Have you ever seen a cat sprawled out, soaking up every available inch of sunlight, and asked yourself, “Why cats are so flexible?”
It’s likely you’ve heard of the feline-inspired cat pose in yoga. If you’ve spent time around cats, you’ve seen how they can contort themselves in some truly inspired positions.
Yet besides making them the stars of some hilarious Instagram videos, what’s the point? Why are they so flexible? And what allows cats to stretch like that?
We asked the resident cat veterinarians at Catonsville Cat Clinic just why cats are so flexible, and these are the answers they shared.
Why A Cat’s Body Is So Flexible
We’ll start first with what it is about a cat’s body that makes it so flexible.
A Cat’s Spine
Why can cats stretch out in such long, abnormal positions?
Because felines have an elastic, flexible spine, one that makes ours look downright static by comparison.
This flexibility allows them to get into a number of stretch poses, sleep in odd shapes, and curl up in curious spaces in our homes and apartment.
A Cat’s Shoulders
Interesting anatomy time – for dogs and humans, our shoulders are attached to our body by bone. For cats, their shoulder blades are attached by muscles. This adaptation allows them to lengthen their body and also improve their flexibility.
You can perceive this when they walk, too, as their shoulder blades move along with their stride. With this loose movement, they are more prepared to pounce at any prey.
A Cat’s Vertebrae
If you’re asking why cats are so flexible, it helps to know that they have 53 vertebrae. Humans? A measly 33.
With nearly double the vertebrae, it’s no surprise that cats can contort and rotate their body nearly 180°.
Us humans? A measly 90° (and even less if you’ve spent the whole day stuck to your desk chair).
A Cat’s Collarbone
Another unique feline adaptation that improves flexibility is their tiny collarbone. This allows them to flatten their bodies down into tight spaces or crouch into pouncing position, all while keeping a low profile.
What Is The Point Of Cat’s Being So Flexible?
Now that we’ve discussed the mechanics of what physiologically makes a cat so flexible, it’s time to ask the most reasonable follow-up question: what’s the point?
Cats Love To Ambush
If you’ve ever had your ankles preyed upon by a cat in the night, you know just how much cats love ambushing. With their flexible bodies, they’re basically tailor-made to catch prey, pounce, and stalk.
While that’s not as useful when their main prey is dry cat food, it harks back to their ancestral days of catching birds and mice (or really any day they sneak out of the house!).
As hunters, cats can lengthen their spines and extend and flex their backs to create a long stride that enables them to reach bursts of up to 30 mph for short periods.
Cats Love To Stay Clean
A cat’s flexibility is more than just making it the perfect rat-catching machine. It’s also for keeping them clean.
This 180° rotating torso makes it easier for them to reach their body and get rid of odors. (And that’s why those of us stuck with 90° rotating torsos have to keep taking showers.)
Cats Love To Show Off
Well, this might be more of our cat doctors personifying! What we actually mean by cats showing off is that their flexibility and agility keeps them safe.
The saying about cats always landing on their feet is made true by this spine and body structure that helps our felines brace for impacts after long jumps or falls.
From a high surface, be it a tree or a table, your cat arches its spine, extends its legs, then begins to bend and collapse them to absorb the impact when landing.
Cats Love To Balance
That curling, evocative tail is also part of a cat’s flexibility.
As an extension of its spine, the tail helps your cat walk along narrow places – think that impossibly thin fence – without falling off to the sides.
Get All Your Cat Questions Answered At Catonsville Cat Clinic
At the Catonsville Cat Clinic, our cat doctors are here to help you with everything cat-related.
Whether you’re looking to schedule your kitten’s first shots or are new in town and searching for the right cat veterinarian for you, we hope you’ll get in touch with us today to find out more about the services we can provide to you and your cat.