Did you know that the human body has 206 bones? Though much smaller, a cat has up to 290 bones in their body, including 7 cervical vertebrae. Now I say up to because the length of a cat’s tail can increase the bone count in that particular feline. Have you ever wondered how a cat can run, jump, turn on a dime, right themselves while falling and leap with the ease of a trapeze artist? How is it that a cat can jump up to 7 times its own height? It’s all thanks to their 517(!) muscles that attach to those 290 bones – all wrapped up in one amazing, furry little being.
Now that seems pretty cool, but what does that have to do with grooming a cat? Well, it has everything to do with grooming a cat. Remember when I mentioned a cat has 7 cervical vertebrae? Knowing just how delicate the bones in a cat’s neck are can be a matter of life and death for Kitty while being groomed.
When grooming other animals, such a dogs, a groomer may use what’s called a ‘grooming loop’ to keep the animal in place on the grooming table while combing out and shaving. If a grooming loop was put on an acrobatic animal like a cat, all it would take is a moment of action for a cat to attempt to jump from the table and hang themselves, strangling or worse. Knowledge of a cat’s skeletal anatomy makes this a completely preventable accident.
So how can a cat fit through the tiniest of spaces? That’s all thanks to their ‘floating shoulder’. A cat doesn’t actually have a collarbone, like humans. Instead of having a collarbone connecting a shoulder to a breastbone, the forelimb of a cat is connected to the rest of the body and anchored only by muscle. This ‘floating shoulder’, or vestigial clavicle, is what makes it possible for Kitty to fit through small spaces and gives the cat the ability to right himself when falling. The ‘floating shoulder’ allows Kitty to twist its forelegs into almost any direction and is why cats are known to land on their feet 99.9% of the time.
If you want to learn more about cats and are as intrigued as I am by the many aspects that make up their physiology, then you too may be an ailurophile… meaning you love cats! Stay tuned because we’re going to leap into Part 2 of this series and tackle what exactly whiskers are good for – and what makes Kitty have such good balance.