Skeleton of cats
You are in:
About cats->Cat Anatomy
  Javascript DHTML Drop Down Menu Powered by  


Please note, that most of the literature about the anatomy of cats is in English.
Problems with the eye lids (enrolled eye lids), problems in the nasolacrimal system
Read about head shapes in extreme breeds, when the head in Siamese becomes too long
when the face shape of the Persian becomes oval.
Messybeast Polydactyl Cats
Well known are the  Hemingway cats.
Messybeast Twisty cats
Messybeast Feline medical curiosities
A specific breed with shortened legs, forelimbs and hind limbs are shortened, is the Munchkin.
Currently there is no literature, which lists and describes problems or genetic defects in this breed.

Clinical signs and results of treatment in cats with patellar luxation: 42 cases (1992-2002). 
Congenital elbow subluxation in a cat. 
Congenital patellar luxation in the cat. 
Congenital tarsal hyperextension in three cats. 
Evaluation of the association between medial patellar luxation and hip dysplasia in cats. 
FCK: Flat-Chested Kitten Syndrome 
Intermittent open-mouth jaw locking 
Luxating patellae in Devon rex cats. 
Luxation of the patella in cats. 
Morphometric investigations of breed-specific features in feline skulls and considerations on their functional implications. 
Polydactylism in cats. 
Relationship between degenerative joint disease and hip joint laxity by use of distraction index and Norberg angle measurement in a group of cats. 
Swimmer syndrome in a Devon rex kitten and an English bulldog puppy. 
Syndactyly in a litter of cats. 
The course of the nasolacrimal duct in brachycephalic cats. 
Two cases of congenital malformation (peromelus ascelus and ectrodactyly) in cats. 


Skeleton of cats

Skeleton of cats


Some figures

Horse 683 bones
Dog 321 bones
Cat 240 bones
Human 202 bones

A cat has about 240 bones, depending, how many tail bones it has.

Body planes

sagittal plane is a vertical plane along the longitudinal body axis, it parts the body into a left and a right half
transversal plane is a vertical plane vertically to the body axis (90°), it parts the body into a cranial and a caudal half
frontale(or coronal) plane is a horizontal plane through the body axis and parts the body into a dorsal and a ventral half
dorsal referring to the back, into the direction of the back, located in the half of the back
referring to the upper side of the foot
ventral referring to the belly, into the direction of the belly, located in the half of the belly
cranial referring to the head (cranium), into the direction of the head, located in the half, where the head is
caudal referring to the tail (or tail-like structure), into the direction of the tail, located in the half, where the tail is
lateral referring to the side of the body, located at the side of the body
proximal near the middle, near the center, near the midline
distal apart from the middle, apart from the center, apart from the midline
plantar referring to the back side of the foot
Goto Top


Die Katze ist ein Quadruped (Vierbeiner), im Unterschied zum Menschen, der ein Biped (Zweibeiner) ist.
Ebenso ist die Katze ein Digitigrad (Digigrad, Zehengänger), sie geht auf ihren Zehen, solche Tiere sind meist schneller. Im Unterschied zum Menschen, der ein Plantigrad (Sohlengänger) ist, also mit der gesamten Fußsohle, inklusive Ferse, den Boden berührt. Tiere, die nur mit den Zehenspitzen den Boden berühren - meist Tiere mit Hufen, werden Ungulaten genannt, z.B. Pferde, Rinder.

Atlas 1st vertebra of the neck, carries the head
Axis   2nd vertebra of the neck, is the axis, where the atlas turns around
Orbit   bony hollow, where the eye is
Teeth   formula for the teeth in the cat:
1st teeth: 26 teeth
upper jaw: 3 premolars, 1 canine, 3 incissors
lower jaw: 2 premolars, 1 canine, 3 incissors
Bite of an adult cat: 30 teeth
upper jaw: 1 molar, 3 premolars, 1 canine, 3 incissors
lower jaw: 1 molar, 2 premolars, 1 canine, 3 incissors
The change of the 1st teeth is about the 6th month, around the 24th week.
Mandible   bone of the lower jaw, the bone is moveable, it is connected to the upper jaw with a hinge joint
Deformations   Brachycephaly (too short heads)
brachy ... Greek: short
cephalus ... Latin: head
Short-headed breeds (like Persian, Exotic) have a  predisposition for problems in the upper respiratory tract, which are commonly called as brachycephal syndrome.
Brachycephaly is accompanied by narrowed nostrils, an elongated and thickened soft palate, and disproportionate enlarged and protruding eyes. Often the lacrimal canaliculi are crushed or even missing.
Overshot - Undershot

This is mostly noticed in short-headed breeds (Persian, Exotic) or in very long-headed breeds (Siamese) with narrow jaws.
The mandible is either protruded and the lower teeth row protrudes over the upper teeth row (prognathism), or the mandible is shortened and the upper teeth row protrudes over the lower teeth row (retrognatism).
Hyoid bone, which takes part in swallowing and speaking
From the history of development this bone is a residual bone from the 1st branchial arch (visceral arch). In big cats the hyoid is cartilaginous and flexible, which enables those cats to roar, but only to a one-way-purring at expiration.
In cats the hyoid is bony, which enables cats to a two-way-purring at expiration and inspiration, but does not enable them to roar, only just to meow.
Scapula   shoulder blade
The shoulder blade is not fixed connected to the spine (it is not connected via the clavicles!), it is connected with firm muscles and ligaments. Therefore the shoulder blades are very flexible, and a cat fits into the narrowest hollow.
shoulder blade acromion points into the direction of the belly; an important connection point for muscles
metacromion points into the direction of the tail; an important connection point for muscles
gleniod cavity (or fossa) a hollow, where the head of the humerus articulates
Clavicle   This bone is degenerated in cats and is not connected with the spine, it is embedded into a muscle.

Goto Top

Legs, claws

Front leg
forelimb caput head of the humerus
humerus the upper bone of the forelimbs
The lower part of the forelimbs (shank) consists of 2 bones, which are connected via an articulation, thus the paws can be turned around.
radius one of the 2 bones of the lower leg
ulna the second bone of the 2 bones of the lower leg
radial notch a hollow in the ulna, where the head of the ulna is connected to the radius



The cat is able to extend and retract its claws.
The cat scratches and sharpens only the front claws, where also glands are located to mark its territory. The claws of the hind paws are sharpened with the teeth.
The claws are not bony, the are made of keratin.

trochlear notch a hollow, where the humerus is connected with the radius
styliod (process) These processes build the margins of the wrist.
phalanges the bones of the fingers and toes
carpal, carpals 7 bones of the root of the foot making the paws very flexible
metacarpal, metacarpals 5 bones of the middle part of the foot
digit 5 toes, where the 5th toe at the inner side of the leg is located higher than the other toes
Hind leg
Hind limb
  hind limb cauda tail
acetabulum a cup-like hollow in the hip bone, where the femur articulates
caput head of the femur
trochanter, greater and lesser These are connection points for important muscles.
The shank consists of 2 bones, the tibia and fibula.
medial malleolus forms the medial margin of the ankle
lateral malleolus forms the lateral margin of the ankle
calcaneus hock
calcaneal tuber a bony hip of the hock, where the Achilles tendon is connected
phalanges the bones of the fingers and toe
tarsus, tarsals 3 rows bones of the root of the foot
metatarsus, metatarsals bones of the middle part of the foot
digit 4 toes
Deformations   Patella luxation
See hip joint, knee joint
Too many toes, mostly on the front paws.
There are different types of polydactyly, where the cats are not handicapped, only one type might be harmful.
Twisty cats - cangaroo cats
These are cats with too short forelimbs.
Syndactyly - Hypodactyly
Split foot, the cats have mostly two large toes on the front paws, where the outer toe is significantly broader.

The thighs are shorter than the shanks, as common in fast running animals. The bones become more elongated downwards to the toes.

Goto Top

Pelvis, hips

Pelvis, pelvic girdle Pelvis

viewed from top

hip bones innominate bones
The pelvis consists of 2 symmetrically places bones, the hip bones.
The hip bone is the result of 3 bones melted together, the ischium, the pubic bone and the ilium.
pelvic girdle It consists of the hip bones, the sacrum and the coccyx. It is the junction between the vertebra and the legs.
ischial tuberosity hips of the ischium, where important muscles are connected
ischial foramen divided into the greater and lesser foramen
acetabulum a cup-like hollow in the hip bone, where the femur articulates
pubic symphysis the joint, which connects both pubic bones
pubic bone forms the medial part of the acetabulum
ilium forms the upper part of acetabulum
iliac crest important muscles, like the muscles of the belly, are connected here

Hip joint, knee joint

hip, knee The two muscles mentioned here have two functions working antagonistic.
rectus femoris The muscle is mounted at the ilium, extends via a tendon over the patella and ends at tibia. It flexes the thigh moving the humerus anterior and extends the shank.
semimembranosus The muscles is mounted at the ischial tuberosity and ends at the medial part of the thigh and the corresponding opposite part of the tibia. It extends the thigh moving the humerus posterior and flexes the shank.
Deformations Hip dysplasia (HD)
inherited and congenital deformation of the acetabulum (too flat), incorrectly developed head of the humerus.
Patella luxation = patellar dislocation
Dislocation of the patella (skips mostly to the side).

Goto Top

To be continued.


Eurocatfancy © 2005-2012
Contact | Disclaimer | Download ECF-logo