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Do Cats Walk on Their Toes?

By The Daily Cat experts

Do Cats Walk on Their Toes?

Cats are digitigrade mammals, meaning they do, in fact, walk on their toes. Humans and bears, conversely, are plantigrade mammals. We walk on the soles of our feet, with the toes only touching the ground briefly toward the end of each step. This is evident when you look at footprints. Let’s say you step in some ink and walk across the floor. Your footprint will consist of your sole -- front and back -- with maybe a lesser mark left behind by your toes.

If your cat stepped in ink, you would clearly see its palm pad and five toes in its footprints. With less foot touching the surface, your cat experiences less friction and conserves more upward energy. Cats and other digitigrade animals therefore tend to be very fast runners, according to Jinny Johnson and John Burton, authors of the book Animal Tracks and Signs. They point out that, as cats walk or run, they usually retract their claws into sheaths, leaving behind just the smooth, small toes and footpad. It’s no wonder that cats can tiptoe near us almost in silence. Dogs and foxes, like cats, are also toe-walkers.

Horses, donkeys and zebras are known as hoof-walkers. They just have one hoof-covered “toe” on each foot. This gives them good traction for navigating steep or otherwise difficult-to-traverse surfaces, yet they can run fast too.

Cloven hoof–walkers, such as deer and cattle, possess four toes on each foot. Two of these have tough, split hooves. The hooved toes are used most of the time, with the other two toes often lifted off the ground. I like to think of these as four-wheel-drive animals, since the other two toes only go into action when the animal is walking on a soft surface, like deep snow.

The next time you see an animal, pay attention to its feet and toes. They can tell you a lot about how that animal moves and where its ancestors mostly lived.

Tags: cat behavior

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Posted on April 30, 2012

burcu says: I do love some cats, their independence and aduttite I find very appealing, especially Siamese and blue Burmese and I miss having them around (allergic hubby). Though my mum loves cats more and after she turned up at my place recently with her knitting wrapped in a (cat) tea towel I'd love to give her a cat project bag. Both prints are gorgeous Fee!

Posted on April 30, 2012

Puja says: I just LOVE cats! I'd like to gather all the unoelvd cats in the world, and put them in a basket, and roll around in them (not squashing them of course!) and out them in cute bow ties, and love them and hug them! I just LOVE cats (sniff!)(ok, I know, I'm cheating, heh!)

Posted on April 30, 2012

Mary says: Well I love cats currently have 3. Life is ioenmplcte without their furry bodies. I love knitting which is becoming more apparant as I look around my house and see wips and stash in all sorts of places.The fabric on the right is awesome and there is always room for another craft bag!

Posted on June 8, 2012

Norma says: Cats always seem to love tnkiag over things. Every single box that comes into the house has to be sat in by each of my cats for at least 15 minutes each before they decide who it belongs to. And my chubby cat has decided that my shoe shelf is really his secret hideaway.

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