TED Conversations

Freya Smith

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Why do cats always land on all four feet?

When I was 9, I loved cats. And I also loved climbing tall things then jumping off them. And I ALWAYS landed on my feet!

Then I learnt, cats also land on their feet.
So why was I so related to a cat, and how do cats always land on their feet?

Sorry I couldn't think of something cooler, but I'm genuinely curious.
Thanks if you answer!

0
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Aug 16 2012: Actually, cats don't land always on their feet if the falling distance is not high enough. My cat once rolled out of bed accidently while she was stretching out at the edge. She landed sideways as there was not enough time for her reflexes to turn her feet downwards while falling - and she was probably still half asleep. But she survived fine with eight out of nine lifes... :o)

    When you was nine and jumping off things you landed always on your feed because you were jumping intentionally, and cats manage this as well. But unlike us cats also manage unintentional falling and thereby reduce the chance of injuries much better than we do.

    From a certain distance on, cats are able to turn themselves around in free fall. For this they use the change in momentum they create in between their feet and their tails while bending. This is the same momentum figure skaters use in pirouettes, in which they increase the rotation speed by closing their arms to their bodies and therefore the axis of rotation.

    In physics this effect is called 'angular momentum' and that cats are pretty much into physics, we know since Schrödinger... :o)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angular_momentum

    Cats use this momentum in several steps. Head and front legs first, then hind legs and the tail is controling the whole process like a rudder. This process is pretty quick, yet still needs some time, which determines the minimal falling hight to land feet first. And if the falling hight is to high, the cat will still land on her feet, yet she will suffer injuries due to the force of the impact. This is why some cats get stuck in trees as they sense that jumping is no option even though they know about their talents... :o)

    Interestingly it was found, that cats falling out of windows in hirise buildings were in average better off falling from a higher distance than those falling from lower levels. More information and a video on this you can find here:

    http://scimad.com/cats-survive-high-falls/

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.