Do cats always land on their feet?

Cats have nine lives. Cats always land on their feet! Both statements are untrue! Cats are stoic animals. They are adept at hiding pain. This is probably one of the reasons for the myth that cats have nine lives. Cats are nimble footed animals. These excellent climbers have honed their acrobatic abilities by lunging at birds and insects high up on trees. Falling from heights is not a novel occurrence for these animals. However, contrary to the common belief, cats do not always land on their feet when they fall. There are instances when cats that fall even from a short distance would sustain serious injuries.

Cats are naturally attracted to high places. Cat parents would understand why these animals would climb trees. The nestlings up in the tree would prove to be too much to resist. But what reason would cats have for placidly lounging on the eaves of a roof? Aside from being nimble footed, cats are also aware of their surrounding thus these animals seldom fall because they are aware where they are. However, a cat can lose its balance while lunging for the prey. The fall can be broken off if the cat managed to snag a branch with its claws. Cats up on the roof can fall asleep and fall. A cat perched in the railing of a balcony can lose its balance and fall. And whenever they do fall, most would not sustain serious injuries because these very flexible animals have an acute sense of balance. Cats would twist and flatten the body so that it would be more resistant to air similar to a parachute. Compared to other animals, cats have more mobility as they do not have a collarbone that will restrict the bending and rotating movements of the body. This kind of flexibility allows cats to land on their feet. Moreover, other factors enable cats to land on their feet whenever they fall from heights.

Cats have unique musculoskeletal system. The cat’s physique, the uniqueness of the skeleton as well as the impressive mobility allows a cat to maneuver the body thereby gaining excellent control of the faculties when falling from heights. Cats falling at a speed of 60 miles per hour would have reached terminal velocity but its righting reflex would come to the fore. With excellent control of its abilities, the cat would relax, spread out the body and take a position similar to a flying squirrel and minimize the impact of the fall by landing squarely on its four feet. Cats are known to have vestibular apparatus. This sac-like fluid filled organ in the brain enables a cat to distinguish which way is down and which way is up.

The high survival rate is attributed to the extraordinary coordination and balance these animals have. Cats that have fallen from heights are expected to sustain injuries. However, what is amazing with these animals is the fact that the higher they fall, the bigger would be the chance of survival. Studies have shown that cats that have fallen from seven stories and beyond would have lesser injuries. Apparently, the theory that cats would manifest the righting reflex after reaching terminal velocity holds true.

As mentioned, cat would not always land on their feet when they fall. Cats that have landed on their chest or on the head would sustain fatal injuries. It is the responsibility of a cat owner to make sure that the pet is kept safe from any kind of accident. Balconies must be off limits to pet cats but we know how inquisitive these animals are. Cat owners therefore have to make additional precautions to keep the pet safe.