The cat’s skeletal pattern is similar to that of other mammals, although there are some differences reflecting its hunter lifestyle, such as its short, rounded skull. The bones are largely made up of calcium, and so any dietary deficiencies of this mineral, or vitamin D3 which regulates its absorption in the body, can have dire consequences for the cat’s health. However, today’s cats are more at risk of fractures from traffic accidents, rather than dietary deficiencies.
- The cat’s skeleton is made up of approximately 250 bones.
- The skeleton, as with any vertebrate, is what gives the body of a cat its structure.
- The agility of cats is such that they rarely break bones in a fall, unless tumbling from a great height.
The wide use of commercially-prepared foods has greatly reduced the nutritional problems which can affect the cat’s skeleton. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using fresh meat for feeding your cat, but ensuring that cats receive a properly balanced diet is much more difficult under these circumstances.
- Bone acts as the body’s calcium store. It can be broken down and reabsorbed into the blood stream, if the dietary levels are low. This process is controlled by the hormones produced by the parathyroid glands, located in the neck.
- Calcium is also important for muscular movement, which is why involuntary muscular twitching may be an indication of a deficiency of this mineral.
Too much liver in the diet, for example, results in the condition known as hypervitaminosis A. Excessive amounts of vitamin A in a cat’s food will lead to abnormal bone development in the neck area, ultimately causing the vertebrae to fuse together. This is a very painful condition which also results in lameness. Unfortunately, once symptoms are apparent, it is difficult to reverse the changes, even once the cat’s diet has been improved.
CAT ACCIDENT CARE
If your cat has been involved in an accident, it should always be checked over by a vet as soon as possible because the signs of injury are variable.
You may have cause to suspect a fracture if your cat is having difficulty in walking or its jaw is hanging at an unusual angle. These are the areas of the body which are most vulnerable to fractures. An X-ray will enable the vet to assess the severity of the fracture and appropriate action can then be taken to repair the skeletal damage.
I think my cat has fractured its leg. Should I try to splint it before contacting the vet?
No. It is likely to distress your cat, who will already be in pain. Also, if your pet struggles, fitting a splint may worsen the injury. So just take your cat to the vet without delay, where it can be given an anaesthetic if necessary, and properly examined.
Is it true that cats can suffer from rickets?
This rare condition is usually seen in kittens that are born indoors during the winter to mothers receiving a diet deficient in Vitamin D3.
Are some foods lower in calcium than others?
Beef heart is a very poor source of calcium. Kittens, with their high need for calcium, will show symptoms of a deficiency within weeks if fed only on this food.