For me, cats have always contained an element of the magical and mystical. When I began wondering how many bones my own cat had, the mystery deepened.
Are their bones like ours? What I found made me look at my own cat with new eyes.
How Many Bones Do Cats Have?
Cats have a skeletal structure consisting of 245 bones on average. Different cat breeds have more or fewer bones depending on the length of their tail and genetics. The anatomy of a cat is divided into five major parts which are the spinal column (30 bones), skull (29 bones), ribs (13 ribs), forelegs (3 bones), and back legs (4 bones).
Five Major Parts of a Cat’s Skeleton
A cat’s spine is very flexibly joined and has particularly supple cushioning disks between the vertebrae. Its spine consists of 30 vertebrae.
This contributes to their speed, and it gives them the ability to perform their graceful and nimble acrobatic feats.
The spinal column extends to the tip of their tail, which can mean a longer or shorter spinal column in some cat breeds.
One would think the cat’s skull consists of 1 bone, maybe 2 if the jaw bone is counted. I was surprised to learn that the cat’s skull actually consists of approximately 29 bones.
While it may seem like one bone, the skull is actually 29 bones that are joined together by fibrous tissues known as sutures.
There is some disagreement between vets and zoologists as to how many regions of the cat skull count as distinct bones. I never knew counting cat bones could be so complicated!
Cats have 13 pairs of ribs as opposed to the 12 found in humans.
The upper ribs in cats are attached to the thoracic region of the spine, whereas the lower ribs are joined to the breastbone and the sternum.
The rib cage of cats is compressible, and this allows them to squeeze nimbly into tight spaces.
Cats have 6 major bones in the front limbs, two legs with 3 major bones in each—the humerus, ulna, and radius.
There are also several smaller bones such as the metacarpals in the front legs and the metatarsals in the hind legs.
Cats have 5 toes on their front paws, consisting of 3 bones per toe known as the distal, middle, and proximal phalanges.
Cats have 2 hind legs of which the major bones are the femur, tibia, and fibula. There are 3 bones in each leg, also making a total of 6 major bones in the hind legs.
I was surprised to learn that cats only have 4 toes on the hind limbs and a cat’s heels never touch the ground, giving them that distinct cat-walk appearance as if they are wearing high-heeled shoes.
Technically, cats run and walk on their toes; they are known as digitigrade animals. This is why my Mr. Socks is such a sneaky bird catcher.
Minor Bones in a Cat’s Body
Similar to humans, cats also have clavicles, or collarbones, one on each side, but unlike a human’s, a cat’s collarbone is not connected to its shoulder blades.
Their shoulder blades are connected to their bodies with muscles.
This, in conjunction with the much smaller collarbones in the cat’s body, allows them a much bigger degree of rotation and range of motion, which allows for big strides when they run.
These small floating collarbones also allow cats to squeeze into small spaces, like my neighbor’s chicken coup!
The average domestic cat has approximately 18-23 bones in its tail called caudal vertebrae. Cats use their tails to counterbalance their weight when walking on high, narrow surfaces such as walls.
The cat’s tail is seen as an extension of its spine, although it is not technically part of the spinal column.
Do All Cats Have the Same Number of Bones: The Answer
The short answer is no, not all cats have the same number of bones in their bodies. The number of bones in a cat’s body may vary anywhere from 230-250 bones, with the average cat having 245 bones.
There are different reasons for the fluctuation. For example, the number of bones depends on how many toes your cat has or the length of its tail, or even whether the cat is male or female.
In male cats, they’ve got an extra bony process in their penis.
Cats with extra toes are called polydactyl and this will increase the number of bones in their body. Long-tailed cats have more bones compared to breeds with no tails at all such as the Manx.
Frequently Asked Questions about How Many Bones Cats Have
Do cats have a backbone?
Cats do have a backbone also known as a spine. Most mammals, including humans, have backbones and these are known as vertebrates. Animals with no backbone or spinal column such as sea stars, jellyfish, and most insects are known as invertebrates.
Can cats break their bones?
Although cats are very flexible and nimble, most bones can fracture or break under enough strain. Therefore, cats can break any of the bones in their bodies, whether these are their leg or tail bones.
Can a cat heal its bone fracture on its own?
A cat’s bone fracture can heal on its own but this depends on how badly the bone is broken or fractured. In younger cats, fractures may heal on their own due to sufficient blood supply to the fractured area, but never assume that a fracture will heal on its own. Talk to your vet to be safe. The location of the fracture will also play a vital role in the seriousness of the injury. Being hit by cars causes a high percentage of skull trauma in cats, as well as various other fractures and injuries to the thoracic region, legs, and tail.
I realized that cats don’t all have the same number of bones, and they average 245 bones with some breeds having as many as 250 bones.
So, while I may think that cats are spineless like a slinky toy, and trying to pick them up can certainly feel the same, they are actually very complex in their bone structure and positioning.