Overlying the skeletal framework is a complex network of muscles that gives the cat his powerful and graceful movement, and is also responsible for his sinuous shape. There are three types of muscle in the feline body: cardiac, smooth involuntary and striped voluntary.
This specialized muscle forms the heart, and possesses unique powers of rhythmic contraction to pump blood around the body through a network of arteries and veins. A cat’s heart works in the same way as a human heart – with four chambers and a double pump. When jumping down, a cat stretches his body down as far as possible before pushing off, to reduce the distance covered and the shock of landing. Powerfully muscled hind legs allow the cat to leap up to five times his own height. Cats’ finely tuned sense of balance enables them to land precisely where they want to Powerful muscles at the root of the tail, combined with small muscles and tendons along the length of it, enable the cat to move his tail expressively, and also to use it as an important balancing aid.
Smooth unstriated muscles
These carry out muscular functions not under the cat’s control, and include the muscles of the intestines and walls of blood vessels. They are also called involuntary muscles.
Tripled striated muscles
These are muscle tissues in which the contractile fibres are arranged in parallel bundles hence the term ‘striped’ and are attached to the limbs and other parts of the anatomy which are under the voluntary control of the cat – such as movement. They are also known as voluntary muscles.
Voluntary muscles are usually attached to bones that form a joint. Extensor muscles extend and straighten a limb, while flexor muscles flex and bend the joint. Muscles that move a limb away from the body are called abductors, and adductors move them back in again. There are more than 500 voluntary’ muscles within a cat’s body, enabling him to be fluid in his movements.