All of us know cats – we’ve seen one, come across them on the street, and sometimes we own them as a pet. We often encounter this adorable animal in our daily lives, as they sometimes live within the same neighborhood. It is no doubt that cats are already a part of our lives.
We often describe cats as the opposite of dogs. One reason is that most dogs have an energetic and playful nature, while cats, on the other hand, are calmer and easily bored. Despite this, there are a lot of people who own a cat as pets. Also, cats play has several appearances in our pop culture, including movies, books, music, and many others.
Despite its commonality, cats are probably one of the most exciting animals, which have several remarkable traits that might catch your interests. There is one cat feature that we often hear, and that is they always land on their feet when they fall from upper stories in houses and buildings. Some people often regard this feature as a myth, especially during the early 19th century. However, if we observe the way a cat moves, mainly when they fall from high places, they always seem to stand on their feet.
There are many studies made regarding the behavior of cats, as well as their body movements. Besides this, several documents and records are available to prove the validity of this so-called myth. In this article, we are going to look into the reason – why cats always land on their feet?
Why do cats always land on their feet?
We often come up with this common question about cats. When we observe the way a cat moves, we will notice its stealthy movements, mainly when it walks. We can see them in different places, whether it is on the floor or the roof; cats always maintain to have its calm and silent nature.
Unlike dogs, it is pretty typical for cats to be on high ground. In some places, cats are wandering the streets, as well as on top of houses. It is when we can see them jump from one place to another while on the roof. However, there are times when their jump becomes unsuccessful, and that’s when they fall on the ground. Interestingly, when they fall, they always manage to land on their feet.
The main reason is that cats have a righting reflex, which enables them to make quick decisions and adjust their body to land on their feet and avoid injuries. The cat’s righting reflex is their natural ability to regulate their body in its proper place as it falls. This action is possible because cats have a very flexible body. Its skeletal system consists of a unique backbone with only thirty vertebrae – in which the human body has thirty-three. Also, unlike humans, cats don’t have a clavicle, or commonly known as collar bone. These unique features of cats enable them to adjust their body in mid-air quickly.
Apart from the cats’ skeletal structure, they also have a unique vestibular apparatus. The vestibular apparatus is present in most mammals. It is a part of the inner ear, which is responsible for balancing and spatial orientation. Cats take advantage of this part of the ear to quickly determine which way is up and which way is down. They use this to maintain their balance and body coordination, even while falling, which will help them to land on their feet.
When they are falling from the upper floors, they will distinguish their body position and quickly orient itself, which is down. Once they have a precise orientation of their body position, they will adjust and rotate their body so that their feet will be at the bottom. Thus, making them land on their feet.
As mentioned earlier, this is a natural trait of cats, and they learn this righting reflex as early as three to four weeks of age. During their six to seven weeks, they would already perfect this fantastic feature.
However, this trait doesn’t make cats invincible from falling. There are cases wherein cats ended up in the vets after falling from extreme heights. Meaning to say, we need to take into consideration the height of the fall to know if it is still safe for cats. Scientists believe that the higher the fall, the more likely cats would not be able to endure and adjust to it, which will cause injuries – or possibly, death.
- Cat righting reflex (Wikipedia)