A healthy cat's toned upper body gives the appearance of supple strength, which translates to speed, agility, and elegance while moving. It's poetry in motion to observe a cat hunkered down on the hunt for prey and moving in a slow motion "crawl." His body is perfectly aligned, and every muscle, tendon, and bone moves in unison.
The Muscular-Skeletal Structure of a Healthy Cat
A healthy cat will seem equally balanced while standing at rest in profile. His neck and powerful shoulder muscles will help him in holding his head high. The heart, lungs, liver, and gallbladder are all enclosed and protected by his rib cage. A cat's ribs can be touched but not seen when it is at a healthy weight. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons cover and support the bone structure, which work together to provide the limbs of strength, movement, and speed.
The Front Legs and Feet of a Healthy Cat
Healthy cats utilize their front legs for balance, sprinting, climbing, and grabbing prey. When standing, the elbows are kept close to the body and pushed forward when walking. The front legs of a cat stretched laterally or vertically scratching a scratching post may be fully extended, making an almost straight line.
Walking Pattern of a Healthy Cat
Cats, unlike humans, walk on their toes, with the "heel" never touching the ground, making them digitigrade animals. Dogs and horses are also digitigrade mammals; plantigrade mammals, such as humans, rabbits, and bears, walk on the whole sole of their feet. Cats move in a peculiar fashion, with their front and hind legs moving forward in unison. This is an innate defense mechanism that results in a much smaller and quieter trail, making it more difficult for predators to detect and follow.
Cats' Front Toes and Claws
The front 10 toes of a healthy cat are generally ten. Polydactyl cats, sometimes known as "Hemingway Cats," are the exception. They have several toes. Cats have powerful toes, which they employ to grab and hold surfaces while climbing and to drag their bodies higher. A cat chasing a rubber ball (or a mouse) may easily grasp it with his toes and hold it in his claws and toes.
Claws are an essential component of a cat's feet. They are the first "multi-purpose weapon," useful for climbing, catching and killing prey, and defending against predators and other threats. The sharp, visible nail section of a cat's claw is covered by a disposable sheath and is attached to the P3 toe bone via ligaments and tendons. A cat scratches rough objects, such as trees, wood posts, sisal, and occasionally furniture or carpets, to keep his claws sharp. The claw is not sharpened as much as the protective transparent sheath is dislodged by the clawing. These sheaths are infrequently found abandoned on the floor.
Scratching: Healthy Exercise for Cats
Look at a cat scratching on a tall scratching post. He'll reach the top of the post with his spine and forelegs, grab his claws into the substrate, and pull hard downward. This practice incorporates two types of exercise: range of motion and resistance, and it helps to develop strong, supple muscles as well as healthy joints and tendons.
Declawing a Healthy Cat
Cat owners who are concerned about their cat scratching their furniture may believe that declawing is the best answer. Some vets agree, while others believe that putting the cat to sleep is the only option. Some vets also offer routine declaws as a "combination" with spay/neuter operation, claiming that the cat only has to be sedated once.
Many individuals, like this writer, think that declawing is a cruel surgery that provides no benefit to the cat, unlike spaying and neutering, which has both medical and social advantages. Take a look at the illustration below. Imagine a guillotine slicing off the entire first toe joints. That is what declawing is all about: a needless procedure when there are so many more compassionate options. An immunocompromised individual may be advised by a medical expert to "get rid of the cat" or declaw it. There are no two instances similar, and each person must make his or her own decisions. That, in my opinion, is one of the few valid justifications for declawing (The other is emergency surgery to repair a badly injured foot.)
A Healthy Cat's Coat
A healthy cat's coat should be clean, lustrous, and free of mats, regardless of whether it's called "hair" or "fur." A balanced diet will help keep your cat's coat glossy. A cat fed "grocery store" food will frequently acquire a dry, coarse coat. I've read several accounts of cats' coats changing dramatically after a few weeks of eating premium cat food. All of the "coat supplements" in the world will pale in comparison to a superior diet fed on a daily basis.
Hairballs, Mats, and Grooming
Unless a cat is on the show circuit, he will almost never need human assistance with washing. Cats perform an outstanding job of grooming their fur throughout the day with many, brief grooming sessions. The barbs on their tongues work as fine-toothed combs, cleaning individual hairs while also removing loose hairs, preventing matting. Unfortunately, the cat swallows those loose hairs, which can clump together and create terrible hairballs, which can lead to intestinal blockage if not avoided. Longhair cats and cats with deep undercoats are more likely to produce hairballs, although no cat is completely free of them.
Unsightly, Painful Mats
If you catch minor mats early enough, you can rapidly deal with them. Here's how to remove a cat's mat. In senior that can't effectively groom particular portions of their body, large hair mats can form fast. Mats are not only unappealing to look upon, but they are also unpleasant for these cats. They irritate the skin and make it difficult for a cat to lie down in a natural position. The image of an elderly cat sleeping sitting up is a warning flag for probable mats if you've somehow overlooked them. They are not only uncomfortable, but they also serve as a breeding ground for fleas, skin irritation, and fungal diseases.
Hair mats, hairballs, and skin issues may all be avoided with a consistent grooming routine. Examine and clean your cat's ears, if necessary; claw cutting; examine and wash your cat's teeth; and brush or combing your cat's coat. Try the following intervals:
- Combing/Brushing: Daily
- Tooth Cleaning: At least twice a week
- Claw Trimming: Twice a Month; more often as needed
- Ear Exam: Monthly; Cleaning only as needed