Cats are amazing creatures – fast yet light-feet and steady but amazingly mobile. With such unique characteristics, it is normal to wonder if cats have legs and share the same anatomy structures as humans.
The simple answer is yes – the cat’s legs (front and rear) follow the same concept as the human’s. They are built similarly and work in the same way. To address our main topic, cats have knees, elbows, and ankles.
As quadrupeds, cats can be confusing in terms of the number of legs and leg structures they have. This might sound like debunking a popular myth, but cats only have two knees, two elbows, and two ankles. These joints are the same as in humans when it comes to function, but there are slight anatomical and physiological differences.
Keep reading, as we will talk about knees, elbows, and ankles in our feline friends – their structure, function, comparison with humans, and common health conditions.
Cat Knees vs. Human Knees
Just like people, cats have two knees located in the rear legs. However, what most cat owners assume is the knee is actually the beginning point of the cat’s elongated foot, since compared to humans the cat’s knees are set much higher.
Plus, people are often confused with the right nomenclature regarding the cat’s joints. This is because the joints on the front and rear legs are bent in the same way. Do not get by the different angles – cats have two knees, one on each rear leg.
What about knee caps?
While on the topic of knees, let’s say a word or two about an intriguing structure – the kneecap. The kneecap (also known as patella) is a small and triangular bone that provides leverage for the different knee structures.
Just like in humans, the knee cap in cats is responsible for keeping the rear leg’s construction in balance and is under constant pressure.
The kneecap is proof that cats have two hind legs and, therefore, two knees. Simply stated, cats have kneecaps only on the rear legs, thus confirming the structural and functional distinction between the front and back limbs.
Cat Elbows vs. Human Elbows
Both cats and people have two elbows, but once again, the difference is their position. Namely, the elbows in cats are set much higher on the limb than in humans. They are located at around two thirds of the leg’s length.
Many people mistakenly refer to the cat’s elbows as knees. As mentioned, this is because they follow the same bending angle as the knee joints. However, that angle is the only thing these separate joints have in common.
When it comes to function, elbows are the same in all species. Just like in humans, they provide stability and enable mobility of the front legs.
Cat Ankles vs. Human Ankles
This is another anatomical structure cats, and humans share. Compared to the knees and elbows, which are differently set, positioned, and bent than in humans, the ankles are pretty much the same in the two species.
They are located just above the toes. The term ankle is used when referring to the rear legs and the term wrist when describing the front legs. The ankle and wrist joints are considered complex because they consists of five different bones. Obviously, bigger cats have thicker bones and stronger ankles and wrists.
Finally, in terms of function, compared to humans the cat’s ankles are set higher which results in bigger involvement in the walking process.
Do All Cats Have Knees, Elbows, and Ankles?
Yes, all cats have knees, elbows, and ankles. These anatomical structures are critical for skeleton stability and normal mobility and do not depend on individual factors like breed, age, size, and sex.
From the tiny Singapora to the robust Siberian, all cats have the same skeleton anatomy, which, of course, includes the different joints of the front and hind legs.
Common Disorders Of The Cat’s Knees And Elbows
Joint conditions and injuries are common in cats. Unfortunately, they are usually serious and warrant proper and prompt veterinary attention. Here is a short overview of some of the most commonly diagnosed knee and elbow ailments.
Defined as progressive and painful inflammation of the joints, arthritis is likely to develop in any cat over time. As an age-related issue, arthritis cannot be prevented, but it can be managed and delayed. There is an array of options for arthritis management – from joint supplements and CBD oil to prescription medications and surgical procedures.
Joint dislocations can occur on the front leg – affecting the elbow and the hind leg – affecting the patella. Elbow dislocations in cats are relatively rare, but patellar luxation (or sliding knee caps) is quite common. Minor dislocation can heal on its own, but a more intense luxation requires veterinary attention and management.
Elbow dysplasia is an umbrella term referring to various anatomical and structural abnormalities of the elbow. However, the most common form of elbow dysplasia in cats is a medial coronoid disease. The condition can be managed with medications and nutritional support, but to prevent complications, it is best to seek help from a veterinary surgeon.
Cruciate ligament rupture
Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) ruptures are common in felines as the cat’s knees are always under slight pressure (their bending is a telltale sign). When a cat limps on a rear leg, the first thing that comes to mind is an injured cruciate ligament. Because the condition is so prevalent, most surgical techniques are considered routine and have encouraging success rates.
Fractures of the patella
Patellar fractures in cats are common and usually occur as part of a more severe condition called Patellar fracture and dental anomaly syndrome (PADS). The first patellar fracture can occur early in life when the cat is between 3 and 4 months of age. However, in most cases, the other patella gets fractured too after some time. Patellar fractures can be treated conservatively (rest and meds) and surgically.
Because of the complex composition ankle fractures are a tricky type of injury in cats. Depending on the exact location and whether it affects other bones or not, a broken ankle may be able to heal on its own or require extensive corrections and repeated surgical procedures. An ankle fracture almost always results in limping and pain.
Little Known Facts About Cat Joints
There is a popular belief that cats have four knees because they are quadrupeds (walk on four limbs). However, this is not true – cats have only two knees because they have two rear legs.
Fact # 2
The elbows in cats are also known as hinge joints and the knees as condylar joints. These terms describe the joint type and structure. In animals, the knee is also called the stifle joint.
Fact # 3
The cat’s knee joint is the weakest joint in the body. This is because it lacks bone locking and is stabilized only with ligaments.
Fact # 4
Cats have whiskers on the backside of their wrists. These whiskers help the cat stay stable when climbing and gather information during contact with prey.
Cat anatomy can be confusing and lessons on the subject are not much different. To keep things clear and simple we are giving you the short answer – cats have knees and elbows. And just like people, they have two knees on the back legs and two elbows on the front legs.
Ankles are another tricky topic and once again we are here simplify the complex issue- cats have two ankle joints on the hind legs and two ankles or wrists on the front legs.
Sadly, same as with people, joint problems are common, especially in older cats. To keep your cat’s knees and elbows strong, healthy, and mobile talk to your vet about joint supplements and physical exercises. If there is an emergency and your cat starts limping do not hesitate to seek immediate veterinary help.
Happy Cat Parenting!
Please Share Your Thoughts in the Comments Below!