Tuesday 31 October 2023

Cat direct register gait seen brilliantly in the snow

Direct register cat gait is seen clearly when walking in quite deep snow. Image: MikeB from screenshot taken from video below on Twitter.

The domestic cat walks with direct register which means that cats place their hind paws directly in the same spot where their front paws landed. This creates a narrow track with overlapping pawprints in the snow as you can see. The reasons why cats and in fact many other animals do this is because of the reasons set out below the video.

Stealth and balance. It allows the cat to move silently and precisely. They minimise the amount of noise and of course disturbance that they make while walking. And in the snow, it is probably quite important because walking in the snow can be quite noisy and if the hind paws registered directly with the forepaws they don't go into the snow. They are silent.

It looks like this cat has walked along this snow track before and returned, using the exact same positions for his or her feet.

Cats instinctively walk silently and stealthily because they are one of the world's most skilled hunters. And when hunting they need to go undetected.

Direct register walking also helps in maintaining balance particularly when the cat is walking along a narrow surface or along a branch for instance.

Energy conservation. With a gait in direct register, the cat as a skilled predator can move more efficiently and they can conserve energy. They minimise the distance travelled by their bodies' center of mass between each step. This minimises their movement and reduces unnecessary movements which allows them to retain energy for more important activities such as a surge in speed when hunting or escaping larger predators.

And also, it goes without saying when looking at this video and the still image that walking in direct register provides a kind of camouflage for the cat's presence. The cat leaves a narrower and less conspicuous trail. This makes it more challenging for a predator of cats to detect and attack them.

The direct register gait of cats applies to walking. Cats do not maintain a direct register gait when they are running. They transition to a form of movement called the "rotary gallop". This form of movement allows them to move much faster while the direct register method of walking is mainly used for slower, stealthy movements. The rotary gallop is used for quick bursts of speed when hunting over a short distance after the stealthy approach.
P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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