Are domestic cats faster than humans?

The question is asking if domestic cats IN GENERAL are faster than humans IN GENERAL. It is not asking if the fastest domestic cat is faster than the fastest human. And the question is not concerned with the distance travelled.

Domestic cats are faster than humans
Domestic cats are faster than humans. Individual images: Pinterest. Collage: PoC.
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Bearing those issues in mind:

The fastest domestic cat is faster than the fastest human. The quickest domestic cat can reach 30 mph within a short distance and sustain it for perhaps up to 400 yards while Bolt reached 27 mph. A less mentioned aspect of domestic cats’ speed is their acceleration. They can reach the 30 mph mentioned in a few seconds. Off the starting blocks the domestic cat would out perform the fastest human by a considerable margin.

Cat running fast - How fast do cats accelerate?
Cat running fast – How fast do cats accelerate? Royalty free stock photo words added.

General population

As for the general population of cats and humans there is no contest whatsoever because the average domestic cat is much faster than the average human in my opinion. There are no statistics on the average speed of say a male human across all sections of society and in all countries but you could happily halve Bolt’s speed I suspect. This would be around 14 mph. I would estimate the average cat to be able to run at around 20 mph at least.

A lot of people simply can’t run at all. Even the most geriatric cat can run pretty successfully. Fat ones can travel fast too (click this to see one!).

Fat cat can shift like the blazes
Fat cat can shift like the blazes

Muscle cell type

Domestic cats are built to be sprinters as they have fast twitch muscles (fast acting muscles) and long levers. The domestic cat’s speed and grace in movement depends on the types of cells within its muscles. And their muscles are more flexible than those of other mammals.

Muscle tissue consists of three different types of muscle cell, named after their purpose and actions (1) fast-twitch fatiguing (2) fast-twitch fatigue resistant and (3) slow-twitch.

Domestic cat muscles consist mainly of fast-twitch fatiguing cells which give cats their speed and the ability to leap several times their own length in a single bound. The caracal is the arch exponent of the single bound vertical leap thanks to those fast-twitch cells.

The cat is not an endurance runner because they have relatively few fast-twitch fatigue resistant cells. By contrast dogs are famous for their endurance e.g. African wild dog. The reason why a cheetah’s fabulous top speed of around 64 mph is limited to about 400 yards is because they overheat and have to stop. The same overheating applies to domestic cats as so much power is exerted. Their body temperature rises in less than a minute.


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