by Barbara George – Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
Walking is a 4-beat gait, with one foot off the ground at a time. The legs on one side are moved, back first, then the front, then the legs on the other side are moved in the same way, back first, then front. The back foot is placed as close as possible to where the front foot was; this provides a solid footing for the back paw, ensures the cat is moving quietly, saves him from looking where it is going, so he can concentrate on looking forward. This form of movement is called direct registering.
Paws are flexible, and claws are retracted when walking so as not to make a noise. Soft fur between the toes also helps to cushion the steps. A cat’s weight is distributed over all four paws, which also helps to make for softer treading.
Cats are not designed for walking long distances at a stretch, although they can cover a reasonable distance in a day. Walking uses energy, which they need for other activities. Stealthy, slow walking uses more energy and concentration than relaxed walking.
Pacing is faster than walking, and is a two-beat gait, with both legs on one side off the ground at the same time.
Fast pacing is a diagonal gait, with opposite back and front legs off the ground at the same time.
When running, both front legs leave the ground at the same time, but one will land slightly before the other, then both back legs leave the ground, again one landing slightly before the other. Cats that have long back legs may land their back legs in front of their front legs, giving them extra propulsion and distance for each stride.
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