November 2008 Issue

The Musculoskeletal System

A vast array of disorders can thwart the functioning of your cat's bones and muscles. Here's what you should know.

A healthy catís uniquely stunning physical traits ó its power, agility and lightning-fast responses to external stimuli ó are essentially attributable to its musculoskeletal system. In one way or another, this system is in operation 24 hours a day, whether a cat is hunting prey, escaping from predators, eating, drinking, napping, toying intently with a ball of yarn or digging its claws into your favorite piece of furniture. Unfortunately, cats are subject to a veritable host of disorders that can impair or totally impede the smooth operations of this impressively complex array of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and other tissues. Owners should be aware of the systemís basic structure, various functions, and signs of its impairment, such as a noticeably altered gait, an apparent weakness in the joints, and the inability to chew and swallow food easily. As is the case with other feline disorders, says Christine Bellezza, DVM, a consultant at Cornell Universityís College of Veterinary Medicineís Feline Health Center, early recognition and diagnosis of a catís musculoskeletal disorder are likely to improve the chances for its successful treatment.

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