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Humpty Dumpty Wasn’t A Cat

You may have seen a cat fall from a tree or high rooftop. Ever wonder how felines can survive such great falls?

A tabby cat walking through a yard

Photo: Kenny Teo (flickr)

While cats have been endowed by evolution with a great sense of balance, they do fall from time to time.

Humpty Dumpty may have sat on a wall and had a great fall, but Humpty Dumpty wasn’t a cat. How do we know this? Because, unlike an egg, a cat can survive a great fall in one piece.

Cats can fall from great heights and survive. This phenomenon has been reported in newspapers like The New York Times, which published a story claiming that even cats falling from greater than seven floors have a good chance of survival.

The secret lies in cats’ flexible spines and tails. When a cat falls, it instinctively turns so that it will land on its feet. If it’s falling head or back first, the cat will rotate the head and front legs to face downward then rotate the back legs into position; cats are flexible enough to rotate front and back quarters almost independently. Once feet are downward, the cat’s body arches up, like a Halloween cat. This position increases air resistance and slows the cat down so that when it lands the body can absorb a lot of the impact of the fall.

While cats may not need all the King’s horses and all the King’s men, they might need a veterinarian. Cats can survive incredible falls, but they often suffer broken bones and internal injuries.

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