Is it really true that cats always land on their feet? Find out what makes cats so agile and graceful when they fall.
The popular proverb “cats have seven lives” probably stems from their ability to apparently always land on their feet. This unique talent for aerial movement certainly rivals Cirque du Soleil. It is a trait that only a handful of mammals possess. Monkeys, lemurs, primates, and squirrels quickly come to mind. But trees are their main habitat. Cats, not so much now. So how do they do it? Let’s explore why cats always land on their feet!Reflexes in cats
The ability of cats to straighten up while falling is due to their reflexes. Feline reflexes turn out to be a true life-saving skill! The way cats land on their feet turns out to be many voluntary and involuntary responses that work together.
They are essentially capable of twisting their body in opposite directions. They can then extend their hind legs to create more parachutes while retracting their front legs to increase the rotation speed at the front of their bodies.
All animals that live in trees have an air-righting reflex, according to biologist Robert Dudley of the Animal Flight Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley in a BBC article. And although cats haven’t lived in trees since they came indoors to live with humans around 9,000 years ago, they have made their fair share of life in trees and have evolved over the centuries to withstand falls. Your whole body is designed for it!
However, never try to test your cat’s correction reflex; this is a silly and dangerous idea. A pushed or thrown cat does not have the same advantage as a cat that has lost its balance or miscalculated a jump.
How the shape of cats influences balance
These are the elements that make your cat’s body a death-defying wonder:
- Cats determine how high they are down, either visually or through small bones in their ears.
- Volume vs. Mass: Cats have a lot of surface area compared to their weight.
- It’s leg day every day! The legs of cats are long and muscular. They are able to divert the energy used to climb towards deceleration.
- The cat’s feet are at an angle sticking out of its body instead of being straight. Together with their flexible joints, they are perfect shock absorbers.
- Your spine is extraordinarily remarkable thanks to having 30 vertebrae.
- The flexible skeleton of a cat lacks a clavicle, which is also useful during a fall, strong energy does not get stuck.
Cats in the heights
A few years ago, Sugar, a Boston cat, made world news by surviving a 19-story fall. An excellent example of cats that always land on their feet, because the miraculous feline suffered minor injuries. But, there are other kittens that haven’t done well either.
During the 1980s, the Animal Medical Center in New York City experienced a dramatic increase in the fall of cats from high-rise buildings. There were so many incidents that they coined the phrase, “High-altitude syndrome.” The white paper on the syndrome states that 132 cats fell from buildings over a five-month period in 1988. 37% of those cats required emergency medical treatment. . Surprisingly, 30 percent required no treatment. And 90 percent of the cats that received medical care survived.
While those statistics are quite steep in favor of cats, there are statistics that are not reflected in these numbers. When a cat falls or jumps off a skyscraper and is killed, it is not taken to the vet for treatment. It is not really known what exactly the overall mortality rate is for cats that fall from high places.
For health and safety reasons, remember:
- Install screens in each window.
- Check the screens periodically (cats can scratch and stretch on them!).
- Keep your cats indoors: do not allow access to balconies and terraces.
With all their obvious and most secret talents, cats have enchanted people for thousands of years. And as our fascination with all things cat continues, one of its biggest exposed mysteries is why cats always land on their feet.
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