The well-toned upper body of a healthy cat gives the impression of supple power, which translates into movement in speed, agility and grace. To see a cat squatted on the hunt for prey and to move in slow motion, ‘crawling’ poetry is in motion. Its frame is perfectly aligned, and every muscle, tendon and bone move together.
Signs that your cat has a healthy upper body
The muscle-skeletal structure of a healthy cat
At rest, in profile, a healthy cat looks balanced. His head will be held high, supported by his neck and strong shoulder muscles. Its rib cage covers and protects the heart, lungs, liver and gallbladder. At a healthy weight, the ribs of a cat can be felt, but they are not visually striking. The bone structure is covered and supported by systems of muscles, ligaments and tendons that work together to give strength, mobility and speed to the healthy cat’s limbs.
The front legs and feet of a healthy cat
The forelegs of a healthy cat are used for balance, running, climbing and catching prey. The elbows are kept close to the body while standing and push forward when walking. When a cat extends sideways or scratches a scratching post vertically, the front legs may be fully extended and form an almost straight line.
Gait pattern of a healthy cat
Unlike people who walk on the heels and balls of our feet, cats walk on their toes with the “heel” that never touches the ground, making them mammals of the image. Dogs and horses are also digitigrade mammals; animals that cover the entire sole of the foot, including humans, rabbits and bears, are called plantigrade mammals. Cats have a unique way of walking, by having the front and hind legs run parallel in parallel. This is an instinctive protective measure that leaves a much smaller and quieter path, making it more difficult for predators to smell and follow.
Cats’ front toes and claws
A healthy cat usually has ten toes in front. The exceptions are polydactyl cats, often called “Hemingway Cats”, which have multiple toes. The toes of cats are very strong; they use them to grasp and hold surfaces while climbing, to lift their bodies. A cat chasing a rubber ball (or a mouse) can easily catch it with its toes, and then hold it by curling its toes and claws inward.
The cat’s claws are an integral part of his feet. They are the original “multi-use tool”, invaluable for climbing; catching and killing prey; and for protection against predators and other enemies. A cat’s claw consists of the sharp, visible nail area covered with a disposable shell; connected to the P3 toe bone with ligaments and tendons. To keep its claws sharp, a cat scratches rough surfaces such as trees, wooden posts, sisal and sometimes furniture or carpeting. The claws do not sharpen the claw as much as loosening the protective transparent cover. You can occasionally find these abandoned covers on the floor.
Crabs: healthy exercise for cats
Observe a cat with a long scratching post. He will stretch his back and front legs to the top of the pole, hook his claws into the substrate and pull down strongly. This activity combines two types of exercise: range of movement and resistance, and builds strong, flexible muscles and healthy joints and tendons.
Declawing from a healthy cat
Sometimes cat owners who are worried about their claw room furniture declawing find the logical solution. Some vets agree; others buy in the argument “otherwise we put the cat to sleep”. Some vets even offer to routinely declaw, as a “combo” with castrous / neuter surgery, under the premise that the cat only needs to be sedated once.
Many people (including this writer) believe that declawing is an inhumane procedure, without the cat having any value. in contrast to castration / castration, which offer both medical and social benefits. View the corresponding image. Now imagine chopping off those very first toe joints with a guillotine. That is what declawing is about: a completely unnecessary operation, especially if there are so many humane alternatives. Occasionally, a medical professional may advise “get rid of the cat” or give it to a person with a reduced immune system. No two such cases are the same and everyone has to make their own choices. In my opinion, that is one of the only legitimate reasons for declawing (the other is an emergency operation to repair a seriously injured foot.)
A healthy cat’s fur
Whether you call it “hair” or “fur”, the fur of a healthy cat must be clean, shiny and mat-free. You can help keep your cat’s coat shiny with a healthy diet. A cat who gets a diet of “grocery” food often gets a dry, rough-looking coat. I read the story of the amazing change in cat coats after a few weeks of premium cat food. All the “fur supplements” in the world cannot be compared to the daily diet of a superior diet.
Hairballs, Mats and Grooming
Unless a cat travels through the show circuit, he will rarely need human help with bathing. Cats do an admirable job of keeping their coats clean with frequent, short grooming sessions throughout the day. The barbs on their tongues act as finely toothed combs and both clean the individual hairs, but also pull loose hairs out, preventing mats. Unfortunately, those loose hairs are often swallowed by the cat and can form lumpy hairballs together, which can lead to intestinal obstruction if not prevented. Hairballs develop more often with long-haired cats or cats with dense undergarments, although no cat can really be free of them.
Ugly, painful mats
Occasional small mats can be treated quickly if you catch them early enough. Here you can read how to remove a cat. Large hair mats can develop rapidly in older gouty cats who cannot easily care for certain parts of their body. Mats are not only aesthetically unpleasant, they are downright painful for these cats. They pull against the skin, making it painful for a cat to lie down in a normal position. If you have missed these mats in one way or another, the sight of an older cat sitting upright is a red flag for possible mats. They are not only painful, but also provide a breeding ground for fleas, skin irritation and even fungal infections.
A regular care program can help against the development of hair mats, hairballs and skin problems. You must include ear examination and cleaning if necessary; claw trimming; examining and brushing your cat’s teeth, and brushing or combing the cat’s fur. Try these intervals:
- Combing / brushing: Daily
- Tooth cleaning: At least twice a week
- Claw Trimming: Twice a month; more often if necessary
- Ear exam: Monthly; Only clean if necessary