Can Cats Glide?

Cat gliding

Cats are incredible creatures with many amazing abilities. They are lithe and stealthy, sure-footed and agile. They seem to literally sail through the air when they leap. What’s their secret?

Can cats glide? Some squirrels, lemurs, and possums glide but cats most definitely don’t! They might look like they’re gliding but look closely and you’ll notice their legs are underneath them as they jump. To glide involves spreading limbs sideways and cats don’t do this as they fall.

Do Cat’s Glide to the Ground From Heights?

They don’t! There’s a common misbelief that cat’s always land on their paws from a fall. Often they do because they have a “righting reflex” but the height they fall from plays a great part in their ability to use it.

Cats are clever creatures and don’t usually choose to leap down from a great height. If one falls accidentally and the fall time doesn’t allow them enough time to twist to land on their feet they can sustain severe injuries. Problems often arise when a cat spots prey. They can become so focussed and distracted, they forget they are in a precarious position and can slip.

How Do Cat’s Land on Their Feet

A safe landing from a fall has nothing to do with gliding and everything to do with a cats ears and skeletal structure.

Within a cat’s ears are three semicircular fluid-filled canals lined with minuscule hairs. … The semicircular canals and the vestibule are crucial to your cat’s “righting reflex,” which allows her to land on her feet (most of the time) if she falls

The vestibular apparatus inside a cat’s ear is used for balance and orientation and this enables cats to quickly figure out which way is up, and rotate their head instantly so the body can follow.

White cat landing from fall

When a Cat Falls From a Low Height

If a cat falls from a low height it may not have time to full right itself. It may land on its body or on its feet but not have time to position itself to absorb the shock. This is why it’s so important to ensure a cat can’t fall from an upstairs window or a balcony.

When a Cat Falls from a Great Height

Obviously the greater the height, the more time a cat has to prepare itself. Even though it might land on its feet this doesn’t mean it will remain unscathed. Many cats who fall from several floors up sustain terrible injuries such as broken bones and shattered paws. If you have a cat and live in a high-rise building take extra precautions to keep it safe.

What Is The Highest Fall a Cat Can Survive?

Assume there is no height a cat can survive from and do whatever it takes to prevent one from falling from anywhere. You may have noticed, when a cat is more than 4 or 5 feet off the ground, it rarely leaps straight to the ground but walks its front paws down any vertical surface available before committing to the jump. This show they choose not to jump from heights if they can avoid it.

Cat looking down from open window

You would be forgiven to making a mistake about this – if you’re interested in what other large mistakes cat owners make – check this out!


I'm Jane Pettitt, co-owner of Pets Knowledge Base with my husband, Matt. I have a grand total of 50 years’ experience as a pet owner. It all started with a guinea pig called Percy when I was 5 years old and since then I’ve lived with two more guinea pigs, a hamster, mice, a rabbit, a tortoise, a dog and 11 cats. I’ve learned so much about pet care during this time and many of my articles are based on my personal experiences and those of my family and friends .

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