We’ve all seen videos of cats on the internet where they’ve gracelessly missed their desired target and fallen to the ground. However, instead of ending up a crumpled heap on the floor, our feline friends usually land with poise, ready to run away from their embarrassment (but let’s face it, there’s no escaping that).
Such grace has made it a widely held belief that cats will always land on feet after a fall. But is this really true, and if so why aren’t humans blessed with such abilities?
Most of the time, cats stick the landing but cats, like all things, aren’t perfect. They also have “oh crap” moments leading to face plants on the ground, or a face first collision into the TV screen. Luckily for cats, their body’s reflexively correct their course so that- if all goes to plan- their feet are in position to hit first.
If you’re ever lucky enough to watch a cat fall in slow motion, you’ll see that this corrective action begins the as soon as they begin to descend.
This starts with figuring out which way up it should be facing. The first action is a dramatic head turn, with the cat following its eyes and ears first. Then, in a Mexican wave type fashion, the rest of the body follows the movement, with its spine twisting, followed by the front then back legs.
The cat then lowers its head down to its front paws to protect its most important assets, the head. As the cat lands its legs take the impact. To avoid any additional harm, the cat keeps its body relaxed throughout the whole process with a calm of mind humans could only dream of.
Sadly for us, this isn’t a skill you can learn. Cats are born with this skill already imprinted in their minds, with kittens as young as six weeks being able to use such skills. This doesn’t mean that falling doesn’t hurt cats though. The impact of a fall can still break cats’ legs and cause a variety of other injuries.
By no means would I recommend testing out how well Mr Kibble can handle being thrown from the second story window. However, it is comforting to know that your cat can take care of itself when on its own feline adventures.
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