Diagonal Digitigrades


Cat paws (Photo credit, Getty Images)

Cat paws (Photo credit, Getty Images)

Cat paws

 It's the cats turn for the spotlight this week.  As we focus on cat paws.  Cats, like dogs, are digitigrades.  Which means they walk directly on their toes, with the bones of their feet making up the lower part of the leg.  Felines are unique, they directly register; that is, they place each hind paw almost directly in the print of the corresponding forepaw, minimizing noise and visible tracks. This also provides sure footing for their hind paws when they navigate rough terrain.  And makes them capable of walking very precisely.  Also, the two back legs are muscular to allow falling and leaping far distances without injury.  There are seven pads on the front paws made up of five digital pads, one central or plantar pad that takes most of the weight, and a small wrist pad.  The hind paws on the other hand (or should I say "paw")  have only five pads, four are digital and there is one plantar pad.  Unlike most mammals, when cats walk, they use a "pacing" gait; that is, they move the two legs on one side of the body before the legs on the other side. This trait is shared with camels and giraffes. As a walk speeds up into a trot, a cat's gait will change to be a "diagonal" gait, similar to that of most other mammals.  Cats are a lot more agile than dogs are, and much of this has to do with their paws and the way they walk.
To see paw anatomy, watch my video by clicking here