Cats can often take our breath away with their brilliant antics and agility. They boast incredible physical prowess which often seems to get them out of trouble when they most need it. Any animal that can spend the majority of the day snoozing away in a warm, cosy spot only to wake up and then walk with no difficulty at all the length of a wooden garden fence, has to be admired!
Cats have amazing balance which they owe to their physical make up and although they boast the same skeletons as that of other animals, there are a few differences which allow our feline friends to be so much more agile. Cats boast being a lot more flexible because the simple reason they have more bones in their bodies than people do.
A cat has about 240 bones in their bodies whereas a human only has 200 with the obvious extra ones being in their tails. However, cats have more vertebrae down their spines than we do and it is this together with the extra joints found in a cat's shoulders and hips which makes them a lot more flexible and therefore more athletic and agile.
Cats are clever when it comes to squeezing through a narrow gap which is helped by the fact they boast narrower and deeper rib cages than we do which means their shoulders are that much closer together. Our feline friends don't have collar bones as such, but rather a small bone that floats because it is not connected at either end. This is why cats seem to be able to place their paws wherever they want offering them a lot more freedom of movement and flexibility.
When it comes to their hindquarters, cats have a rigid pelvis much as humans do which provides them with all the power they need to run, jump great heights and move forward whether slowly or at speed. A cat's back legs are incredibly powerful which means they can jump up high from a standstill by merely crouching down first before taking their leap. One of the things our feline friends love is getting up high so they have a great vantage point of the world below!
Cats walk on their toes and the balls of their feet rather than putting their full weight on each of their paws which means ankles and wrists are kept well off the ground. Cats are masters when it comes to synchronising their steps and they have special receptive "circuits" in their spines which help them do this. In fact, just like in humans, a cat's nervous system takes care of all movements without them having to think about much at all.
The amazing thing is that cats don't have to look down at their paws to see where they are walking because they seem to be able to memorise the ground they have walked on before!
Cats are brilliant at shooting up great heights whether it's up a tree or a garden fence. However, they often get into trouble when it comes to finding a safe way down from their vantage points. The reason being their claws are designed for climbing upwards and not for going downwards. Their claws don't provide our feline friends with any of the all important braking power needed to make a slow and dignified descent!
However, one breed, the Margay which some people keep as pets, has evolved to have flexible ankles and very long, strong tails which allow them to move around in higher environments with great ease and to descend when they want to with no problems at all.
Our domestic cats often get quite scared when they suddenly realise how high up they are and will often find they are stuck there not daring to attempt to come down. If they do decide to climb down, they get so far before pushing themselves off sideways so they can land on all fours which helps cushion the impact.
With this said, some cats are clever and they learn how to get down from a high tree by doing climbing down it backwards. It takes them a lot longer to reach the ground, but it is far safer way for them to get back down to ground level without injuring themselves. When they do this cats tend to get to a reasonable height before twisting and taking the last leap to the ground so they land on all fours!
Luckily cats have incredible reflexes too which often saves them from injuring themselves should they ever fall from a great height. Deep inside a cat's brain there are five fluid filled organs which help them regain their balance when they are falling which is why cats usually always land on their feet!
Cats are amazing creatures when it comes to balance and agility. Just watching a cat tip toe along a narrow fence is pretty cool. They can leap in the air from a standstill and are brilliant gymnasts when they need to be, all thanks to their physical make up and the fact they have around 40 more bones that people do. These together with the extra nodules in their brains which help them keep their balance when falling, are the secrets to a cat's amazing agility.