Does the cat always land on its feet?

Unfortunately, cats do not always land on their feet, but they have an extraordinary adaptation in the event of a fall, called the “cat righting reflex”. These small felines have an innate ability to orient themselves when they fall in order to land on their paws at the moment of impact. A lateral tilting reflex is at the origin of the movement, and this is then made possible by the extraordinary flexibility of their spine, which supports twists impossible in a human. The fact that they lack functional collarbones is also an advantage; on the other hand, their tail hardly serves them during their aerobatics. Cats without a tail are therefore just as capable of landing on their feet as the others.

A real stunt!

To roll over in the air, the cat begins by bending its body in half, folding its front legs and extending its back legs; he can thus turn the front half of his body by 90% and the rear half by 10%. It then does the exact opposite to arrive at a full rotation both forward and backward. For this recovery to be possible, the fall must extend over a minimum of 1.5 m in height. Underneath, the cat can hurt itself because it does not have time to turn around. Excessive height is obviously also a source of complications, but not necessarily as one imagines.

According to a study carried out in 1987, the injuries reach their maximum around five to seven levels of fall, that is to say about fifteen meters. But the balance sheet is statistically lighter beyond this height which allows them to reach their ultimate velocity: they have time to relax during their fall in order to better distribute the impact of the landing. This does not mean that they will necessarily survive it or come out unscathed. The current record is held by an American cat who survived a fall of approximately 137m onto concrete with a single broken tooth. But don’t try to break this record with your cat!

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The World of Animals & Nature is a magazine dedicated to wildlife from around the world. Through captivating stories and sublime photographs, the magazine offers a real visual safari in the heart of nature.

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