How Cats Always Land On Their Feet

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?

Righting Reflex

cat fallingThat  cats are able to turn around when falling down is because of two things, 1) a “Righting reflex” and 2) a unique skeletal structure.

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

Terminal Velocity

cat falling balloonsNext 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.


Picture by &

16 Responses to “How Cats Always Land On Their Feet”

  1. Solveig

    My cat Ozzy fell down a silo in a barn (inside the building) because he used to sleep in a comfortable area above it – hard to explain. Anyway, he didn’t seem hurt and the fall was about 10 metres on plain concrete ground. He should be grateful for his nine lives!

  2. Long Life Cats and Dogs

    They are indeed incredible. I saw a fantastic documentary on this exact subject (was ages ago and I cannot remember what the program was). Someone, however, best tell little Pixels that by now, she should be able to right herself :)

  3. Elizabeth Benoit

    I always wondered what the correct terminology was when describing how cats turn their bodies to land on their feet. Great informative post as usual.

  4. baileyboatcat

    Yes we are amazing! I fell from the 4th floor of an appartment building when I was a kitten before my humans had me…I landed on my feet but broke my front leg! It was PAINFUL!!! Love the picture of the balloon kitty! Bisous Bailey


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