How does a cat manage to fall on her feet (infographic)?

This remarkable and rapid feline skill has been extensively discussed on the internet. Here is an infographic on the topic.

An important aspect of this skill is that there is an optimum distance for a cat to fall at which her chances of survival without injury or death is maximized. Many die when falling from great heights from windows in high-rise apartment buildings despite the cat’s ability to fan out their bodies to brake their fall and reach a terminal velocity. Typical injuries occur to the chin and chest. The nature of the ground on which they make contact is clearly of vital importance.

RELATED: Domestic cat’s self-righting reflex educates astronauts

How does a cat manage to fall on its feet?
How does a cat manage to fall on its feet? The image in the infographic comes from npr.com on Pinterest and the image is downloadable.
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Tell me how the vestibular system of the domestic cat initiates the self-righting reflex

The vestibular system, located in the inner ear of your feline friend, plays a starring role in their amazing ability to land on their feet. Here’s how it works:

  1. Fluid Filled Canals: The vestibular system consists of fluid-filled canals lined with hair cells.
  2. Head Movements: As the cat twists, turns, and flips during a fall, the movement of the fluid in these canals stimulates the hair cells.
  3. Sending Signals: The hair cells then send signals to the brain regarding the cat’s head position and orientation in space.
  4. Brain Goes Into Action: The brain interprets these signals and instantly knows which way is “up” relative to the cat’s head.
  5. Righting Reflexes: With this information, the brain triggers coordinated muscle movements throughout the body. This reflex response helps the cat adjust its posture to land on its paws.

Here’s an additional point to consider:

  • Neck and Proprioception: The neck muscles and the sense of proprioception (body awareness) also play a part in refining the self-righting reflex. They provide the brain with additional information about the cat’s body position relative to its head.

So, the next time you see your cat gracefully land after a daring leap, remember the incredible vestibular system and its role in this amazing reflex!

RELATED: 16 facts about high-rise syndrome in cats – this page tells you a lot about cats falling; called ‘high-rise syndrome euphemistically.

RELATED: These Statistics on Cats Falling Will Surprise You

Even though cats are surprisingly resilient to falls, they can sustain injuries from high falls. These injuries are often grouped under the term high-rise syndrome. Here are some of the typical injuries that can occur:

  • Broken bones: This is especially common in the jaw, legs (femur, tibia), and pelvis due to the impact of the fall.
  • Chest trauma: This can include punctured lungs or bruised ribs.
  • Internal injuries: These can be harder to detect but are serious and include ruptured bladder or bleeding.
  • Head and facial injuries: These can include a damaged or shattered jaw and damaged teeth.
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