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Getting Purrsonal – Falling From Grace
By Tania Marie de Saram
Cats are renowned for their ability to survive falling from buildings, but do they always land on their feet? The simple answer to this question, is that it depends on how great a height they drop from. A study in 1987 discovered that felines falling onto concrete from between seven and 26 stories sustained fewer injuries than those who dropped from shorter distances.
This is in large part due to the righting reflex, that enables your furry friend to ‘right’ herself and reorientate, when given enough time to do so. Whereas maximum velocity for a human is 120mph, it is considerably less for pusses at 60mph. Therefore she can relax, stretch out to increase her body size and air resistance, and promote a more even distribution of drag.
Cats have a unique skeletal structure with no functional clavicle, and 30 vertebrae make up their flexible spines. Their long, slender, muscular legs are angled, and this, along with the elastic discs between each vertebra, reduces impact and absorbs shock to cushion their fall. The vestibular apparatus in feline ears, which is responsible for balance, helps your pets to figure out which way is ‘up’ and correct themselves, by first rotating their heads and allowing the rest to follow.
During a fall, kitties will arch their backs, pull their feet beneath their bodies, and bring their forepaws close to their faces for protection. Their low body to weight ratio slows their velocity as they drop, so it stands to reason that older or overweight pusses will not be as graceful during their descent.
The bottom line is that it is better to ensure your furry friend has no opportunity to fall from any great height, and guarantee that curiosity doesn’t kill the cat! ❤