What I Learned About Our Cat, the Ballet Dancer

I’m a cat fanatic. My favorite YouTube station: Kitten Academy. My most recent purchase: two pairs of cute cat earrings. Best of all, I wake each morning with genuine delight because I get to share my life with this handsome fellow.

As an unabashed cat lover, learning a new feline fact is very exciting.

While listening to a recent episode of The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, my ears perked during the “What’s the Word” segment of the podcast. The word was “digitigrade.” From my Italian language study it was no surprise that “digit” refers to fingers and toes. But then things got interesting.

Have you ever wondered why a cat’s knee bends in the opposite direction that a human’s knee bends?

The answer to this question is simple: a cat’s knee bends exactly the same way as a human’s. In all the years I’ve been ogling cats, I’d confused kitty’s ankle with kitty’s knee.

The anatomy of the feline leg clicked for me when I understood that cats (and their canine pals) are digitigrade animals. They walk on their toes, not on their feet like us plantigrade humans.

Kitty’s foot is perpendicular to the ground and he stands on his toes, not on his feet. It should have been obvious, but I was so deeply rooted in my experience as a human who stands on her feet that I was blind to the possibility of toe walking. It took a real shake up in perspective to realize that not all beings walk like me!

My handsome Siamese buddy trots around the house all day on his tiptoes. No wonder he moves with such swiftness and grace–he’s the ultimate ballet dancer! Thank goodness he’s willing to tolerate life with this plodding plantigrade, who loves him with all her heart.