Cats’ Bodies And Physical Instincts
If you have ever seen a cat leap from the top of a cabinet to a perfect landing, then you know the awe that it can inspire. Cats make it look so easyand for them, it’s a built-in ability. Dr. Huston says that this is the result of a combination of physiology, anatomy, and physics. It also has something to do with your cat’s inner ear. Two physical attributescalled the vestibule and the semicircular canalsplay a role in such graceful, lifesaving landings.
“All animals have this system within their inner ear that helps them to understand their body’s positioning and equilibrium in order to maintain balance. There are small stones called otoliths and very fine hairs within the vestibule,” she says. “As an animal turns its head side to side, the stones bend the hairs that are attached to nerves that tell the brain which direction the head is turning. The semicircular canals are filled with fluid that helps to detect rotation movements.”
Dont Let Your Cat Fall
Even though cats have an instinct to land on their feet when they fall, you certainly shouldnt push your cat off a ledge or put them in some type of scenario where they could fall. As we mentioned initially, the righting reflex doesnt guarantee that the cat will land on its feet. Instead, the reflex only makes it more likely.
The last thing you want is to put your cat in unnecessary danger. Make sure to keep your pet cat safe, healthy, and away from open ledges. This is especially true of old and overweight cats. Their bodies are not of optimal ability to land safely, even with the righting reflex.
Do All Cats Have A Righting Reflex Or Is It Specific To Some Cats
All cats do have a vestibular apparatus, which is responsible for the righting reflex. In theory, this may suggest that all cats have this reflex. However, one of the reasons domestic cats are so good at righting themselves after a fall is because of their size compared to the heights they fall from. Big cats, such as lions, are much heavier and do not climb to such heights. There are known examples of big cats falling to their death from tall heights, which may suggest this reflex is not present in big cats, or at least that they do not have the physical capacity to right themselves in enough time compared to the heights they may climb.
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Exceptions To The Landing
Do cats always land on their feet? No.
The height of the fall is a factor. According to the JulyAugust 1998 issue of Annals of Improbable Research, an Italian researcher sought to determine the height necessary for a cat to have enough time to rotate into position for a feet-first landing. The cat used in the study landed on his or her feet every time he or she was dropped from heights of 2 to 6 feet. But when dropped from a height of 1 foot, the cat didnt have enough time to rotate into position so that he or she could land on all four paws.
The physical condition of the cat plays a role. Cats who are overweight, uncoordinated or arthritic may not be able to move quickly enough to right themselves, even if falling from a height of 4 or 5 feet. And if cats dont have time to fully rotate, they may land on their side, back or head, sustaining serious injuries.
As it turns out, studying the aerial acrobatics of cats has helped scientists figure out how astronauts could turn themselves around in zero-gravity as well as other advanced physics concepts. But for the physical safety of cats everywhere, we recommend leaving the research of falling cats to scientists.
The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet’s health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.
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Are Cats Indestructible
There is a common myth about cats that they have nine lives, or seven in certain cultures. While not actually true, its origin comes from the fact that cats seem to be able to survive even violent situations relatively unscathed. This could be a fight with another cat, being knocked over while walking underfoot or even falling from a great height. Since cats always land on their feet, some people think of them being indestructible.
As much as we would love our cats to be impervious to danger, cats landing on their feet doesn’t mean they are immortal. Gravity will still cause our cat to hit the ground with force if it is high enough. They can break bones, be unable to walk or receive life-threatening trauma.
It is true that cats can survive falls from tall heights without suffering damage, but if it is tall enough, the cat will come to harm. Part of the problem is that cats are naturally inclined to climb heights. In the wild, they often spend time in trees to both protect themselves from predators and look for prey. Domestic cats exhibit this behavior by climbing up on shelves or hanging out on the back of the sofa.
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History Of Cat Reflexes
Cats are descended from animals called ferrets, which were bred as hunting companions to flush prey out of tight spaces in rocks, trees, and buildings.
When these critters pounced on small mammals like rabbits or rats, they would fall over with sudden movement. Over time, this became a reflex for felines; when they jump into the air to catch something , their back legs will stretch out behind them first before bending down so that they can land on their paws instead.
Other Solutions And Considerations
Even though the vestibular system is primarily responsible for the right reflex, there are a few more reasons why cats land on their feet.
A cat’s weight can determine how likely they are to stick a landing. Overweight cats are less likely to land on their feet. They may not be able to move quickly enough to rotate fully. The same is true for cats with arthritis and coordination issues.
Cats evolved to climb trees and jump long distances. Such activities make them more susceptible to falls from great heights. It’s no wonder why they evolved to land on their feet!
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How Does The Height Of The Fall Affect The Landing
The height of the cats fall has a large part to play in if cats always land on their feet. A study done in 1987 by the New York City Animal Medical Centre analysed vet records of cats that had fallen from multi-storey buildings and found some incredible statistics. Most of them landed on concrete, and yet 90% of all the cats studied survived the fall, and only 37% of those required emergency care.
But it was the height of the fall that most affected the outcome. Cats who fell from between 7 and 32 stories suffered less injuries, while those who fell between 2 and 6 stories sustained more injuries. Amazingly, a cat that fell a whopping 32 stories and landed on concrete was released after 48 hours with only a chipped tooth and a minor lung puncture.
Scientists think that the higher the fall, the more time cats have to be able to right themselves. Its also believed that they reach a maximum velocity of around 60mph, which is much slower than humans at about 120mph. Once they reach this stage they begin to relax and stretch their legs out much like how a flying squirrel does which expands their body size and creates air resistance. Its almost like cats can turn themselves into little parachutes, which increases drag resistance!
So How Do These Amazing Animals Always Land Safely
Cats always land safely due to their flexible spine and their righting reflex.
Flexible spine:;Cats have an extra set of bones in the backbone, which allow for a greater range of motion, so they can twist around to land on all four paws.
Rightening Reflex :;When cats jump from high places or fall off something like furniture higher than ground level the kitty will automatically turn her head back behind herself before landing with both feet facing down towards gravity. This means shell always be able to make sure it lands safely by twisting its body as soon as contact occurs! So when you see your little feline friend jumping up onto things without hesitation, you know why he does this.
Cats also have a reflex that causes them to pull their legs in when they feel like the ground is shaking or moving, which helps keep balance and stability on all fours just as it does for humans who are standing up straight with two feetplanted firmly onto solid flooring! So next time you see your cat land gracefully after jumping from high places , know this: Its not because he doesnt understand gravity; instead, cats instinctively use physics principles of inertia-based movement so well we dont even notice how amazing these little creatures truly seem until now
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How Can Cats Land On Their Feet
When you see your cat landing on feet and front paws with no difficulties, no matter how high they leap around your house, it is easy to see how this saying came about. We have shared our homes with felines for centuries but they have lost none of the grace and agility of their ancestors. Even when they fall off a shelf or a table backwards, they seem to be able to twist around with lightening fast speed and land the right way up! If only we humans could do the same, the emergency wards would not be so full.
How cats land on their feet has been the subject of fascinating scientific studies for some time now. It is clear that cats possess a balancing system and this has been termed the righting reflex. It basically flips them the right way up and allows them to get their feet underneath them before they land. However, it is also clear that the height of their fall influences their ability to land upright and safely.
Sadly, some early scientists decided to drop cats from a small height so that they could observe how they fell. They concluded that cats could somehow push off the scientists hands and that made them twist over. Then, in 1894, a French scientist called Etienne-Jules Marey conducted some more sophisticated experiments using a chronophotographic camera. He was able to shoot 60 frames a second as the cats fell and then view in slow-motion how they twisted to land on their feet.
What Can We Learn From Falling Cats
In the late 1960s, the problem again became of interest because NASA wanted to teach its astronauts how to turn over when in a weightless environment. This time, engineers at Stanford University took up the challenge, and they used computer simulations to refine the Dutch physiologists simple model. It is unclear if any astronauts actually attempted to perform this refined bend-and-twist in space.
Today, research into cat-turning continues in yet another field of study: robotics. Roboticists have long used nature as an inspiration to build better robots, and the falling cat provides a strategy by which a falling robot could land on its feet, minimising any damage it might otherwise suffer. Prototypes of falling robot cats have been created, but none have been made yet that can adapt to land on its feet from any starting position.
So how does a cat land on its feet? It turns out that the answer is complicated! Though bend-and-twist is the most important part of the cats manoeuvre, it clearly uses several different motions to turn as quickly and efficiently as possible. Though physicists often look for the simplest solution to a physical problem, nature looks for the most effective one, regardless of how complicated.
Cats are well-known for being keepers of secrets, and their righting reflex remains a mystery to many scientists to this day.
Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics by Gregory J Gbur is out now .
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How Have Cats Adapted To Land On Their Feet
So why dont cats tend to get hurt when they fall from such great heights? Thats all thanks to their legs. Cats spend a lot of time climbing, which means they have had to adapt to falling just in case. Their legs are incredibly muscular. This helps to absorb any impacts of the fall, but thats not all. The angle of their legs also helps to make sure they never hit the floor full force. Theres nothing left to luck when it comes to these impressive animals.
Whoever would have thought that so much went into why cats land on their feet? Just because they have been designed to survive these falls, doesnt mean that we should let it happen. Its important to make sure that you keep your pet cat safe and leave the studies to the professionals.
Cats Always Seem To Land On Their Feet: But How
No matter how a cat jumps or falls, they always seem to be able to right themselves in midair and land gracefully on their paws. How is this even possible?!;Find out…
Even the most graceful of humans can’t even begin to match the innate sense of stability and balance of our cats.
One phenomenon in particular that fascinates us is their natural ability to fall and jump at various angles from various heights…yet still somehow manage to land on their feet.
How do they do it?!
Believe it or not, it’s not some kind of mysterious magical ability. It even has a name: the “cat righting reflex”.
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The Root Of The Behavior
Scientists have studied “the falling cat problem” since the early 1800s.
A cat’s ability to turn while falling so they land on their feet is called the “righting reflex”. Cats aren’t technically born with the righting reflex it develops as they grow. Some kittens can right themselves at the age of 3 weeks.
One study found that blind kittens develop the righting reflex normally. That’s because it has little to do with sight and more to do with the vestibular system, which helps cats maintain their balance. There are two main components of the vestibular system: the vestibular apparatus, located in the inner ear, and a network of nerves in the medulla, located at the base of the brain and the top of the spinal cord.
The vestibular apparatus contains fluid and special receptors that connect to nerves leading to the medulla. When a cat turns their head, the fluid in their inner ear shifts. The receptors in the vestibular apparatus pick up this change in position and send signals to the brain, letting it know which way the head is moving.
So when a cat jumps or falls, the vestibular apparatus tells the brain to compensate for the change in position by twisting their body, tucking and extending their paws, and rotating their tail.
Cats aren’t the only animals with this reflex. Guinea pigs, rabbits, and even some primates can right themselves to land on their feet. However, the reflex works differently in other species.
What Factors Affect Whether A Cat Lands On Their Feet Or Not
Cats develop the righting reflex from a pretty young age. This reflex largely depends on a cats spine and back legs, therefore, even cats without a tail have this ability. A number of factors could affect a cats ability to right itself in mid-air during a fall. The health status of the cat may influence their righting reflex. Cats with injuries to their spine or back legs may not be able to right themselves properly to land safely. Cats with visual impairments or damage to their inner ear also may have a poor ability to right themselves, as they are unable to assess their physical position in space and determine which way is up. A cat who suffers a fall is diagnosed with high-rise syndrome .
The age of a cat might affect their ability to land safely. A 4-year study on Croatian cats found that of the 119 cats that came in suffering from high-rise syndrome, more than half of the cats were less than a year old. This data suggests that cats that are less than a year of age may be less careful about where they are walking and more likely to fall through open windows. The majority of cats suffering from high-rise syndrome come in during the warmer seasons of the year . Similar to the study by Whitney and Mehlhaff , over 90% of the cats brought in after a fall survived. However, 46% of the cats had broken limbs . Many cats with high-rise syndrome suffer from an inflamed pancreas . Other injuries may occur to the chest, head, face, and lungs .
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Do Other Animals Have A Righting Reflex
Many animals besides cats also have an aerial righting reflex, including squirrels, rabbits, dogs, guinea pigs, and primates. There might even be evidence that this reflex is present in reptiles and invertebrates . If we think of the ability of bigger animals versus smaller animals in how high they climb compared to their body size, it would make sense that the righting reflex is present in smaller animals like the ones listed here.