• Question: Why do cats always land on their feet?

    Asked by georgiasaurus to Adam, Faye, Martin, Samantha, Jemma, John, Lisa, Sam, Amylou, Maria, Mark L, Mark U on 23 May 2012. This question was also asked by unknownpupil, ciaraistall.
    • Photo: Adam Bibbey

      Adam Bibbey answered on 23 May 2012:

      Hi georgiasaurus,

      Interesting question!

      It is believed that as cats fall through the air, due to their smaller bodies they are actually able to remain with their legs facing the floor. It is also believed that they extend all 4 legs sideways so they create a mini parachute to stop them falling so quick.

      Upon landing, then cats also have muscles and bones that act as shock absorbers so they have a better chance of survival.

      Hope this helps 🙂

    • Photo: Faye Didymus

      Faye Didymus answered on 26 May 2012:

      Hi georgiasaurus! Just done a little bit of research on this for you and found why cats often land on their feet! Apparently, it has to do with the in-built ability of a cat to adjust its position during a sudden fall – its light weight and muscular body help it to do this. While humans tumble uncontrollably and lose control over their bodies when they fall, cats are able to straighten themselves even in mid-air and manage to fall on their feet!

      When a cat falls from a great height, on its way down, it extends all four legs sideways as if it is gliding. This makes a greater surface area to the air below, almost like a tiny parachute. And because cats are so light, the speed with which they fall is almost equal to the upward thrust of air and the two get balanced. As a result, the cat continues to fall but at a steady speed, unlike humans who hurtle down with an increasing speed to crash on the ground. This gives the cat time to spread its limbs out like a parachute.

      Unlike humans, cats do not tumble because of an exceptional sensory system. It immediately tells the cat’s nervous system that it is upside down and falling. Thanks to this, the agile cat twists its body for a safer landing. Even its feet are flexed in order to absorb the shock of the fall. And the cat’s muscles that join and surround its bones make the best shock absorbers ever made for when the cat hits the ground!