How Many Bones Does a Cat Have?

Picture of a brown Maine Coon Cat

A human adult has 206 bones in their body. By contrast, your feline friend can have anything between 230 and 250 bones. The average number for most cats is 244 by the time she gets to be an adult. 

Believe it or not, dogs have an even higher number of bones in their bodies – 319. In today’s article, we’re looking at several interesting facts about the feline osteo-skeletal system, from how many bones there are in specific parts of cats’ bodies to how you can prevent bone health problems

How many bones in a cat’s head?

There are twenty-nine bones in a cat’s skull. This number includes the skull itself, the mandible, the premaxilla, maxilla, nasal bone, lacrimal bone, zygomatic bone, frontal bone, the zygomatic process, the tympanic and squamosal one, as well as the parietal and occipital bone. 

The neck, by comparison, is made of just 7 bones – the atlas, the axis, and then the cervical vertebrae from C3 to C7. 

How many bones in a cat’s feet?

Both the front and the back paws contain as many as 18 bones, and they are called differently depending on their location. For example, the foreleg has metacarpal bones, and the hind leg has metatarsal bones.

The heels have a different number of bones in themselves – 16 – eight on each leg – (it’s very complex in humans, too!), and the toes are not included in the 18 figure that we mentioned in the first paragraph of this section. Every toe has 3 bones. 

Every wrist has 7 bones. A forelimb is made of 3 bones – the humerus, the ulna, and the radius – and the hindlimb is made of 3, as well – the femur, the tibia, and the fibula. 

How many bones in a cat’s tail?

A cat’s tail has a number of functions besides being a beautiful organ – it helps your feline friend keep their balance, take leaps, and even land on their feet when jumping from higher levels. 

Depending on the cat’s age, the tail can have anything between 18 and 23 caudal bones. 

Given that the tail is the extension of a cat’s spine, it’s worth noting that in the thoracic area, our feline friends have as many as 13 vertebrae, which means more than we do (12). Even the lumbar vertebrae are more than in people, with seven in cats and five in humans. 

The length of a cat’s spine and the superior number of bones in it gives the animal more flexibility than it does to other species. If you’ve ever seen your feline companion adopting all sorts of weird positions while spreading her body on the floor, you probably know that some of these positions would be impossible to achieve by people. 

Different types of bones

As you can imagine, the femur does not have the same characteristics as a caudal vertebra does. Cats have four main types of bones depending on their shape and size:

  • Flat bones
  • Long bones
  • Short bones
  • Irregular bones

The flat ones are present in body areas such as the shoulder, the skull, the pelvis, the ribs, and the sternum. These are all bones made for protecting the internal organs, so that’s why they have to be thinner yet wider, so they can cover a larger body region. 

Long bones are present in a cat’s body in the legs. They have the purpose of supporting the animal’s weight and ensure that he or she can move properly. 

Short bones can be found in the wrists and ankles. They’re in charge of offering the cat fine movement, as well as heaps of stability. 

As for the irregular bones that can be found in a cat’s body, their two most common locations are the spine and the skull.

What are cat bones made out of?

Bones are effectively made of two major components – collagen and calcium phosphate. Vitamin D and some other minerals and vitamins are in charge of storing calcium in the cat’s bones. While rickets is a condition a lot less common in cats than in dogs, it can still affect them if they do not get the right nutrition. 

In times of need, bones can release calcium in the bloodstream if it is necessary there and the cat doesn’t get it from his or her diet. 

While its location and amount depends largely on the shape and size of the bone, bone marrow is pretty much present in almost all bones – the flat ones have less, but they still have a good amount of vascularization on their surface and on their interior, so that they are nourished. 

Bone marrow is in charge of producing red cells and platelets, meaning a type of white blood cells. Bone marrow also contains stem cells, which are essential in some types of infection. 

Common cat bone health problems and how to prevent them

Some of the most common bone pathologies that cats can suffer from are the following:

  • Fractures
  • Bone infections
  • Rickets
  • Bone cancer
  • Polydactyly
  • Osteodystrophy

Fractures and bone infections are connected to each other as open fractures are extremely dangerous from an infectious standpoint. More often than not, they become complicated with bacteria. Bone infections are very challenging to treat. 

As previously mentioned, rickets appears as a result of a lack of vitamin D in the cat’s diet. 

Osteodystrophy is a condition that is transmitted genetically, and that has been found to affect Scottish Fold cats – they develop bone growths in the feet and the spine.

There are several types of bone cancer that cats can develop. Unfortunately, tumors of the osteo-skeletal system do not affect senior animals as other types of neoplasms tend to do. This means that even a young cat can develop bone cancer. The most common types of bone neoplasms in cats are osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and fibrosarcoma. 

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Cristina Vulpe PhD

Cristina Vulpe PhD

With a PhD in Veterinary Oncology, Dr. Cristina Vulpe loves researching and writing about the things that she’s passionate about. These range from animal nutrition and welfare to pet behavior, infectious diseases, and parasitology. In her spare time, she’s always in the company of her cat and a good book.

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