Cat Anatomy

How many toes does a cat have on each of its back paws?

And the answer: four.  

Photo credit: Sue McDonald/ Shutterstock. 

The average house cat has five toes on each of its front paws, but only four toes on each of its back paws. The inner toes on the front paws are used for grasping objects, and aren't needed on the back paws.  

Despite their cuteness, cats have a number of unique anatomical features that set them apart from other animals. For one, a cat's face has a number of pretty neat evolutionary adaptations. Their noses act as a sort of fingerprint – its rigid pattern is unique to each individual cat. Around it, their whiskers act as a sensitive radar system, identifying and analyzing everything the cat touches. Below, their sandpaper tongue-barbs snag flakes of loose fur, skin, dirt or fleas. And (gross but fascinating), cats swallow all this debris, which is usually dissolved by stomach acid.

A cat's hearing is also impressively superior to many animals. Cats can hear in the upper ranges of sound, from 45 to 60,000 Hertz (humans hear 20 to 20,000). Their ears ran rotate up to 180 degrees, and can hear a can of tuna cracking open from miles away.

Thanks to the feline inner ear’s vestibular system, a cat’s body senses whether it is upside down and how far from the ground he or she is. This fact contributes to the persisting myth that cats always land on their feet; however, a cat's reflex to right itself is a very real quality of their flexible backbone and lack of collarbone.

If all that wasn't enough, a cuddly cat will purr with happiness and contentment. Scientists who study purring describe it as the result of intermittent signaling by the diaphragmatic (diaphragm) and laryngeal (larynx or voice box) muscles, at a frequency of 25 to 150 Hertz (a Hertz is one cycle per second). Interestingly, sometimes cats will purr when stressed or sad as well.

With all this new cat knowledge, we hope you pet a fluffy friend today. Learn more interesting facts about cats below.


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