Cats have an interesting posture and obviously, their anatomy is very different from ours.
An interesting question that often comes up when talking about how cats walk and climb is, “do cats have shoulders?”
I can confirm that cats do have shoulders, but they don’t use their shoulders in the same way as we do…
Do Cats Have Shoulders or Hips?
When we think about shoulders, we typically think about our arms and how they attach to our bodies and connect to our shoulders.
But, cats have four legs, right? So, does this mean they have four hips?
No, it doesn’t.
For cats, their rear limbs attach to their pelvis or hips, and their front limbs attach to their body a little bit higher up, to bones called scapulas.
We also have scapula bones, they’re called our shoulder blades!
So, despite having four legs, cats do have shoulders, yes.
But their anatomy is very different from ours and they don’t use them in the same way.
Cats rely on their hips and back legs to support most of their weight when walking and climbing.
While they use their front limbs similar to how we use our arms, they pick stuff up with them, take swipes at things, etc.
This is why you’ll often see them ‘stretching out’ by reaching their front paws out – they’re trying to loosen up their shoulders!
Where Is a Cats Shoulder?
If you take a look at the picture of the cat below, you can see that the shoulder is the topmost joint in the front limb.
Unlike humans, cats’ forelimbs are attached to their shoulders by free-floating clavicle bones.
This is the case with a lot of animals, like rodents, that need (or want) to squeeze through tight spaces as it allows cats to make their bodies narrower than their shoulder width.
Cats still have humerus bones (our upper arm bones) attached to radius bones (one of the bones in our forearms), then toes (our hands and fingers).
But you only have to observe a cat walking to see how they’re using these bones more as legs than arms, it’s fairly obvious.
In simple terms; you can also look at a cat as having two legs and two arms if you stand them up on their hind legs.
Their back legs are similar to our legs, and their front legs are similar to our arms with their scapula bones where you’d expect our shoulder blades to be.
What Are Cats Shoulders Called?
Interestingly, cats’ shoulder bones are called scapulas, which is the same word as our shoulder blades.
The reason why these bones are not called shoulders is simply that cats do not use them in the same way as we use our shoulders – neither do their scapula bones act the same.
If you think about it, we rely on our shoulders for things like carrying bags, moving heavy objects, and many other tasks that are essential in our day-to-day lives.
Cats, on the other hand, don’t have to do any of that!
They rely on their back legs and hips to do most of the work when it comes to walking and climbing.
So, while cats do have shoulders, they’re not really used for anything other than attaching the front limbs to the body.
Why Are Cats So Flexible?
One of the reasons cats are so flexible is because they don’t have to use their shoulders for anything else other than attaching their front limbs.
This means that their shoulder joints are very mobile and can move in all directions, which gives them a lot of flexibility when it comes to moving around.
It also helps them when they’re climbing as they can move their limbs into all sorts of positions to grip onto things.
In addition to this, their spines are able to rotate more and move more freely than us and most other animals.
Do Cats Have 4 Legs or 2 Legs and 2 Arms?
As I’ve explained, cats have four legs like most other animals, but they also have two front limbs which act as arms.
When you stand a cat up on their hind legs, they look like they have two legs and two arms – just like us!
This is because their front limbs are attached to their body by free-floating clavicle bones, which allows them to move their limbs into all sorts of positions.
Their shoulder blades (scapula bones) are also where you’d expect our shoulder blades to be.
They even have 4 toes on each of their back paws, and 5 toes on each of their front paws just like they have thumbs!
Related – Do cats have opposable thumbs?
So, do cats have shoulders?
Yes, they do!
But a cat’s anatomy is very different from ours. You probably haven’t heard people referring to a cat’s shoulders before as they don’t use them in the same way as we use ours.
Image credits – Photo by Erik-Jan Leusink on Unsplash