We’ve seen it all before. A cat falls down from something high, turns it body and lands on its feet. But how is it possible that the cat is able to turn its body in the middle of the air when it’s falling down? How does it work?
The righting reflex is a cat’s ability to turn their body as they fall to land on their feet. Cats are born with this ability and the righting reflex appears at the age of 3 to 4 weeks. At the age of 7 weeks the righting reflex works a 100%.
Cats are able turn because they have an unusually flexible backbone and no functional collarbone. The minimum hight that is required for most cats to make this turn would be around 30 centimeters. Cats without a tail also have this ability, because cats mostly moves its hind legs and the tail is little to no use with a fall like that. By turning the head and forefeet, the rest of the body naturally follows so the cat is able to reorient itself
Next to the righting reflex, cats also have other features that will reduce the damage from a fall. Think about their small size, light bone structure and a thick fur that will decrease their terminal velocity.
Another thing that will help them slow down their fall is that cats spread out their body and paws like a flying squirrel and relax as they fall. In other words: cats are amazing.