• Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Cat Anatomy 101: Understanding Your Cat’s Body


May 5, 2023
savannah cat standing by the window


savannah cat standing by the window
Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Whether you’re simply interested in how a cat’s body works or if you’re trying to learn a little more about your cat, this guide is a great place to start. We’ve highlighted some of the essential parts of your cat, how they work, and, just as importantly, how they differ from how your body works!

There’s too much to highlight in just one article, but this guide is a great starting point and will give you all the information you need for a basic understanding of a cat’s anatomy. Moreover, it can give you the necessary information you can use to dive into any part that’s more interesting to you!


The 10 Main Areas of a Cat’s Body

1. The Ears

close up image of cat's ears and eyes
Image Credit: effective stock photos,Shutterstock

Their pointed ears might just be the cutest part of their body, but it’s also one of the most functional. Cat ears do a phenomenal job of capturing sounds, and a cat’s ear has tons of muscles. These muscles allow your cat to turn their ears towards the source of a sound, allowing them to pick up on even the quietest noises out there.

2. The Whiskers

close up of cat with long whiskers looking at the camera
Image Credit: Jumpstory

You probably don’t think too much about your cat’s whiskers, but the more you learn about them, the more impressive they are. A cat’s whiskers connect to both their muscular and nervous system, allowing them to pick up all sorts of sensory information.

And while the whiskers on their face might be the most noticeable, you can also find cat whiskers on their jaws and the back of their front legs.

3. Larynx

bengal cat being cuddled
Image Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek, Shutterstock

If you’ve snuggled up with a cat that’s snuggling you back, we’re sure you’ve heard them purr. It’s how a cat communicates, and it works through intermittent signaling from their laryngeal and diaphragmatic muscles. This means when a cat purrs, it’s not just coming from their throat, it’s a whole body effort!

4. The Tail

cat tail closeup
Image Credit: JackieLou DL, Pixabay

We all notice a cat’s tail, but unless you’ve taken the time to research them before, you likely don’t realize everything they do. Their tail makes up about ten percent of their bones, meaning there are up to 23 bones in a cat’s tail!

Their tail helps them keep their balance, acts as a counterweight, and is part of how they communicate. A cat can completely control the actions of their tails, so if they’re slapping it against you, that’s no accident!

5. Jacobson’s Organ

Cat Mouth and throat
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One organ that a cat has that a human doesn’t is the Jacobson’s organ. You can find this organ on the roof of a cat’s mouth, and it’s part of how they analyze scents. When a cat uses this organ, their mouth is partially open, and it helps them figure out what’s going on with something.

6. The Teeth

cat with open mouth and teeth
Image Credit: Birgit, Pixabay

Cats have 30 teeth that fall into three different categories, and each of their teeth contains three different substances. A cat’s tooth has pulp, dentine, and enamel. The pulp contains the cells, nerves, and blood vessels, while the dentine covers the pulp, and the enamel acts as a final layer of protection.

Meanwhile, the categories for their teeth are the incisors, the canines, the premolars, and the molars. Cats use the incisors to hold their prey, the canines while they’re hunting, and the premolars and molars for cutting.

Anatomy of a cat's tooth
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7. The Tongue

Close-Up Shot of a Tongue of a Cat
Image Credit: yulia-ilina, Pexels

At first glance, you might expect a cat’s tongue to be identical to ours. And while they are in a lot of ways, they differ in one significant way. A cat’s tongue has small spines all over it, and these spines act as a valuable grooming tool for your cat.

Interestingly enough, the spines are made from keratin, which is the same substance that makes up your fingernails!

8. Paws and Claws

cat paws
Image Credit: Jumpstory

A cat’s paws are extremely sensitive and are full of nerve receptors that help them feel even the smallest vibrations and help them keep its balance. Meanwhile, cats have retractable claws they can use while hunting and to help them climb.

Keep in mind that while a cat’s claws retract some, they can’t completely retract back so it’s common to see them sticking out a bit when you’re looking for them.

9. The Skeletal System

A skeletal system of a domestic house cat
Image Credit: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

A cat’s skeletal system is extremely unique, and it’s part of the reason they have a few of their signature physical characteristics. Cats have tiny, rudimentary collar bones and their backbone is extremely flexible with over 30 vertebrae, if you do not count the tail.

In fact, the average cat has about 250 bones total, and since the adult human skeleton has 206 bones, that means a cat has more bones than a human!

10. The Squishy Bits

cat digestive system
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When we’re talking about the squishy bits on your cat, we’re talking about all their internal organs. There are quite a few systems to break down here, and it really doesn’t fit into a 101 article because of their complexity. Still, it’s a good idea to at least know what each of these systems is, which is why we wanted to include them.

The internal systems your cat has are the:

  • Cardiovascular system
  • Lymphatic system
  • Digestive system
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Respiratory system
  • Nervous system
  • Integumentary system
  • Urogenital system
  • Endocrine system
  • Hematopoietic system



If you’re trying to figure out how your cat’s body works, this guide is a great starting point. But keep in mind that a cat is a complicated creature, and everything works together. Plus, it takes vets years to learn everything they need to know!

And while cats might seem similar to us at first, the more you dive into them, the more you start to realize just how different they are!

Featured Image Credit: kuban_girl, Shutterstock

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