A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Words with Webster: Digitigrade, Plus Friendly Fill-Ins

We have two fun Friday features for you today. First up is Real Cat Webster, who has a footsy word to share. After that, it’s on to Friendly Fill-Ins!

Words with Webster

Words with WebsterHi, everybody! It’s me, Real Cat Webster. Welcome to Words with Me. Today’s word is “digitigrade.” I picked this word because Mommy was looking up some stuff about cats and she found the word and couldn’t pronounce it (no, Mommy, it’s not “digigratitudey”!) and I thought that was funny. So I looked in my favorite dictionary (Merriam-Webster’s) and found out that our word means
(of an animal) walking upon the digits with the posterior part of the foot more or less raised.
In other words, it means walking on the toes. That is what cats do (and dogs and some other mammals too). The Oxford English Dictionary says it more plainly:
That walks on the toes.
The OED also says that “digitigrade” used to refer to
the former tribe Digitigrada of carnivorous mammals, including dogs, cats, mongooses, weasels, etc., whose members walk on their toes (obs.)
The tribe Digitigrada was part of French zoologist Georges Cuvier's classification system. Cuvier (1769-1832) studied paleontology and comparative anatomy and had an idea he called the "correlation of parts." This meant that the structure of one of an animal's organs was functionally related to all its other organs, and those structures and functions developed from how the animal interacted with the environment. Others thought it was the other way around: that an animal's anatomy dictated how it lived.*

Getting back to our word, it looks like "digitigrade" was first used in print in 1827. This quote is from 1833:
The legs also are completely digitigrade; that is to say, the heel is elevated, and does not come into contact with the surface... Digitigrade animals, which tread only upon the toes … have much longer legs than plantigrade animals. (Penny Cyclopedia I.4)
The English word “digitigrade” was borrowed directly from French and ultimately comes from the Latin digitus (“finger”) and -gradus (a suffix meaning “stepping, walking”).

So maybe one reason cats move so quietly is because we’re always walking on our tippy-toes!

Siamese cat standing. Photo via Adobe Stock
This Siamese cat demonstrates the feline digitigrade walking technique.
Photo via Adobe Stock.

* "Georges Cuvier," Encyclopedia Britannicahttps://www.britannica.com/biography/Georges-Cuvier

Friendly Fill-Ins

Friendly Fill-InsAnd now it’s time for Friendly Fill-Ins, from 15andmeowing and McGuffy’s Reader. They are a fun way to learn a little bit about the authors of the blogs you read. The first two questions, answered by Real Cat Paisley this week, are from Ellen of 15andmeowing, and the next two, answered by old SoLT, are from Annie of McGuffy’s Reader.

Real Cat Paisley’s answers:

1. When I am nervous, I hide somewhere safe and take a nap until I feel better.

2. When I am angry, I hiss at whoever ticked me off (usually Webster, because sometimes boys are just annoying).

Old SoLT’s answers:

3. Today, I know for sure that these days I’m more comfortable admitting I don’t know much than thinking I know anything for sure.

4. For St. Patrick’s day, I don’t usually do anything special. I don’t even wear green, and I am part Irish! I do think about my Irish ancestors and wish I knew more about them, but I do that even when it's not St. Paddy's Day.


  1. Number 1. there is what I do too!

  2. That was an interesting word today, Webster. I hadn't heard of it before.

  3. We've never heard that word before either. Great Fill-ins!

    The Florida Furkids

  4. We like that word and our Mom said the information on it was fascinating! She might even use it one or twice, but probably only to show off some smarts. Great fill-ins this week!

  5. Cats are amazing creatures. I remember reading that if your cat stops walking digitigrade, that's a sign of diabetes. Kitty was diabetic for five years or so and I never noticed that.

  6. Thank you for teaching me a new word Webster. And thank young SALT and Paisley for these great fill-in answers. I wish I could hiss when I was mad at someone- maybe I should try it. I feel the same about #3, the older I get, the more I realize how little I know. Have a great weekend! Do something for St. Patrick's Day- maybe a shamrock shake from McDonalds? XO

  7. Wow, I had never heard that word before! (Paisley, would you believe Mudpie never hisses? Of course she also doesn't have a brother...)

  8. It is amazing the words you come up with that we have never heard of!
    I always wear green today, even though I have no Irish in me. It was my Dad's birthday - who also had no Irish - but he always made us celebrate it (the holiday, as well as his birthday)! :)
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  9. I knew that cats walked on their toes...but I did not know there was a word for it! and we liked your fill-ins. I too am part Irish. When I was a kid we were not allowed to wear green as we were "Orange Men".
    Love Barb

  10. Which is why it's a sin to 'declaw' cats...they walk on stumps for the rest of their lives!