Cat Anatomy Notes– The Spine

Just got back from teaching a few weeks at the always relaxing and inspiring Animation Workshop. I agreed to do a short course in animal animation in 2D before I remembered that I haven’t animated on paper in three or four years– yikes!

They tend to ask me to teach something with animals when I go, and this time around I thought I’d have the students all do cats. I think I kind of overwhelmed people with anatomical information, which is a particular geekery of mine! When I saw people trying to get in each individual muscle in their ruffs, I tried to do a streamlined version of how to think about the anatomy for animation purposes. It’s pretty rough and random but I figured I might as well put it up here in case anyone missed the handouts.

Click on the image to get to the large version, but these are formatted for printing so they’re really huge…

There’s a few more pages, click on the “continue reading” link. At some point I should clean these up and make them make more sense! I have notes on the legs as well, if people are interested I can put those up here (at least I could when my laptop gets fixed.. motherboard, ouch! ).

This is a very introductory, superficial look at the subject, and I’d say the MOST important study would be to draw from a skeleton if you can find one, that you can see from several angles to get your head around the structure. Beyond that there’s loads of great reference online for anatomy on cats, if you have a strong stomach and can disassociate the images from your own kitty– try Saddleback College’s dissection pictures, or Dr. James Strauss’ at Penn State.


Submit a comment
  • Hi! Glad to see you’re posting. Hope your computer gets better soon!

  • Hi Sydney,
    These notes are great! Thanks for posting – maybe you should write a book!!

  • Hey! How’s everything Matt?
    Hah, yeah by the time I’ve gone through all these notes on cats I’ll pretty much have written a book!

  • Hey Syd!! Great post!! I’m practicing the cat pose right now, so its a bit awkward to type:)

  • Ooh, I’ll save these notes for Verity. She adores cats (because her babysitter has two, and they were the first real animals she associated with the soft stuffed kind). At the moment, her “cat” drawings consist of wonky circles and spirals with two arbitrarily placed dots for eyes and extravagent lines for the whiskers. (She does these with a decisive flourish). Needless to say, they do not resemble cats, but we don’t tell her this because she’s only two. The time will come when she’ll want things to look real though.

  • These notes are WONDERFUL! I have taken several animal science classes and an anatomy class, but I have never been able to fully apply it to my art. I would love to see the limbs dissected as well. 😀

  • Wow, thank you! I am currently working on a comic where I have to draw cats – something I haven’t ever done before (drawing Lion King fanart when I was 12 doesn’t count here). I don’t own a cat, either, so drawing them has been proving quite difficult for me. But this helps A LOT. It’s the most useful thing I’ve found on drawing cats until now. :)

  • Hey Sidney!
    I really love your cat studies you should propertly make a animal anatomi book or something :-)
    All the best
    Ture (former student at Viborg)

  • Thanks, this really helped with my cat anatomy! The facts presented are very interesting and explain a lot. :)

  • Thank you so much that your talent, inspires
    So many with the simple strokes of your pen
    Or pencil.

  • Great, exactly what I was looking for, excellent simplifications, Thank you.

Comments are closed.