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Cats Can Survive from High Falls, but not Low Falls

3 minutes
Read on to learn more about about cats and their "9 lives".
Cats Can Survive from High Falls, but not Low Falls
Last update: 25 October, 2019

They say cats have 9 lives, although there’s a bit of mystery around this belief. Why do people say this? It’s maybe because cats can survive falls from great heights. However, they don’t do so well when the fall is from a lower or medium height. Strange, isn’t it? Would you like to know the reasons? Stay with us to learn more.

They say it was “curiosity” that killed the cat. This is a famous phrase that has been used to describe the extremely curious nature that some people may have. However, in the cat world, this is absolutely true. All cats, at some point or another, will risk injuring themselves with a fall.

This causes cat owners to live in constant fear that their cat may seriously injure themselves. However, if you own a feline, you don’t have to worry if you live on a high floor. Here’s why.

Why cats can survive falls from great heights

Biologists Wayne Whitney and Cheryl Mehlhaff affirm that cats have a natural instinct to look around, to learn, to see, and to discover. This is linked to the passion they feel for being high up. A cat will often try to be above you, most likely in the highest place in the house.

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Our human logic leads us to think that the higher the fall, the worse the potential damage. However, cats can actually often survive falls from high places, but don’t fare so well falling from lesser heights.

A scientific study from 1987 conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association gives us the answer. It was performed with 132 cats that were taken to the emergency room in New York. The study showed that those who had fallen from a height of between 16 and 30 feet had hurt themselves more than those who had fallen from a higher place.

The BBC, in 2012, reported on a cat that fell from a height of 19 stories with only some bruising to show for it.

Feline superpowers make them survive falls from great heights

This sounds like something incredible, but cats don’t really have superpowers! The answer is more scientific than that.

Their secret is called a “righting reflex”. It’s something similar to what we humans do to keep our balance and help us remain standing. The fact is that if felines have enough time, they’re capable of positioning themselves so that they can fall on their feet. But, to do that, they need to fall from at least 6 feet high.

On the other hand, their legs are capable of stretching. This causes their body to do the same, thereby creating a “parachute effect” that allows them to reach the ground without damage. But again, they need time to do this. Therefore, the higher the fall, the longer they will have to protect and prepare themselves with these movements.

Thanks to this “parachute effect” their fall speed is greatly reduced. While a person would fall at about 120 miles per hour, a cat is able to reduce that speed to 60mph.

For cats, higher is better

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The higher the fall, the longer the cat will have to prepare. This way, they can reduce their speed even more.

However, even though cats can indeed survive from great falls, you should never neglect the safety of your home. Never assume it’s not important to close the window, for instance. Just because cats can avoid hurting themselves this doesn’t mean that it will never happen, or that every cat can survive.

Some can be overweight, or maybe their age has damaged their bones or joints. Always make sure you take care of your pet with responsibility and maintain your space in harmony with their needs and safety.

We hope you enjoyed learning about these curious facts just as we did, and see you next time!

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.