Why does a cat always land on its feet?

Or does it?

Well, the answer in almost all cases is YES, cats do land on their feet! They even survive.

The record for the longest fall a cat has survived is 42 floors. Yep, 42 floors. This unfortunate tabby fell out of an apartment window in New York City.

In fact, these falls happen so often that there is a name for it: High Rise Syndrome and vets see around 200 cases every year of cats that have slipped out of their owner´s windows!

By the way, don´t look at your cat if you are looking for science fair project ideas!

But why are they able to land on their feet and why don´t they get hurt?

It´s all in the way they are built. A cat is like a springy universal joint. A slinky, if you know what that spring-type toy is.

When a cat falls, their front and back legs are pointing straight up and they´re stretched straight out. This is from the fright!

While the cat is in mid-air, they pull in their front legs. Then they rotate them (turn them) 60 degrees clockwise. This FORCES their back legs to rotate 30 degrees anticlockwise (in the opposite direction).

Then they straighten out their front legs again and turn them 30 degrees anticlockwise (yep, its all getting like a pretzel, but they´re not finished yet!). This movement makes their BACK legs turn 60 degrees clockwise.

But they´re not finished yet! They repeat this whole twisty-turny process 5 more times.

Why? Because 5 times 30 degrees is 180 degrees… A half-circle. So after 5 twists, they are facing the ground.

After this, they just kind of hang around and wait for the fall to finish.

When they hit the ground, they put their front legs down first. A cat´s body is one of the world´s best shock absorbers. After the front legs have touched the ground, they let the shock ripple through their back and torso. While this is happening, they crouch as low to the ground on their front paws as they can. When their back legs hit the ground, they are already beginning to stand up in the front paws.

It´s kind of like they are shaking water off, only in this case they are shaking off a lot of force.

(Warning: For science fair project ideas, do not try this with any animal, especially a turtle. They don´t bounce)

Kitty stands up and usually walks away unharmed. Applause!

The amazing thing is that all of this does need a lot of time. Not all falls are from great heights. A cat can do all of this in a fall of less than one meter (about 3,3 feet).

And you thought all they did was lie around in the sun!

For great science fair project ideas, be sure to visit our other sites.

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