Why do cats always land on their feet?

What in the world gives cats the ability to land on their feet, no matter how high the object they are jumping from/falling out of? Cat owner or not, we have all witnessed this happen at some point in our lives. So how exactly do they do it?


According to AnimalPlanet.com, a falling cat begins to shift its balance from the second its flight begins. The cats body determines which side should be up, and then begins rotating its head, directed by its eyes and ears, until its facing that way. Next, its spine follows as it arches its back; then its front feet, followed by its hind legs with his front paws placed close to his face to spare it from the ground’s impact.  As the cat lands, its leg joints bear the impact of its weight. A falling cat is less like an airplane and more like a parachute. As its body orients itself to the falling motion, it relaxes and spreads out for the landing ahead. Check out this video of a very obese cat being dropped and ultimately landing on all four feet.


Sciencebasedlife.wordpress.com recently posted that “in a 1987 study of 132 cats brought to a New York City emergency veterinary clinic after falls from high-rise buildings, 90% of treated cats survived and only 37% needed emergency treatment to keep them alive. One that fell 32 stories onto concrete suffered only a chipped tooth and a collapsed lung and was released after 48 hours”.

A recent study on PhysLink.com reported that cats surviving falls of several stories in height have coined the expression of cats having “high rise syndrome.” Like many small animals, cats are said to have a non-fatal terminal falling velocity. That is, because of their very low body volume-to-weight ratio these animals are able to slow their decent by spreading out – flying squirrel style. Simply put, animals with these characteristics are fluffy and have a high drag coefficient giving them a greater chance of surviving these falls. Heres a short documentary showing and explaining how cats always land on their feet.

Maybe it really is true that cats have 9 lives!







2 thoughts on “Why do cats always land on their feet?

  1. czc5448

    I have always wondered this and your post helps me understand it a lot more now. The fact the cats can land on all fours almost all the time they jump from a certain height is insane to think about. Who would’ve thought so much happens when a cat is falling in order for it to land on all fours. The fact that 90% of the cats survived from those heights in the experiment you mentioned above is crazy. I wish humans had the same abilities.

  2. Emily Miles Whiteman

    I really enjoyed reading your post! The attached video of the 30 lb cat was extremely helpful in understanding your description of the cat’s fall and its posture throughout the fall and landing. I happen to have a cat and have experimented this theory with her before, and she definitely does not land on all fours. Perhaps my cat is just really uncoordinated. I wonder if the age of the cats affects their ability to land more accurately, or if some cats are just not as skilled at this as others.

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