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Felinexpress.com Home > Cat Behavior > Why Do Cats Land on their Feet?

Why Do Most Cats Land on their Feet When They Fall?

I am sure you have seen the jaw-dropping videos either on television or on you-tube of cats falling from high places and landing relatively unharmed on their feet. Years ago, one of my cats, Gulliver (appropriately named because he liked to travel) escaped out of the house and scrambled up a centuries-old pine tree. My husband called me to the tree and told me my cat was up in the branches. Gully was so far up in the tree I could barely see him!  He was at least 18 feet high! Being a bit naïve, I stood under the tree and spread my arms and called to him. He leaped down that tree right towards my arms but landed on my face! Can you say “Ouch?” Cats extend their claws when they jump. He bounced off my shoulder and darted into the screen door. I was a mess, but Gulliver was just fine!

Cats use their tail for balance but when they find themselves falling, they have the ability to rotate their body mid-air as long as they can see where they are going. The first thing the cat will rotate is the head so he can make split-second decisions on what part of his body to flex next. Once the cat understands he is heading for potential danger, he will rotate the back end of his body and generally land on his feet. If the cat is an avid hunter- his sense of balance is attuned to a fine point aiding him in his fight for his life.

In New York City where high rise buildings are the norm, many cats fall out of the windows. They call this type of trauma High-Rise Syndrome. Not all cats who fall from over three stories will fall to their death. Many land on their feet and suffer only minor injuries. The way their muscles surround their joints also lends itself to the cat being able to twist around and land straight instead of tumbling right to the ground.

For Gulliver, I came out the worst end that day. He lost one claw in that experience. I do remember that when I saw him twisting in the air above me like some sort of feline hang-glider wishing I had a mattress to catch him in and protect him. When I realized he was heading straight for me, I threw my sweatshirt over my head like a sling- but his claws sliced through the thin material and shredded my cheeks. He didn’t need the protection and he certainly didn’t want to overnight in that tree.

  1. Korat
  2. Balinese
  3. Javanese
  4. Japanese Bobtail
  5. Somali
  6. Abyssinian
  7. Turkish Van
  8. Siamese
  9. Egyptian Mau
  10. Oriental Shorthair
  11. Tonkinese
  12. Bengal
  13. Norwegian Forest Cat
  14. Cornish Rex
  15. Siberian

More cat breeds

Persian Cats

Persian cats prefer staying relatively quiet. They are docile, loving cats.


Ragdoll cats prefer to stay low to the ground, rather than in high places


Ragamuffins are calm and can handle most types of child’s play