A Special Danger When A Cat Jumps

There is a special danger for a cat who is jumping to a particular surface. Cats often jump onto small spaces; for example, a ledge. Before jumping they will move their heads from side to side to get a precise fix on the distance and landing zone. By moving their head they can re-evaluate the measurements through their binocular vision. Binocular vision (the use of two eyes) provides precise depth perception which is the ability to see the world in three dimensions and to asses the distance of an object. Of course humans have that ability too but we don’t have the jumping skills.

Some of the jumps made by cats require absolute precision on depth perception. Cats rarely fail with respect to landing precisely but they can fail in respect of noticing what is on the surface to which they are jumping.

If there is a sharp object sticking up out of the surface and the cat is looking right down the spike – meaning all that the cat sees is the very tip of the spike but sees none of the length of the object – she can jump right onto the sharp object. If all the cat sees is the tip of a spike she receives no information about the depth of the spike or sharp object. It becomes two dimensional and part of the surface onto which she is jumping.

Impaled cat

Impaled cat. Photo supplied by Stuff.co.nz. Please click image for original story.

This is almost certainly what happened to a New Zealand cat who jumped onto a the narrow top of a fence from the roof of a bungalow. Or, perhaps, in this case the spike merged with the background.

One of the pillars of the fence extended beyond the top edge of the fence and when she made contact with the landing zone the spike went straight through her.

She survived – cats often do because they have nine lives. She could not move because she was literally pinned to the spot. She cried out and eventually the fire brigade turned up and cut off the fence post and removed the cat and post together whereupon an SPCA manager gently removed the spike in situ before she was taken to a vet.

It is rare that such an accident happens but cat owners should be aware of the possibility if their cat is of the more adventurous kind.

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A Special Danger When A Cat Jumps — 10 Comments

  1. Another brilliant article Michael.
    If we started thinking of all the dangers to cats indoors and outdoors we would go insane with worry and wonder how any kitten survives to adulthood.
    Some cats seem more accident prone than others, we’ve had cats who could walk along a mantelpiece of ornaments without disturbing even the dust lol but also one who knocked everything flying wherever she jumped.
    I’d worry more about declawed cats jumping too as they have no grip and they must slide along and often fall.
    I’m so glad that cat on the spike was rescued and survived!

  2. What a relief that the cat survived – thats scary. I have slippery wooden floors and I am always careful that there is nothing sharp that they can slide into when running full ahead around the place. It’s hard not to worry. I sometimes wonder if Red fell out the tree I found him under rather than being hit by a car 20 meters away from where he was. He loved to run up trees and this is a huge tree that if he fell from it I’d be suprised if he wasn’t seriously hurt.

    • Wow, that is a painful but interesting thought. I hope you don’t mind if I briefly make a comment about it.

      I’d be surprised if he was killed by falling from a tree. It is possible but I am sure it is rare because cats are superb climbers and self-right when falling, as you know, so they land on their feet. Although, that may have gone wrong for some reason but it is unlikely. Also cats find shelter of some sort when hurt. The tree may have been the nearest thing. The momentum after the hit carries them to a den where they are safer.

      I have always wondered if my cat, who I believe was killed on the road, was killed by a fox because she had gone into a field but I don’t really believe it. God, it still kills me to think about it. The vision I have when I found her is seared into my brain. I wish it wasn’t.

      • Me too – worst moment ever. I will always have that image in my head in full detail. Just yesterday I was lying in bed thinking about it in sequence and I was literally shaking and I noticed afterward Gigi just staring at me clearly noticing my state. That’s the only time in my life I cried hysterically – I know what that means now.

  3. You could be right Marc, maybe Red did fall from the tree.
    Years ago here a neighbour’s cat was found dead under a tree, without a mark on her, there is no traffic out the back of our houses, there hadn’t been a sound of any sort, her death was a complete mystery, now I’m wondering if that happened to her too?

    • Thats exactly how Red looked. Not a mark on him – just a trickle of blood from his mouth. I felt his body and didn’t notice any broken bones or anything. Somebody had put a tea towel over him – I doubt they moved him. He was over a 3 foot wall and 10 meters from the road. All he had a bit of plant matter on him like he rubbed his face on some plants. Maybe the car hit him and they felt bad and put him by the nearest house thinking he was from that house. If it were me in the car that’s what I would have done if I saw a dead cat on the road or if I killed it in the middle of the night and didn’t know where it lived.

      One thing I cannot bear is the thought that he was alive and unable to move and I wasn’t there for him. I get the feeling he was killed instantly. It’s a hard hit to cause blood to come out of his mouth. Thats what I hope. If he was lying there unable to get home that would be the most awful thing in the world. If he was thinking of me just dying there alone… I can’t bear the thought.

      • He may have jumped the wall. Cats injured by a car run and jump on by instinct. It the bones are OK and functioning and it is just the internal organs that are damaged they can keep going for a while. I don’t know. I am guessing but cats can get away after trauma. You could be correct, though. My cat was quite a way from the road under a bush. She got there by herself.

        Somebody had put a tea towel over him

        This is very tender and respectful.

  4. Another danger is patio doors. At our old home we had them and one day Bryan saw the window cleaner approaching to clean the outside and he ran full pelt into the glass! Thankfully he wasn’t badly injured but after that we put patterned stuff on the glass so our cats could see the doors were closed.
    It doesn’t matter how very careful we are and we really are ultra careful, unexpected accidents CAN happen.

    • I always think of cats as so agile and athletic with such finely tuned senses that they can’t make mistakes. They make far fewer mistakes of this kind than people but they do make mistakes (rarely). Thanks for that example, Ruth.

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