Cats always manage to land on all four paws when jumping or falling from heights. The sense of balance of these furry acrobats is truly astonishing. Nevertheless, on hot summer days the greatest threat to them is the exciting world on the other side of the window.
National Geographic has compiled a list of interesting facts about cats:
Cats use their whiskers to study the environment, not to maintain balance
Old ladies sometimes say whiskers help cats maintain their sense of balance. It is not true. This myth is likely linked to the general belief that whiskers are a sense organ. In reality the 24 whiskers help cats perceive the environment and move around in it, especially during nighttime. Whiskers also help cats sense movement of air and allow the animals to understand if there are any threats lurking nearby. Whiskers are an important part of sense of security and mobility. Without them, cats would not be as agile and gracious as they are.
Internal ear provides balance
In reality, the inner ear helps cats maintain balance. Similar to other mammals, the sense of balance is controlled by the inner ear, which connects the middle ear and external ear. When walking on a fence or tree branch, cats use their nails and tail to maintain balance.
Flexible spine help organize during a fall
The furry acrobats have a very flexible spine. Cats also have more vertebra than humans – a total of 53. This allows them to bend their body during a fall – it is a natural reflex for them. When cats fall, they use either their sight or their vestibular apparatus to make sure their front paws are the first to touch the ground. The impact of the fall is absorbed by all four paws upon contact with the ground. Cat have incredibly strong hind legs for their modest size – they can jump six times their own height.
The higher, the better
It is nothing unusual for a cat to successfully land after jumping from a high tree. The reason is that the longer the fall distance, the more time cats have to organize their body for the landing. With that, a fall from the second of third floor is more dangerous than a longer fall. Physical complexity, light bone structure and thick fur, which helps reduce falling speed, allow cats to land gracefully. There are also cats that are able to use their body like a parachute.
Warning – open window!
It is possible that cats believe they have nine lives, but we all know that’s not the truth. Natural curiosity and their natural hunting instinct often drive them to jump out of open windows. In spite of their incredible sense of balance, sometimes falls lead to serious injuries.