How agile are cats?

Although agility varies by breed and individual, nature has given all cats a high degree of athletic ability. The feline skeleton is comprised of 244 bones, 27 of which are in the tail, a superb structure in charge of stabilizing balance and enhancing movement (not to mention conveying mood.)

Cats get in and out of tight spaces and negotiate high leaps using their tail as a “rudder” and guide, relying on their detached clavicles to synchronize their shoulders in rhythm with their legs. This motion, added to the versatility of their paws, gives them a super ability to balance on seemingly impossible surfaces.

The average cat, regardless of breed, can achieve straight up jumps that are six times the length of his own body, or approximately eight feet. Not all cats choose to use this ability, but in a pinch they can.

While it is not true that cats always land on their feet, they can right themselves in a fall if they have time to twist their bodies into proper position. Studies done on urban cats who have fallen from high rise buildings have found that cats who fall at heights of less than six stories suffer significantly greater injuries than those who fall from greater heights.

Of course, there is also a level at which terminal velocity supersedes a cat’s ability to achieve free fall, but there are amazing stories of survival verified by emergency veterinarian records. (Which in no way negates the necessity to make sure your urban dwelling cat does not have access to an open window.)

Nature designed felines to be what they are — fast, quick, agile predators. They certainly beat humans in all those areas. If you don’t believe it, enjoy the chase around the house when you tell your cat it’s time for her pill.

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