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 can’t. They might glide to the ground as they jump but they can’t glide in a horizontal direction. But cats do seem able to survive fall from great heights so what is their secret?
Can Cats Glide to the Ground From Great 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 Cats Land on Their Feet
A safe landing from a fall has nothing to do with gliding and everything to do with a cat’s 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.
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.
There have been reports of cats surviving fall from 32 floors high. Obviously stories such as this make the news. When cats do not survive from high falls these are not reported and I suspect that the majority of cats would not survive from falls that high.
Cats are known to escape from 2nd-floor windows and many can survive from such falls. On the other hand, many can injure themselves severely in the process.
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 shows they choose not to jump from heights if they can avoid it.
Can cats glide? – Conclusion
Cats glide reasonably well in a vertical direction but not so well horizontally. Gliding is a slow process. When a cat leaps across from one surface to another it does it swiftly. Its powerful hind legs enable it to get safely across gaps. There’s no gliding involved.
Be safe – don’t let your cat test its gliding ability.