Why Do Cats Always Land on All Four Feet?

A cat was quietly moving on the edge of the top of the bookshelf. It was stalking its prey and waited for the perfect moment to attack. Unfortunately, the bird it was targeting was outside the window. After hitting the window, the cat cried out, twisted in the air, and still managed to land safely on all four feet!

Have you ever witnessed something like this? If you have spent a lot of time with cats, you have probably heard the saying that cats always land on all four feet when they fall. You might have even seen it happen once or twice. Don’t you wish you could fall with such elegance and grace?

Is it true? Do cats possess some kind of magical ability to defy gravity? Do their paws have special elements that make them more attracted to the Earth’s gravitational pull?

Scientists who have studied cats will tell you that they are not magicians. They also do not have special paws that manipulate gravity. However, they do have bodies with unique characteristics that can explain why they always land on all four feet.

The falling behavior of cats has been observed for thousands of years. However, it wasn’t until advancements in science and technology allowed researchers to capture videos of falling cats that their secret was revealed. By examining slow-motion footage, researchers were finally able to understand how cats land on their feet when they fall.

Researchers discovered that cats have an innate ability called the righting reflex. This reflex allows cats to quickly determine which way is up during a fall and adjust their bodies to land on all four feet.

For instance, when a cat falls, it uses either its eyesight or its balance system in its inner ear (known as the vestibular apparatus) to determine the correct orientation. Cats have an exceptional sense of balance, and their flexible spines enable them to swiftly rotate their upper bodies to face downwards. Their lower bodies then follow suit, allowing them to land on all four feet.

Cats possess other features that assist them in consistently landing on all fours. Their small bodies can twist rapidly in the air, and their light bone structure and thick fur help soften the impact of a fall. Some cats even stretch out during a fall to increase air resistance and slow their descent.

Unfortunately, cats do not always land on all four feet. Studies have shown that falls of 12 inches or less do not provide cats with enough time to adjust their position and land on all four feet. However, when falls exceed 12 inches, it is highly likely that a cat will land on its feet.

Even though cats often land on their feet after a fall, it does not mean they cannot get injured. Depending on the height of the fall, cats can still suffer from impact-related injuries, even when they land on all four feet. Veterinarians can share numerous stories about cats breaking their legs and sustaining other injuries from falls.

Give It a Try

We hope you enjoyed learning about cats in today’s Wonder of the Day. Engage in the following activities with a friend or family member to further explore these fascinating felines:

If you’re a fan of cats, make sure to explore the following Wonders of the Day: “Do Cats Really Have Nine Lives?”, “How Big Do Cats Get?”, and “Why Do Cats Love Catnip?”. Share three facts you learned with a friend or family member.

Do you own a cat or know someone who does? Spend some time playing with the furry feline and discover their favorite and least favorite toys. Do they enjoy chasing string? What about batting a ball? Are they hilarious when they play with a laser pointer? Keep a tally of how long they play with each toy and create a graph to determine their preferences. For more comprehensive data, track this information over multiple play sessions and compare the results.

Create a cardboard scratching board for your cat or someone else’s. Use corrugated cardboard, glue, and seek assistance from an adult to cut the strips. Visit Cardboard Cat Homes for detailed instructions.

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