Friday, February 3, 2012

The Musculoskeletal System: The Muscles of the Cat

From the first day a kitten is born and begins to slither towards its mother, it is attempting to control its voluntary muscles. These muscles will eventually allow the kitten to crawl, wobble, stand, walk, and even play with its littermates. The voluntary musclesare sometimes called striped or striated muscles because they exhibit longitudinal stripes. More commonly, they are called skeletal muscles because their chief function is to move the cat's skeleton from place to place. Skeletal muscles, which are secured by tendons and bones, are always arranged in pairs.

To understand how the skeletal muscles work, and why pairs are important, imagine a cat jumping. The cat must crouch down on its heels by contracting two flexor muscles, the hamstring and the tibialis. The hamstring is the muscle located behind the thigh bone while the tibialis is a muscle in front of the tibia and fibula bone. At the same time, the corresponding extensor muscles that were stretched while the hamstring and tibialis were contracting, contract themselves. This powerful contraction of all four muscles propels the cat forward, creating those gravity-defying leaps cats are so famous for.

The involuntary muscles, which are not under conscious control of the cat, are functioning even before the kitten is born. These muscles are known as smooth muscles and are found in the alimentary canal, the urinary tract, and the respiratory system, among other places.

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