The Skeleton, consisting or About 250 Bones, provides a rigid framework for the soft parts of the body, protecting them from shock and injury and at the same time allowing the cat to move with great agility and suppleness. The skull, in both large and small cats, is highly specialized for killing prey and devouring it in the shortest possible time, before other predators can steal it. The eye sockets (orbits) are large and round to allow a Wide field of Vision, the hearing parts of the skull are large, and the Short jaws open very wide. Cats kill their prey with bites from their very sharp canine teeth and then tear off pieces of meat with their carnassial (tearing)teeth. They do not chew their food, but bolt it down; nor do they gnaw at bones, so they don’t need as many teeth as dogs.
ALL THE RIGHT CONNECTIONS
In order to pounce on its prey, climb trees, run fast, and reach every part of its body to groom itself, the cat has to be amazingly supple. The muscular connections between the bones (vertebrae) of the neck and back allow the cat to stretch in all directions.
The skeleton of the domestic cat is just like a tiger’s, except that the chest is not as deep; there is a difference in structure at the base of the tongue, allowing the small cat to purr; the sheaths of the claws are longer in the small cat; and the tail is more ﬂexible. The big cat stretches in the same way as the small cat.
This skull shows the big, round eye sockets of the domestic cat, its short face/ and its large, sharp teeth. In some breeds of domestic cats, like the Persian, the face has been bred to be so short that there is hardly any room for the teeth, and the animal snuffles because it cannot breathe properly through its ﬂattened nose.
Tiger skeletons of all cats are similar. The skull is rounded with short jaws and a largish braincase (cranium), There are Seven neck vertebrae, as in most mammals, but they are compressed, making the cat’s neck shorter in comparison to the rest of its body. The rib cage is deep and the strong hind leg bones are longer than the foreleg bones. The number of bones in the tail varies from species to species; the tiger, for example, has more bones in its tail than does the bobcat.
TOEING THE LINE
It is impossible for a person to stand on tiptoe without support; ballet toeshoes have blocks in the toes. The joints and bones of all cats’ feet have evolved in such a way that they always walk on their toes.
JUST A BITE
This lioness can break a bone with one bite of her strong jaws. All cats can open their mouths very wide, owing to the thick bones at the angle of the jaw and the powerful ligaments that join the lower jaw to the upper jaw in a hinge, just below the front of the ear.
Although Manx cats did not originate on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, they have been known there for over 200 years. Their lack of a full tail is thought to be due to inbreeding in the past.
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