A cat’s bone structure is one of her unique characteristics. Although humans are more than fifteen times the size of a cat, a cat has more bones in her body: 244 bones compared to 206 in humans. Many of those bones are in her tail, which is why a cat’s tail is so telling of her mood. A tail carried high often signifies confidence, whereas a wagging tail can indicate anger.
It’s one-of-a-kind, ridged with a distinct pattern like human fingerprints, and responds to touch and temperature as well as smell. A domestic cat’s sense is also extraordinary. Cat’s have 19 million nerve endings to help them smell, while humans have 5 million. So it is no surprise that a cat’s sense of smell is about fourteen times as strong as a human’s.
Have you ever wondered how your kitten sneaks by so quietly? It’s because her paws are insulated with a thick, sensitive padding. Her claws are retractable and she can pull them in and out by contracting certain muscles. Paw pads are extremely sensitive and are used to investigate the texture, size and shape of unfamiliar objects.
If you watch closely, you’ll notice that kittens use their whiskers to investigate their surroundings. This is because whiskers aren’t just for show. They’re packed with nerve endings to provide fairly precise information about her immediate surroundings. Cat’s have approximately 24 whiskers that act like a radar for their environment. Losing whiskers can impair motions and orientation to her surroundings. Never trim or cut her whiskers.
Cat’s eyes are remarkably adept at adjusting to different light conditions. Contrary to popular belief, cats cannot see in total darkness. But in dim light they can see far better than humans, distinguishing brightness 7 times better. As nocturnal hunters, their eyes are able to scoop up even the smallest scrap of available light. Their vision generally is blurred at the edges and they see best at 6 – 20 feet. The flexibility of the iris and the light-reflecting tapetum lucidum increases sensitivity of the retina and enhances the received image. Cats also have a third eyelid called a “haw” that flicks diagonally across the surface of the eyeball. This flicks continually when the eyes are open, but if the cat is seriously ill, her haw will often be closed. Sometimes the haw closes so far across that the cat is temporarily blinded. In normal health, the haw and true eyelids help to lubricate the eye.
As she drinks, notice how her tongue laps under the water. She flicks her tongue in and out of the liquid, swallowing after every third or fourth lap. The feeling of sandpaper experienced when being licked by her is the result of numerous knobs, called papillae, on the surface of her tongue. They form backward-facing hooks which help hold food and provide the abrasiveness needed for self-grooming.
Your cat’s tail usually serves as an indicator of her mood. Carried high – she’s proud and contented, extended straight – she’s stalking and thrusting from side to side – she may be angry. Her hind legs are longer and stronger than her front legs, enabling her to jump with great skill. And of course, your cat
always calculates distance before jumping. A healthy adult cat can weigh as much as 9.1 kg (20 lbs) or as little as 2.3 kg (5 lbs), with males generally growing larger than females. A cat can have very long, medium or very short hair, and some shed more than others.