We have used a three-dimensional X-ray cinematographic approach to investigate the kinematics of the forelimb during target reaching and food taking in five cats. Measurements of the trajectory of the limb during the reaching movement showed that the movement paths of the metacarpophalangeal joint (MCP) and the wrist were sigmoidal with a long nearly linear segment. The elbow followed a bent movement path with maximal inflection in the middle. The path of the humerus had an ascending parabola-like characteristic. The velocity profiles of the MCP and wrist were nearly bell-shaped and skewed to the left, whereas the profiles of the elbow joint were more or less double peaked with the second peak occurring 60–40 ms before object contact. Several different velocity peaks reflecting specific aspects of the task existed when the bell-shaped velocity profiles were divided in their vectorial components. Angular motion of the elbow consisted of a flexion–extension sequence during the reach and a flexion during the subsequent retraction. After an initial flexion during lift-off the wrist was extended. It kept this extended position during orienting towards the food container. During the retraction phase it was further extended. The angle between the wrist axis and the parasagittal plane changed during the movement. It first increased, then decreased during the last 100 ms before the object was reached. During the retraction it increased again to support the object weight against gravity. The position of the wrist was established by radio-ulnar supination and movements of the whole arm around the shoulder joint. We hypothesize that the position of the wrist axis is the controlled variable during protraction and retraction, regardless of whether it is achieved by radio-ulnar supination or by movements around the shoulder.