Why Are My Cat’s Front Legs Shorter Than the Back?

When you’re looking at your cat, one of the things you may notice is that their back legs are longer than their front legs. If that difference is quite pronounced, it may even have you worried that somethings wrong. Let’s go over why your cat is built this way and put your mind at ease. 

So, why are my cat’s front legs shorter than the back? The simple answer is because all cats have slightly longer back legs. The difference between their front and back legs will be more noticeable in certain breeds, and if you have a young cat, you may start to notice it more as they grow.

Having longer back legs is just a part of your cat’s biology. It’s also one of those things you might not notice until you get a cat of your own, so it’s perfectly normal to be thrown by it. But, rest assured, those long back legs are actually beneficial to your cat in many ways. 

Why Are Back Legs Longer on Cats?

If you’re just bringing a new cat into your house, you’re probably spending a lot of time looking at, petting, and playing with them. They’re just so cute, who could help it? While you’re fussing over your new pet, you may find yourself noticing different things about your cat’s body and wondering if they’re normal. 

If you’re an anxious pet owner, you’ll probably notice even more. It’s easy to find yourself stressing over every little thing. One thing that may have surprised you is seeing the difference in length between their cat’s front and back legs.

But rest assured, this is not something you need to worry over. Most cats have slightly longer hind legs than the front, and there’s a good reason for this. Looking at it from an evolutionary standpoint, the longer back legs give the cat a significant advantage. It comes into play when cats are leaping and attacking prey. 

When a cat jumps, its front legs leave the ground first. The front legs aim to help the cat land safely, but it’s the back legs that give power behind each jump. The hind-legs push off the ground and are what really pushes the cat into the air.

Because of this, the longer the back legs are (within reason), the better. The longer muscular hind legs increase the amount of force that they can apply to each jump. 

You can see this form each time your cat jumps. They’ll usually set their eyes on the point they wish to reach, angle their front body towards it, then the front paws come up just before the back legs push them the rest of the way. 

The strong muscles and length of the back legs help your cat to jump distances many times longer than its own body length. In fact, per pound, a domesticated cat is stronger than a tiger. Most of that strength is carried in their hindquarters. That’s right; your fluffy little friend is packing quite a bit of power in its legs. 

Your domesticated cat’s legs’ structure is actually quite similar to what a wild cat like a lion, tiger, or leopard has. They’ve evolved from the same biological need to hunt and pounce at prey.

Any cat owners have seen the leaps these critters can make. You may be amazed and dismayed as your cat easily jumps from the floor onto the bed, couch, counter, and practically anywhere it pleases. In the wild, this strength helps them to capture prey. While domesticated, it more likely helps them get into mischief in all areas of the house. 

Normal Variance in Cat Breeds

Depending on your cat’s breed, the difference between its front and back legs can be more or less pronounced. So, there’s also no need to worry if your cat’s front and rear legs are relatively similar. 

For example, you may notice this difference more in breeds like Bengal cats, Manx Cats, and Oriental Shorthairs. 

It’s perhaps the most significant in the Egyptian Mau. These beautiful felines are the fastest domesticated cat breed. And because of their speed, it’s no coincidence that they also have some of the longer back legs. 

With other shorter cat breeds, you may not ever notice the difference in their leg length. 

Cats also walk and stand in a somewhat crouched position with their back legs slightly bent most of the time. If you look at a cat skeleton or just take a close look at your cat moving, you can see this bending yourself. The back legs bend close to the hip and again towards the middle of the leg. Meanwhile, the shorter front legs are kept more straight. 

Big cats have the same bent posture. This crouched position is unique to felines. Some people believe it’s to help them in stalking and pouncing on prey.

The way they position their bodies usually keeps the back relatively flat, so the difference in leg length isn’t noticeable. Because cats are generally a little crouched, you may not even see the difference until they stretch or straighten out more. 

Movement in Cats

With all that being said, if you’re noticing a big difference in your cat’s legs, you may want to look into it. The first thing to look out for is if their movement seems to be at all hindered. 

Cats are usually quite agile, so if you notice your cat stumbling a lot, you’ll want to pay attention. Of course, it’s much more typical for young kittens or older cats to slip now and then. So, make some allowance for that.

In general, cats have five different modes of movement. These are the walk, the trot, the pace, the canter, and the run. Here’s a quick rundown of what those will look like:

– The walk is the most normal pace that you’ll commonly see your cat using. If all their legs are working comfortably, they’ll move forward with their front legs and diagonal back legs moving in unison. It sounds complicated, but it comes naturally to cats, and they make it look quite graceful. 

– The trot is slightly speedier and happens when your cat has its eyes on something and tries to get there quickly. You can tell the difference because your cat’s head will be slightly lowered, and they’ll move faster. 

– The pace is another relaxed movement, but the front and back legs on the same side move in unison in this motion. 

– The canter is somewhere between the walk and the trot. At this speed, the cat still has at least one foot on the ground. 

– The run is where you’ll see your cat taking full advantage of their back legs to propel them forward. At this speed, they’ll sometimes be fully in the air touching down with two or more paws at a time to keep the momentum going. 

If you’re noticing your cat stumbling over either their back or front legs during these typical movements, you may want to speak to your vet. There’s never any harm in double-checking at your next visit. 

When to Worry

If you notice your cat stumbling or that its legs seem to be in pain, it could be due to angular limb deformities, an injury, or another condition. Angular limb deformity is used to describe a difference in bone shape from what’s expected. 

Look out for signs such as limping, being unable to run or jump, having consistent pain in certain areas, or having a reduced range of motion. As your cat gets older, it could also be at risk of arthritis due to angular limb deformities.

Sometimes cats are born with these deformities. Other cats may get them during a growth spurt or develop them after a traumatic injury. The severity and treatment of these deformities vary greatly. 

So, even if you’re noticing something off in your cat’s gait, don’t panic. Just set up a vet appointment and wait for an expert opinion. It could just be a small injury that heals with time. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, if you’re noticing your cat’s long back legs, it’s probably nothing to worry about. They may seem more prominent as your cat grows or when they’re in certain positions, but keep in mind that back legs are stronger and longer in most cats. And this actually helps them to be the quick, agile creatures that we all know and love. 

There’s no cause for concern unless you notice your cat walking strange, stumbling, or otherwise seeming to be in pain or discomfort. At which point, it’d be best just to get them to a vet for a check-up. 

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