In detail

On quiet paws: Why cats can sneak so well


Cats can sneak so silently with their paws that nobody hears them coming. This is a great advantage when hunting, as it allows them to stalk close to their prey unnoticed and surprise, hold on to and kill with a decisive jump. How do you do that? This pretty silver-gray tabby cat has just caught sight of a mouse and is sneaking quietly on - Shutterstock / He Shixin

As so-called toe-walkers, cats only sneak on the front of their feet. Since their paws are also softly padded and they can retract their claws, they manage to move almost silently when needed.

Cats sneak on their toes

In the animal world, a distinction is made between sole walkers, toe walkers and top walkers. Most of the peaks are ungulates, such as horses, cows, sheep, goats and pigs, but also elephants. They tiptoe like a ballet dancer doing the tip dance. To make this possible, their toes are reinforced, for hoofed animals by hooves, for elephants through a thick layer of fat and connective tissue. Like monkeys, bears, rabbits, hedgehogs and kangaroos, humans are sole walkers; that is, he puts his entire foot on from heel to toe to walk. Sole walkers have a particularly stable footing, the foot, which rests completely, gives them support. Bunnies and kangaroos also have particularly long, narrow hind feet and curved hind legs, so that they can move quickly and easily through jumps.

Humans have the opportunity to stand firmly on their feet and do something different with their "front paws", that is, their hands. In contrast to toe-walkers like the cat or the dog, we humans are quite clumsy, clumsy and comparatively clumsy when walking. Unless people sneak around "on tiptoe", then they manage to move reasonably quietly. However, this is a shaky thing because we are not used to moving on our toes and still keeping our balance. In cats, their mobility and elasticity, the special structure of their skeleton, joints and muscle connections allow them to walk safely and smoothly on the front part of their feet. They are fast and quiet at the same time. The house tigers are also able to suddenly freeze in the middle of the movement and remain still until they feel unobserved and can approach silently. The cheeky velvet paw in the following video shows how it works:

And in the next film, the mini-fur nose shows that even very small kittens can sneak as well as their adult counterparts:

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Paws are softly padded

But it's not just because cats literally tiptoe that they can sneak so silently. The soft pads on the paws also contribute to this. These are like small pillows that not only serve as shock absorbers when you step on them, but also dampen noise. However, that's not all. If you compare dogs and cats with each other, you will notice that the wolf descendants do not sneak as quietly as the house tigers and salon lions.

Cats have five toes on the front paws and four toes on the rear paws. In between there are skin pockets in which the claws of the fur noses are hidden. Your house puma can fully retract and extend its claws on the front paws, at least partially on the rear paws. The cat's claws are retracted while running so that they cannot make any scratching noises on the floor. Dogs cannot retract their claws, they are always visible - and audible when walking.