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How Does a Cat Manages to Land on Its Feet?

a cat

Image credit: Nicole Ciscato/Shutterstock.

When kitten are born, actually they are not able to right themselves. After several weeks, it appears that the newborn kittens have developed the ability called the “air-righting reflex” in scientific term, which seems quite innate to most people.  However, in which way, exactly, are cats capable of gaining such amazingly gymnastic technique? Like many simple questions, the answer is pretty complicated.

When a cat is falling down, the first thing it should do is to work out which way is up. To complete this, it could do either visually or use its inner ear. According to the experiments, it is revealed  that with one or the other of such senses at one time, the cat is still able to right itself well, but if being deprived of both at the same time, it can not right itself and land on its backs. So the truth is that a kitten was blind when it was born.

Cats taken on a parabolic flight, for science! Credit: okrajoe/YouTube.

Then it starts to get complicated. Here the basic principles are presented by Andrew Cuff, who is a postdoc researcher majoring in cat biomechanics at Royal Veterinary College, London. When falling down, a cat is prone to folding itself in half as much possible as it could and at the same time, it intends to rotate the front half of its body so as to keep itself face the ground. Afterwards, it will pull the rest of its body round with it.

However, if it is the right way up, is it able to prevent itself from over rotating and landing upside down?

It might be assumed by many people that all this is related to the kitty’s tail, but without a tail, Manx cats could be still capable of righting themselves, so there must be something else which matters differently. It is believed that the cat folding to which is more than just a quirk as referred by Cuff.

In the way in which a cat bends itself in the middle and then in the position of doing different things with both its front and back ends, like taking back its front legs and at the same time  extending its back ones. By doing so, the cat could enhance the moment of inertia on the front, while cutting down it on the back. This has the effect of the front of the cat twisting at a higher speed then the rear.

At that time, as soon as its head is kept in the right position, the cat would extend its front legs, prevent that end from rotating, and then draw in its back ones, let them twist as much as possible. Such opposite movements could keep the cat away from over-spinning. At this stage, the cat will direct all of its feet to the ground, extends its claws to ensure that it could grip once it land on the ground, and arches its back for a slow  descent and absorption of any impact force.

However, these aren’t all of the adaptations the cat has made. As Cuff said, once the cat is to land, the important part helping it do this should be their shoulders, which are called as free-floating. Although they aren’t linked with their spine or their ribs, actually they could move. In fact, considering the body, they are entirely mobile. Therefore, once the cat hit the ground, its shoulder blades could move around.

From above-mentioned explanations, you would be aware that  contrary to the assumption that cats have nine lives, they just have some smart adaptations accordingly.

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