How Do Cats Survive Falls from Buildings?

Cats are more likely to survive, and have fewer injuries, from building falls because their inner ears essentially act as gyroscopes. This allows cats to be able to change their positions quickly to get their legs underneath their bodies. Once a cat reaches terminal velocity, or the maximum speed of its fall, it either flexes its legs or relaxes and spreads its legs horizontally to absorb the impact of the fall. Cats have a low terminal velocity of about 60 miles per hour (about 97 km/h), compared with the average human's terminal velocity of 120 miles per hour (about 193 km/h). They therefore don’t fall as quickly and are subject to less of an impact and chance of injury.

More about falling cats:

  • Cats that fall less than seven stories are the most likely to be injured because they don’t have enough time to adjust their positions as they fall.
  • Urban or suburban cats are more likely to be injured if they fall because they are more often overweight and not in peak physical condition.
  • The science of studying falling cats is known as feline pesematology and is done by using veterinary reports of cat falls and not by conducting actual experiments.
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Discussion Comments


"Cats have a low terminal velocity of about 60 miles per hour, compared with the average human..." likely doesn't factor into the equation, as all bodies accelerate at the same rate when falling. For a cat to reach 60 MPH (the stated terminal velocity), it would have to fall from >100 feet, or ~10+ stories. So the cat's advantage speed-wise (assuming that 60 is actually the TV of a cat) would come into play only for falls over 10 stories.

For lesser heights, a human and a cat would "crash" at about the same speed, except for some fairly minor air resistance effects (a fall from 100 ft will result in 80 fps, whereas 60 mph= 88 fps, so final velocity will be somewhat less than 60 mph after a 100 foot fall).

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