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Do Cats Always Land On Their Feet

Updated on December 6, 2012

Is it True Cats Can Fall and Not Get Hurt?

Up a tree, on a ledge, trotting across a roof top all places where a cat is in jeopardy of falling. When we witness such adventures we hardly gasp at all, because we are certain that should a cat take a fall, it is sure to land on all fours. Or is it? The answer depends directly on how high up the cat is, and just as important, the surface in which it lands. Cats may have nine lives to count upon during their stay with us here on earth, but you can be certain that a cat won't take a single life for granted!

The Cat: Beautiful in sight, as well as Design

Beautiful in sight and design, cats have an almost magical ability to land on their feet--It's all about cat physics!
Beautiful in sight and design, cats have an almost magical ability to land on their feet--It's all about cat physics! | Source

Cat Poll (as apposed to Pole Cat)

Have you ever witnessed a cat falling?

See results

Who Knew a Cat Could Be so Scientific?

Freaked Fuzzy Falling Feline Physics

The miracle of cats landing feet first is actually a perfect design, one only mother nature can provide (and possibly a group of aerospace physics engineers). The science of the muscle and skeletal construction topped off by four legged capabilities, superman like vision, and balance generally only found in the best ballerinas, all join together creating the Cirque du Soleil skill-set allowing for a quick feet-first turn and then practically flying gracefully downwards prepared to land on all four feline feet.

What happens in the few short seconds when a cat starts to fall?

It is almost too fast to witness as nerve responses trigger a cats lightening-fast reflexes into action.The delicate balance of the features described above which have been given to a cat at birth, give the feline the agility to:

  • First turn its head to locate its position to the earth
  • Then the spine and back-end spin into place
  • Next, the tail spins attempting to gain control of the body's horizonal position
  • Then total control occurs, perfectly landing in position, right side up and on all four fuzzy feet

These amazing cat movements all take place within just a few very short seconds.

Short Cat Tails Don't Offer Much Maneuvering Stability in Gliding or on Foot

The agile design of a cat gets interrupted when a bobbed tail gets put in place. Cats use their tails like a ships rudder of sorts, helping to manage controlled maneuvering when running, climbing, or falling.
The agile design of a cat gets interrupted when a bobbed tail gets put in place. Cats use their tails like a ships rudder of sorts, helping to manage controlled maneuvering when running, climbing, or falling. | Source

More is Best When it Comes to a Flying Cat

Cats Know Being Higher is Better

If a cat has the good fortune to land somewhere soft like a mound of soft dirt—when falling off of a high perch, for example—this cat would have a pretty good chance at landing without much to worry about in terms of real physical damage, from as high as around 50 feet. Cats have made it out unscathed from even greater distances and here's why; because the extra falling time causes the cats flying effect to come into play.

Here's how it all works out:

  • A cat falls
  • The cat relaxes
  • It splays out its body like skydiver
  • Its loose skin captures the air
  • The cat slows down its descent due to increased body width and air
  • Simulated flying takes place slowly bringing the cat to a reduced impact landing

Strangely enough, a shorter fall can cause a lot more damage to the cat, this is because a shorter fall doesn't leave time or room for the cat to get all of its techniques lined up—turning, relaxing, skydiving pose, simulated flight—for the desired damage free landing.


Those extra toes of the polydactyl cat create a larger, more padded landing structure than a regular cat paw.
Those extra toes of the polydactyl cat create a larger, more padded landing structure than a regular cat paw. | Source

A Cat Has Impact Absorbing Powers

Cat Feet and Leg Construction; Mother Nature at Her Best

A very cool thing comes into play when a cat jumps, landing to earth from any given level, and that is the impact-absorbing structural configuration of its feet and legs. Its paw pads, which consist of really strong and tough outer skin, are connected to a small compact area of rigid but firm rubber-band like tissue. The combination of the two holds, connects, and keeps the toe bones stationary. Even more complex are the joints that connect the feet to the leg. This is where the ankle bones are built in such a manner that lateral movement can not occur, leaving the ankles to be secured and strongly bound by ligaments for added support. Mother nature has one heck of an understanding for constructing durable and functional sections of the feline body. This area of construction means that a cat can land safely, with all four legs able to absorb the full impact of even a 50 foot mishap!

This Sleeping White House-Cat Has Few Worries

This white Manx Cat doesn't really mind her short tail, she's a low-key indoor feline who rarely has to maneuver at all...and that is just how she likes it!
This white Manx Cat doesn't really mind her short tail, she's a low-key indoor feline who rarely has to maneuver at all...and that is just how she likes it! | Source

Those Amazing Flying Cats

Next time you witness a cat prepping and then engaging in an impromptu descent from the tree tops, you will understand just how that crazy feline manages to land on those strong yet springy feet and legs. It is all about physics, and no creature better understands its ability in this regard than does our agile friend the cat! Nine lives would seem more than enough for any one cat with such flying super powers, but those neighborhood cats prove time and time again the need for all nine of those lives. After all, with their ability to fly comes a great deal of curiosity; and we are all familiar with the unfortunate outcome of an overly curious cat!

Source

Human Years Compared to Cat Years

(click column header to sort results)
Human Years  
Equivalent Cat Years  
16
1
25
2
29
3
33
4
37
5
39
6
43
7
49
8
53
9
57
10
61
11
65
12
69
13
73
14
77
15
81
16
85
17
89
18
93
19
100
20
Calculations derived from ASPCA specs

How Much Do You Know About Cats?

view quiz statistics
Source

Comments for "Do Cats Always land on their Feet"

Submit a Comment

  • cardelean profile image

    cardelean 

    6 years ago from Michigan

    I love watching the dare devil stunts that our cat does. In fact just this morning he was trying to climb up the banister, crazy cat! Thanks for a great hub!

  • carol3san profile image

    Carolyn Sands 

    6 years ago from Hollywood Florida

    You have a great hub. I enjoyed reading it and I took the quiz also. Voted up.

  • Robin profile image

    Robin Edmondson 

    6 years ago from San Francisco

    Thank you! Wishing you a very happy holiday as well! ;) Robin

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    6 years ago from Northern, California

    Robin~ So happy to see you made it by! Cat Physics would seem to be a pretty mundane topic, until one really watches a cat. They are an incredibly resilient being with skills and design beyond comprehension. I wish you and our lovely family the best of the holiday season my friend! Thank you for the support.

    Huge Holiday HubHugs~

    K9

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    6 years ago from Northern, California

    Beth Pipe~ Just so you know, I am against any cat throwing of any kind; that being said, I would love to learn your results! ;)

    Thanks for making it by for a little cat info!

    Cheers~

    K9

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    6 years ago from Northern, California

    Simone~ It is always the weird things that I find most intriguing, case in point: a falling cat and whether it lands on its feet or not. I am so thrilled that you also find the topic interesting. I watched that same (or similar) cat program series you mention, it was what piqued my desire to dig a little deeper. Cats are such cute fascinating creatures, I simply can not resist them! (But don't tell my dog!)

    Gratitude for your time and support today.

    HubHugs~

    K9

  • Robin profile image

    Robin Edmondson 

    6 years ago from San Francisco

    What an interesting Hub, K9! I love the quiz that you have created! I had never really known about the physics of a cat falling, now I know!

  • Beth Pipe profile image

    Beth Pipe 

    6 years ago from Cumbria, UK

    Love the hub and the cat quiz - makes me want to throw mine out of a window to check... KIDDING! :-) Really interesting - thank you!

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 

    6 years ago from San Francisco

    An absolutely fascinating Hub! I had seen short television segments on the dynamics of falling cats, but have never read anything in particular about the process. I had never thought through the distinct steps of the flipping process, and hadn't thought about how cats' tails play such an important role (and how a shorter tail will hinder agility). This is all so neat! Thanks for sharing all the fun info!

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    6 years ago from Northern, California

    Agnes Penn~ Wow. That's a very fast little cat reflex! I am glad you enjoyed the cat quiz, not many people know the answers to some of those obscure cat questions. It was very fun to research though. Thank you for sharing your wonderful input here.

    Cheers~

    K9

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    6 years ago from Northern, California

    Flora~ This would make your cat around 69 or 70 when compared to human years. Sure appreciate you stopping by!

    HubHugs~

    K9

  • Agnes Penn profile image

    Maria del Pilar Perez 

    6 years ago from Nicholson, Pennsylvania, USA

    I have seen small cats held upside down, aligned with the floor turn themselves in mid air and land just before running out of sight. Any higher and they tumble down.

    Great hub and quiz.

  • FloraBreenRobison profile image

    FloraBreenRobison 

    6 years ago

    I think my at is 13 i human years, but I don't actually know.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    6 years ago from Northern, California

    homesteadbound~ You are correct, height as everything to do with how a cat lands after a fall. I am always amazed when I hear that someone has a cat that is close to 20, that is quite a feat for any living being, unless one lives in a tortoiseshell of course!

    I sure appreciate the support!

    HubHugs~

    K9

  • homesteadbound profile image

    Cindy Murdoch 

    6 years ago from Texas

    I had thought that cats always landed on their feet, but have seen plenty not do that, and it would appear that it really does have a lot to do with height. I really enjoyed this hub, and I found your chart on cat vs human ages very interesting. I have had a couple cats live to around 19.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    6 years ago from Northern, California

    Stump Parrish~ Without a doubt, the cat would land on its back! LOL! Thanks for the literally out-loud laugh! Thanks for stopping by.

    Cheers~

    K9

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    6 years ago from Northern, California

    cclitgirl~ Glad you enjoyed the hub, and the cat quiz. I am frequently entertained by the antics of my feline companions. Thanks for the votes and for sharing your thoughts.

    Cheers~

    K9

  • Stump Parrish profile image

    Stump Parrish 

    6 years ago from Don't have a clue, I'm lost.

    What happens if you strap a piece of buttered bread onto the back of a cat and drop it?

  • cclitgirl profile image

    Cynthia Calhoun 

    6 years ago from Western NC

    I liked this hub and the quiz at the end. Thanks for sharing. :) Voted up and interesting.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    6 years ago from Northern, California

    rebeccamealey~Thanks for the comments! So glad you found a little Cat Physics fun!

    Cheers~

    K9

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 

    6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    Funny, and very awesome! I enjoyed the read!

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