The idea that a falling cat will always land on his feet is firmly embedded in our cat loving minds. But, is it actually true? Will a falling cat land on his feet every single time he falls?
Even back in 1890, scientists were studying the feline’s remarkable abilities. French scientist Etienne Jules Marey used a chronophotographic camera to capture images as a cat fell, and righted himself. For the first time, someone was able to watch in slow-motion how it happens.
Known as aerial righting reflex, cats have a natural ability to bend their back and twist their torso to position themselves with their feet toward the ground. While a cat will usually land firmly on his feet, the height of their fall plays a major role in whether or not he will nail his landing. Cats only need a few seconds of free fall to right themselves but interestingly, the higher the fall, the greater chance the cat will survive and avoid injury!
According to Mother Nature Network:
In 1987, New York City’s Animal Medical Center conducted a study of felines that had fallen from tall buildings. While 90 percent of the animals survived, most suffered serious injuries, but the cats that fell from heights of seven to 32 stories were less likely to die than those that fell from two to six stories.
Additionally, cats have a low body-volume-to-weight ratio. Compared to humans, they don’t weigh as much as we do for the same amount of surface area. The advantage is that they fall at a slower speed than a human would – actually in about twice the amount of time!
Check out this great video from National Geographic, which explains how cats falling from higher stories are more likely to avoid injury – AND, check out the awesome slow-motion video of a cat free-falling and, of course, landing on his feet.