Have you ever tried to throw a cat up in the air to test if it will land on its four feet? This test was conducted by this writer on his native pet cat, but to be sure that the pet does not get hurt, if ever, a bed was used as a landing pad.
The experiment was tried at different heights and at different positions of the cat. Several positions were even taken with the cat being thrown upside down. In all twenty throws to put the cat off balance, there was only one instance that the cat was not able to land on its four and that was at upside down position a few inches from the top of the bed!
The maximum height the cat was thrown was the height of the ceiling which was about 15 feet from the floor. What was amazing was the higher the cat was thrown up in the air, the faster it was able to recoil and reposition its body to land comfortably on all fours.
The test was not continued on greater heights as this might already be seen as animal cruelty. To complete the data on higher distances, further statistical research was instead conducted.
Some people believe that the reason cats are attributed to have nine lives is their agility or ability to move their bodies to adapt to such circumstances as falling. The reality is cats also sustain injuries such as broken ribs, cracked teeth or bloodied nose. Data gathered from studies by veterinarians indicate that about ten per cent of cats die after falling from 2-6 stories.
What happens to a cat during a fall? Laws of physics explain that falling bodies accelerate at 22 miles per hour per second during gravity falls. The weight, not the size, is what matters, although the size can create a space beneath against which air can push the falling body up, similar to air action on a balloon. The falling mass reaches a maximum velocity in midair, and it is during this final speed that a cat falling is able to recoil and reposition its body enough to spread its four feet at touchdown.
Cats have a certain unique sense of balance which is critical to their four-feet landing. They have a vestibular apparatus, made up of floating crystals, inside their inner ear that is responsible for their remarkable balance. It is this sense of balance that enables cats to rotate and adjust their bodies at midair during a fall.