The feline body is a remarkable feat of natural engineering that has evolved into an animal possessing great beauty, grace and athletic prowess. To keep your cat in peak condition, it helps to know how your pet’s body is constructed; how it works; how to recognize when something is wrong; what to do when your cat is ill or injured.

Whatever the species, members of the Felidae family are characterized by the elements in the checklist.

-a slender yet strong and supple body
-a short, round head in proportion to size
-erect ears that are broad at the base and
-taper upwards
-powerful legs, especially the hind legs
-dense fur
-great climbing and leaping agility
-five toes on the forepaws and four on the rear
-sharp, curved claws which retract with the exception of the cheetah on all toes
-16 teeth in the upper jaw, 14 in the lower

Long bones
These are cylindrical and have hollow shafts that contain the vital bone marrow in which blood cells are manufactured. They form the cat’s limbs. Feline long bones are the humerus, radius, femur thigh bone, tibia and fibula.

Short bones
These consist of a spongy core surrounded by compact bones. They are the bones in the feet and the patella kneecap – where the femur joins the tibia.

Irregular bones
So-called because of their irregular shapes, these bones are similar in structure to short bones. A long string of irregular bones makes up the spine vertebral column and tail. The irregular projections of the bones in the spinal column serve as attachment points for the various muscles of the cat’s back.

Flat bones
These are made of two layers of compact bone with a spongy layer sandwiched between them and comprise the skull, pelvis and shoulder blades scapulae. Flattened and elongated bones make up the cat’s 13 pairs of ribs; these bones are not hollow but contain a substantial amount of marrow, which produces blood cells.

Ligaments and tendons
Ligaments are short bands of tough, fibrous connective tissue that connect bones or cartilage or hold together a joint. They are also membranous folds that support organs and keep them in position. Tendons are flexible but inelastic cords of strong fibrous tissue attaching muscles to bone.