Unfortunately, cats do not always land on their feet, but they have an extraordinary adaptation in the event of a fall, called the “cat’s directional reflex”. These little felines have an innate ability to orient themselves when falling, to land on their paws at the moment of impact. A lateral flail reflex is the starting point for the movement, and this is made possible by the extraordinary flexibility of their spine, which supports twists that are impossible in a human. The fact that they lack functional collarbones is also an advantage; on the other hand, their tail hardly serves them during their aerobatics. Cats without a tail are therefore just as capable of landing on their feet as the others.
A real stunt!
To roll over in the air, the cat begins by bending its body in half, folding its front legs and extending its hind legs; thus he can rotate the front half of his body by 90% and the back half by 10%. It then does the exact opposite to achieve a full rotation both forward and backward. For this recovery to be possible, the fall must extend over a minimum of 1.5 m in height. Below, the cat can injure itself because it does not have time to turn around. Excessive height is of course also a source of complications, but not necessarily as one imagines.
According to a study carried out in 1987, the damage reaches its maximum around five to seven levels of fall, that is about fifteen meters. But the balance is statistically easier beyond this height, which allows them to reach their ultimate speed: they have time to relax during their fall to better distribute the impact of the landing. That doesn’t mean they will necessarily survive it or come out unscathed. The current record is held by an American cat who survived a fall of approximately 137 meters onto concrete with a single broken tooth. But don’t try to beat this record with your cat!
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