Why do some cats have a ridge of fur along their backs?

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Why do some cats have a ridge of fur along their backs?

Updated Dec 21, 2021

Dear Cathy,

I rescued a six-year-old part Siamese female about six months ago. I started noticing she has a long ridge of fur along her spine when she is relaxed or sitting, similar to that of a (Rhodesian) Ridgeback dog. I don’t know if there is a connection, but she is also polydactyl on all four paws. I checked online, but there are no explanations for this trait. Do you have an answer for me?

— Rose, Massapequa, NY

Dear Rose,

While there is no cat breed that has a “ridge” along its spine as a breed trait, there are other cat owners who report that their felines have a narrow ridge of hair that stands up neatly along their spines while resting. I have seen this narrow ridge of hair, mostly on short-haired cats. So, while not a specific breed characteristic, it may be something genetic in how the hair grows that results in sort of “cowlick” for cats. This should not be confused with a cat raising its hackles, which is the hair around the shoulders, along the spine, and along the tail that stands up when a cat is aroused or in fear.

For my readers, polydactyly, which means “many digits,” is the congenital anomaly of having more toes than normal. Typically, cats have 18 toes, five on their front paws and four on the back paws. The record for polydactyl cats, however, is 28 total toes. As far as I know, there is no genetic connection between polydactyl cats and the gentle ridge of hair along the spine.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal

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8 thoughts on “Why do some cats have a ridge of fur along their backs?”

  1. Sherr Figurny

    I have a white med long haired cat with a ridge on her back the length of her back, she is 6 and it seems the older she gets the more it stands up especially when she’s standing,It lays down whe she’s sleeping.It’s very different looking.

  2. I adopted a cat from a local shelter back in January. She’s now 20 months old. She has a ridgeback too. I’ve had many cats in my life but this is the first one with a ridgeback. At first I thought maybe it was anxiety because of a new home and all, but she’s completely settled now and I mostly see the ridge when she’s relaxed and content. She’s a European Short-hair, no specific breed. No polydactyl, just the ridge 🙂

    1. Cathy Rosenthal

      Thank you for sharing this about your cat. It’s interesting to note that people are seeing it more often in their felines.

  3. My male siamese mix has a ridge all along his body like he was sewn together. It starts at his head with a longer ridge, goes all down his back and under his belly. He’s also double the size of my other cat that was born a week before him. He has HUGE paws & feet. If he’s not a special breed, he should be!

  4. My black kitty also has this ridge of standing hair when relaxed. I have pictures but. I way to share them. She is a short hair.

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Cathy Rosenthal (aka The Pet Pundit), CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 35 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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