skeleton in a cat consists of the bones in the head and trunk. In the axial selection, the skull connects to the vertebral column.

Cats have 7 cervical vertebrae, 13 thoracic vertebrae, 7 lumbar vertebrae, 3 sacral vertebrae and a handful of caudal vertebrae that make up a long cat tail. The extra vertebrae in the lumbar and thoracic regions of a cat are what makes them so flexible.

The 13 pairs of ribs in a cat attach the vertebrae, as does the sternum. A cat sternum is made up of the manubrium, 6 sternbrae, and the xiphoid process.

Cat Appendicular Skeleton

The appendicular skeleton of a cat refers to all of the bones that are joined to something larger and allow forward or backward movement. Cat arthritis often occurs when the joints between the bones in the appendicular skeleton become inflamed.

The anterior pectoral girdle consists of the scapula and clavicle. The clavicle of a cat is free-floating, allowing cats to squeeze into small spaces.

The pelvic girdle of a cat is made up of the ilium, pubis and ischium. A cat's rear end, by the tail, is where these bones can be found.

The last main part of the appendicular skeleton selection is made up of a feline's limbs. A cat that's limping typically has had an injury to this part of the skeletal system.

The anterior limbs, or front legs and paws, include the humerus and radius. The ulna and carpals (found in the wrist area) follow. The metacarpals and phalanges make up the front paws and toes.

The posterior limbs are the hind legs of a cat. The femur and tibia make up the top of a cat's leg. The fibula follows, then the tarsals in the ankles. The metatarsals and phalanges make up the paws and toes.

Interesting Facts about a Cat's Skeletal System

Unlike most mammals, cats have large eye sockets in their skull. The jaw and canine teeth of a cat are designed in such a way that a bite can go between a prey's vertebrae, causing paralysis.

Inside the front wrists of some cats is an extra carpal pad, causing a protrusion that looks like an extra digit on the paw. This is called polydactylism. Polydactyl cats look like they have thumbs, like they are wearing mittens or may even have up to three extra digits.

Once one is able to see the basics of a cat's skeletal system and how it allows the animal to maneuver the way it does, it is easy to understand what makes this species master hunters, and one of the world's most popular pets.