If you’re a practitioner of yoga (maybe even cat yoga!), you’re likely familiar with Cat Pose, also known as Marjariasana. This stretch is great for increasing flexibility in your lower back and core muscles alike. Cat Pose is aptly named, for it may remind you of a feline arching her back. In fact, cats can teach us a thing or two about yoga. You may have wondered: Why are cats so flexible? Let’s find out!
Why are cats so flexible?
According to Cornell Feline Health Center, there are a couple reasons why cats evolved into such flexible animals.
Cats are ambush predators
Cats stalk, pounce on, and/or chase their prey. Therefore, they developed some very impressive hunting techniques:
- Cats lengthen their spines by alternately extending and flexing their backs, allowing for extra-long strides that give them the ability to run 20-30 mph for short bursts.
- They can narrow their shoulders and chest to squeeze into tiny spaces.
- They can jump as much as nine times their height from a standing position.
- Cats land on their feet almost every time when they fall.
Cats are fastidious cleaners
On the flip side of this, cats in the wild needed to consider that other predators might be on the prowl. One of the easiest ways for felines to avoid attracting unwanted attention is through keeping themselves clean—in other words, odor-free. A cat’s flexibility allows her to groom all parts of her body to eliminate odors.
How are cats so flexible?
We’ve established that cats have good reasons for being so flexible. But what is it about the feline body that allows it to bend, stretch, and twist so dramatically?
Cats have an incredibly elastic spine. To put this in perspective, let’s compare felines and humans:
The number of vertebrae (individual spine bone discs) that cats have—including their tail—is up to 53, while humans typically have 33. This allows cats to rotate their bodies at angles of as much as 180 degrees, while typical humans rotate their torso about 90 degrees either way.
This extreme rotation ability is one of the reasons why cats almost always manage to land on their feet.
Contrary to humans and dogs, the feline shoulder blade is attached to the rest of the body only by muscles, not by bone. This gives cats the ability to lengthen their bodies for even greater strides.
The (lack of) collarbone
Cats also have tiny collarbones, which allows them to flatten their bodies and squeeze through impossibly tight spaces.
So, now you can confidently answer: Why are cats so flexible? You probably weren’t aware you were living with a master yogi all this time—it’s a wonder that the only stretch named after felines is Cat Pose!
Speaking of Cat Pose…
Today is International Yoga Day! A few years ago, cat yoga (yoga classes with cats roaming around) became a popular fitness trend. Some dissenters viewed cat yoga as a gimmick that needed to be phased out as soon as possible. But believe it or not, cat yoga has been a beneficial means for shelter cat adoption!
Jackson Galaxy, aka “Cat Daddy”—the host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell and New York Times bestselling author—was the keynote speaker at the 2019 National Animal Welfare Conference in Montreal. At the conference, Galaxy said, “Whether it’s cat yoga, cat cafés… anything that’s public-facing that is there to entertain and build consciousness around who cats are… I’m all for it.”
If you’re interested in attending a cat yoga session, we recommend simply googling “cat yoga near me.” Chances are, you’ll only be a stone’s throw (or cat’s pounce?) away from the most adorable fitness class of your life!
Cover photo: © pelican / CC-BY-2.0