Last Updated on: February 21, 2022 by Ingrid King


Cats are mysterious creatures, and learning more about how and why they do the things they do is one of the joys of loving our beautiful companions. When I recently came across the term “feline direct registering” for the first time, I have to admit, my mind was blown. How was it possible that in all the years I’ve been working with and writing about cats, I had never come across this term?

With our indoor cats, we don’t usually see paw prints, but if we were to see them, we’d  see what looks like a single line of prints, not two lines of prints side by side, as you might expect from a four-legged creature.

Nature’s design

The reason cats walk this way is one of nature’s purrfect designs: it helps to leave less of a trail for predators, and it also assists the cat with hunting. By only placing their paws in half as many locations, they reduce the possibility of making noise while they walk.

According to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, “this walking style is efficient in snow, grasses, and most habitats, and is used by wild dogs and cats. Some domestic dogs may direct register a bit, but rarely do they maintain this formation for lengths of time without jumping and having fun.” Camels, giraffes, bobcats, foxes, and coyotes also use direct registering.

The video below perfectly shows direct registering.

I’m curious: had you heard this term before?

Image Pixabay stock photo

14 Comments on What is Feline Direct Registering and Why Do Cats Do It?

  1. I have never heard it called that before. I did know that cats walk like that. That is why they can walk on/over/through a dresser or counter full of objects and not disturb a single one.

  2. I have seen the cats prints from walking and knew they walked like this but like many have never heard the term before. I am going to see if the more feral of the colony walk differently…

  3. Now I’m going to have to watch how Tasha walks. Never realized the pattern before. Know what they say, you have to walk the walk.

  4. Didn’t know the term, but was aware that cats do this–some cats, that is. I always thought my big fluffy boy walked kind of funny. Watched him from behind after reading this and can see that his stiff legged waddle isn’t even close to being directly registered! Hope that doesn’t mean he’s going to have hip problems.

    • As cats age and become arthritic, they will loose that particular gait, so it’s possible your boy may have some issues.

  5. I had no idea! How very cool. Thanks for sharing the information, it’s always great to learn more about our wonderful fur-iends.

  6. i have had cats for many years and never heard about this. Thank you Ingrid for your wonderful website. I have learned so much from it.

  7. I have never heard of this term before either. But I have noticed the straight line footprints. My girls like to drink out of the sink, so sometimes they have wet paws and leave footprints on the floor. I never really thought much about it until now.

  8. I knew cats left a precise, single line of footprints bc I’ve seen their tracks in the snow. I even have a book of identification of animal tracks but don’t recall seeing the term direct registering. Now, I have to find my book and go look! I didn’t know how they walked or the name for it. It’s very beautiful and graceful to see cats move in slow motion. I’m simply mesmerized by the video. Amazing. Love it. Thank you!

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