Does a Cat Really Always Land on Its Feet?

When you walk around your house with your cat in your arms and she decides to have one of her random freak-outs, inevitably jumping out of your arms, your heart skips a few beats. What if she lands wrong? What if she injures her leg? What if she shatters her hip? What if she splinters her organs with bone fragments? What if she… OK, OK, you get the point. To your surprise, your kitty has landed perfectly on her own four paws, unharmed and unaffected, as usual.

Dr. Fiorella Gambale from the oddly impossible to locate Institute for Feline Research in Milan, Italy wanted to know if the old myth is true. Do cats always land on their feet? As it would turn out, no, they do not, but they do most of the time. Falling upside down from heights of 2 to 6 feet, the cat landed on its feet 100% of the time. From distances of one foot or lower, the success rate fell to 0%. While this “study” in itself seems not to be completely legit, as it was first published in the Annals of Improbable Research, reports in the 90s and 2000s suggest that the results could be closer to the mark than it might seem.

Apparently, cats that fall from higher distances are able to spread their bodies like little feline parachutes to slow themselves down, improving their chance of survival though not the risk of severe injury. Even landing on your feet can’t eliminate broken bones and internal bleeding. A fall of 10-12 feet seems to be the optimal height for serious feline injury. Caution be heeded, fine wire-mesh screens are your safest bet if you have a pet in the home, as they will hold up the longest and ultimately lead to a safer kitty.

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