For people who don’t have a cat, the type of smooth landings portrayed by cats in movies and TV shows may seem like an exaggeration. But for anyone who has a cat, chances are you’ve seen your cat pull off a landing that seemed nearly impossible. A cat’s ability to always land on its feet is directly tied to the old saying that cats have nine lives.
While cat owners have seen this type of landing in action, they still may not have an explanation for it. So if you’re wondering how cats actually pull off this feat, keeping reading to find out!
Can Cats Break Their Legs?
Before we get into how cats are able to always land on their feet, it’s worth clearing up one related topic that is a myth. Despite being able to escape many situations that seem like they should result in a break, there are times when a cat can break one or both of its legs. What’s interesting is many vets have noticed that cats are more likely to suffer a serious break when they fall from a shorter height rather than a taller one.
The Cat Mechanics That Make Amazing Landings Possible
Known as the righting reflex, the ways a cat’s mechanics work explains why felines are more likely to get hurt during shorter falls. When video of a falling cat is slowed down, it’s possible to see that a cat begins shifting its balance from the moment a fall begins. A cat’s body figures out which side needs to be up, then uses the ears and eyes to direct the proper rotation of the head.
The next motion a cat takes is arching its back so the spine can follow in the rotation. From there, a cat is able to get its legs in position for the landing. Once in this position, the joints of the cat will be able to lessen the impact created by the body’s weight. By relaxing, a cat is able to create an effect that’s similar to what a parachute does.
Adding to a cat’s overall performance during a fall is the fact that they have very flexible backbones. And while mothers are responsible for teaching a variety of behaviors to kittens, the righting reflex is something that cats are born with the ability to do. Kittens as young as six weeks old are able to correct their balance after falling. This “righting reflex” makes these seemingly impossible landings possible, which is where the premise of cats having nine lives originates.
Although cats are truly amazing when it comes to protecting themselves against falls, this isn’t a behavior anyone should ever test. Most adults already understand that tossing a cat isn’t OK. However, this type of action may not seem as bad to a child, which is why it’s important to explain it to them. By using that type of judgment and supporting other aspects of your cat’s health by feeding it Pet Wants food, you can help your furry friend enjoy a very high quality of life!