Home Physics Cats: The Physics behind their falls

Cats: The Physics behind their falls

Last updated on October 22nd, 2020 at 08:19 pm

Cats are one of the most beautiful as well as ferocious creatures of the entire animal kingdom. But they also have a unique behavior that fancies the physics enthusiasts. If you have spent a lot of time with or around a cat, you would have observed that most of the old aged cats land on all four feet after a fall. You may have even seen this happen often. Don’t you wish your fall to also have a similar style and grace? Isn’t this strange? Do they have abilities that defy the laws of physics?

After all, if they fall straight this is acceptable, but if they rotate directly in mid-air, then there won’t be any external torque acting on them to stop. As a result of angular momentum conservation, they will continue to rotate. This is what happens when we humans do summersault in the air. We continue to rotate. For a perfect landing, we need a lot of practice and timing. Well in case of a cat it was assumed to be the same until the discovery of slow-motion cameras.

The Observation and Explanation-

Scientists have observed many fascinating things about cats falling, using slow motion cameras.

For example, cats possess an innate ability commonly called the righting reflex. This righting reflex allows cats to determine vertically up from the vertically down direction quickly during a fall. It also helps them to maneuver their bodies into position to land on all four feet.

As an example, when a cat falls, it uses either its eyesight or its balance system in its inner ear, otherwise known as the vestibular apparatus, to determine which way is up. Cats have an incredible sense of balance, and their highly-flexible backbones allow them to rotate their upper bodies quickly to face downward. Their lower bodies then follow along that allows them to land on all four feet.

Cats have a couple other features helping them land consistently on all fours. Their small bodies are able to twist quickly in the air, and their light bone structure and thick fur help to soften the impact of a fall. Cats are observed to stretch out a bit during a fall creating more air resistance to slow down their fall.

Exception and Limitations-

Cats do not always land on all four feet, unfortunately. Research shows that falls from heights of 12 inches or less will not necessarily give cats enough time to right themselves in order to land on all four feet. When falls exceed 12 inches, though, it’s a pretty good bet that a cat will land on its feet.

Landing on its feet from a fall doesn’t mean that cats cannot be injured, though. If the height of the fall is more, cats can still suffer injuries from impact even when they land on all four feet and of course veterinarians can tell you about incidents where cats suffer from broken legs or other sorts of injuries suffered by a cat in falls.

Videography Demonstration of the Observation –

Video Courtesy- “Smarter EveryDay ”

Besides this, you can view our video and blog collections in the Video Section & Blog Section of the website.

Abhijeet is a 4th-year Undergraduate Student at IIT Kharagpur. His major inclination is towards exploring the science behind the things of our day-to-day life.

Abhijeet Mahatohttp://scilynk.in
Abhijeet is a 4th-year Undergraduate Student at IIT Kharagpur. His major inclination is towards exploring the science behind the things of our day-to-day life.


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