The highest a cat has ever jumped while the jump was measured and recorded is 11.5 feet or 3.4 meters. This was a straight vertical jump from a standing start by a pet caracal. I discuss this below.

You probably think the question is only about domestic cats. But the question does not refer to domestic cats but cats in general. And that is sensible although I did not formulate the question as it is a Google search term. People want to know.

The caracal is the world champion vertical leaper in the world of cats. Photo in public domain (deemed).

Wild cats – Caracal and Serval

The best vertically jumper of all the cats is probably the caracal, a medium-sized wild cat species living mainly in Africa and which is fairly prevalent in South Africa although persecuted. This cat is a prime candidate for the record of the highest a cat has ever jumped because they jump up all the time to catch birds as they take off. They hunt birds and other animals. The bird may take off to avoid a stalking caracal which has developed a strategy to catch it: the mighty jump.

Fortunately we have firm records of how high these cats can jump because scientists have observed and studied them. In general, the serval has similar jumping abilities to the caracal. The serval has long levers. They have the longest legs in relation to body size of all the cats. This accounts for the cat’s prodigious jumping skills but, in the wild, these are always horizontal in a wide arc as they catch prey (small mammals in long grass).

The best straight up jumper is the caracal and we have a firm record which would be a world record in my view if Messrs Guinness were listing it.

Mr Smithers of the University of Pretoria in his book, The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion (1983), writes that his pet caracal jumped up against a wall with her front feet touching the wall at 3.4 meters. This is 11.5 feet. Phew. That’s the highest a cat has ever jumped ON RECORD – probably. If a cat has jumped higher it will be a caracal in the wild while no one is watching (and I am sure it has happened). The photo on this page show a caracal about 8 or 9 feet in the air upside down.

Personal record for domestic cats

We know that domestic cats can jump impressive distances vertically because we see it all the time. A cat that used to live with me might have held the record! We had a fridge freezer at the time that was taller than me by about a foot which would make it around 7 feet tall. My little female cat could jump to the top from a standing start but she had to claw up the last 18 inches. She’d jumped about 5 feet six inches. I think that is very impressive. I’d argue that is around the limit for a domestic cat.

There are domesticated servals and F1 Savannah cats who can jump vertically higher at around 7 feet perhaps. But how do you measure it? You see we are back to officialdom and recording records precisely. But I do have a record, I think. Read on please…

Apropos: Domestic cats

First point: the caracal I refer to was a ‘pet’ and therefore technically a domestic cat! Officially there is no official record for the highest domestic cat jump. We know because Guinness World Records said so about 3 weeks ago!

There is a Guinness record for the longest jump. To quote:

The longest jump by a cat is 213.36 cm (7 ft) and was achieved by Waffle the Warrior Cat (USA), in Big Sur, California, USA, on 30 January 2018.

I have to discuss this record briefly. It must be a tongue in cheek record because thousands of times a day a domestic cat somewhere will be jumping more than 7 feet but no one is watching. As a record it does not really work because there is no structure around it. It isn’t like the World Athletic Championships with tons of officials and electronic machinery recording everything.

One website refers to Wikipedia in working out how high a domestic cat can jump vertically. They say the domestic cat can jump five times their body length (head to base of tail?). This means they can jump from 7-9 feet vertically. I would strongly question that if we are to be realistic. I searched Wikipedia for the info a failed to find it. Also this is theoretical. We need firm sightings and records.

How?

The jumping abilities of the cat in general comes from the fast twitch muscles of this mammalian species combined with long levers and great flexibility. They rely on their athleticism to survive in the wild and the domestic cat’s ancestor, the North African wildcat, is a great allrounder in the wild cat world championships!

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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