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Will Cats Always Land on Their Feet?

Learn about cats falling and how they land on their feet.

It's one of those things that we hear so often that it's become something that we all believe. If your cat falls, he will right himself and always land on his feet. But is this true?

Cats Often Land on Their Feet

The truth is that cats do seem to have a special ability to right themselves when they're falling, landing on their feet more often than not. The reasons they can do this, usually avoiding injury, include:

  • An extremely flexible backbone
  • A well-developed vestibular system that tells their body which side is up
  • Flexible joints that can take a fair amount of pressure when they land

How Do Cats Land on Their Feet?

When a cat is falling, his vestibular system quickly tells his body which way is up. His front end moves first, to correct his body angle, while the back of his body goes the opposite direction. This lets him push against himself, so he can move his back legs around. Now all four feet are pointing downward. He then spreads his legs out so that, when he hits the ground, the force of the blow will be spread out among his limbs as much as possible. His front feet become positioned under his chin, to protect it from hitting the ground.

You can see a slow-motion video of a cat falling here: Cat Righting Himself While Falling.

Cautions About Cats and Falling

In order to right themselves when they are falling, the cat needs a certain amount of time. Cats falling from higher spots are more likely to be able to get their feet under them before they hit the ground than those falling from lower heights.

Cats must be protected from falls, even though they have this special ability to land on their feet. High rise syndrome is a term used by veterinarians to describe injuries that cats incur when they fall from the windows or balconies of tall buildings, and it's a pretty common occurrence. Even when landing on their feet, cats can still suffer broken bones, internal injuries, and even death from falls.

Be sure to keep windows securely closed, and check screens for durability before leaving an upper window open. Don't allow your cat to be on a high balcony unsupervised.

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