Do cats have an appendix?

Cats are often used as dissection specimens by students. Cats are used for dissection by scientists as well. Over 100,000 thousands cats are dissected by students every year. More are being dissected and studied by scientists. Cats are easily available…of manageable size and most importantly, cats have an anatomy that is similar to most mammals including humans. Of course, some differences are noted. For instance, cats do not have an appendix. The absence of appendix though would not affect the quality of life of the pet. In humans, appendix has no function. It is even considered as a troublesome pouch. In humans, the appendix can swell and get infected. Appendicitis is a condition that typically requires a surgical procedure.

The appendix is a blind-ended tube or a finger-like pouch connected to the first part of the large intestine called cecum. Appendix is also called vermiform because it appears like a worm that is attached to the colon. Vermiform is the Latin word that means “worm-shaped”. In humans, this pouch-like structure that ranges from 2 to 20 cm in length and is between 7 and 8 cm in diameter is located in the lower right side of the abdomen. This structure has no known function in humans. Appendix can be removed without causing unwanted effects on the health of the person. In some animals, appendix has an important function. The fermentation of the contents of the intestines occurs in the cecum. The periodic contraction of the cecum causes the fermented ingested matter to be pushed into the colon where it will be excreted as fecal matter. It was once believed that the appendix of these animals serves as a storage for bacteria that helps in hindgut fermentation. In humans, appendix is a vestigial structure. This means that through the process of evolution, the appendix has lost is original function.

Appendix has no function in humans. As cats and humans have an almost the same anatomy, it is highly possible that if cats have appendix they would get no benefits from the structure too. Cat owners should be glad and thankful that cats do not have appendix. As cats do not have this structure they are free from getting appendicitis, a health concern that requires an emergency surgical procedure. Appendicitis develops when the appendix gets inflamed. As mentioned, appendix is a blind ended tube that is attached to the colon. Stool can get trapped in the appendicial lumen. Parasites and growths in the appendicial lumen can be the cause of the obstruction. Appendicitis is an emergency situation. The inflamed appendix has to be removed or it can rupture and spread the infection in the abdomen.

Humans and primates have this structure at the apex of the cecum. Rabbits and some rodents have this structure too. Fortunately, cats do not have an appendix. If they have this functionless pouch, it is highly possible that they can develop appendicitis too. And because of the cat’s tendency to hide pain, prompt treatment that would save the life of the pet may not be given. Now, aren’t you glad your pet does not have an appendix?

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