LIVING IN YOUR PET’S WORLD: Ever study your cat’s walk?

Have you ever taken the time to watch how your cat walks? I ask because for the last few weeks I’ve been watching Pip, our 3-year-old domestic short hair, walk as we play with his wand toys and the laser pointer.

I understand some of you may be thinking, “I’d rather watch paint dry.”

But the topic is actually less sleep-inducing than it might appear at first glance.

Consider that with two legs, humans are fairly limited walkers, and as a paraplegic, my ability to “walk” is even more limited. Pip’s four legs, however, allow him more movement patterns than all of us.

Pip slips around the wheels of my chair easily and can just as easily jump in my lap as down to the floor. His flexible ankles help him land squarely on his paws.

According to, cats walk on the balls of their feet and on their toes – digitigrade walking.

Vanessa Salvia further explains digitigrade walking at “A cat’s front legs carry approximately 60% of its body weight. A cat walks on its toes, which means the fleshy, hairless pads on the bottom of its paws.”

This stance lets Pip move nimbly and quietly, so if I’m not paying attention, he’s on top of the bird at the end of the wand before I can move it. Ed, my husband, more than once has had to pull Pip off a field mouse that hasn’t seen the feline coming up behind it.

Our rescued kitty has a flexible spine that can constrict and extend. This ability allows Pip to run from the end of our hallway to the windows in the living room and jump up to touch a laser’s light beam halfway up the wall.

If you can stand the excitement, observe how your cat moves with two right legs and two left legs walking in sync. Camels and giraffes do this too, but not dogs.

As Pip walks, each paw touches the floor at a distinct time, with at least two feet at a time usually on the ground. Researchers call it a “four‑beat” because each foot leaves and hits the floor at different times. Salvia, at, noted there is no specific order of one leg starting the walk motion over another.

When Pip stops walking after the bird at the end of the wand and hunches down into his pounce stance, the wiggle coming from his rump and the swishes from his tail are thanks to a huge number of muscles enabling him to move the front and back parts of his body in reverse directions, like sliding your hands back and forth.

In a Duke University study, researchers explored the possible reasons cats don’t do well walking long distances. They discovered dogs have a much more effective pace than cats over longer distances.

That’s why Pip is better than Teddy, our Lab, at short-term running, pouncing and jumping. And while Pip loves to chase small craft pom poms thrown short distances in the living room, Teddy loves to chase tennis balls and sticks thrown longer distances in the backyard.

So much more interesting than watching paint dry, right?

When do kittens start walking?

After learning to stand, kittens will take their first steps. This is usually in their fourth week. As kittens becomes more confident in their movements they will start to follow their moms around or sometimes a mom stand-in such as a human taking care of orphan kittens.


Karin Spicer is a member of The Dog Writers Association of America. She lives with her family and two furry pets who inspire her. Karin can be reached at

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