How fast can a cat accelerate? I am going to refer to domestic cats because that’s what the questioner is asking about. By now, I would expect most people to know that domestic cats can run at a maximum speed for short bursts of about 30 mph. This is 48 km/h.
The question is how long does it take to get up to 30 mph? The average domestic cat in good condition, not too old and not too young, can probably attain that speed in about three seconds. Not all domestic cats can do this because not all domestic cats are fit, well conditioned, not overweight and so on and so forth.
However we could argue that attaining 30 miles an hour in three seconds is about a normal best performance for a domestic cat. Extrapolating you could argue, at a pinch, that if domestic cats could do 60 miles an hour, which they absolutely can’t, they would reach it in about six seconds.
This is the sort of performance you expect from a fast sports car. The cheetah can do 60 miles an hour and they would achieve that speed in less than six seconds so they are achieving the kind of performance that the top end high-performance cars can achieve.
The reason why domestic cats can achieve such superb physicality is because their muscles mostly consist of very few fast-twitch fatigue-resistant cells. Not only do the cells allow the cat to accelerate very quickly but also to jump several times its own length in a single jump.
This high-performance comes at a price; the domestic cat is a poor endurance athlete. When trotting along, a cat burns more energy than a dog of similar size and weight (see cat gait).
This high level of exertion can lead to overheating causing the body temperature to rise after less than 60 seconds of sprinting. The cat therefore must stop and might pant. This is why the cheetah, although a wonderful sprinter, only has this capacity over about a maximum of 400 yards. They’ll abandon the chase during a hunt quite quickly.
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Source: Michael and The Encyclopedia Of The Cat by Dr Bruce Fogle.