Do cats always land on their feet?

@boiboing (12882)
Northampton, England
May 29, 2016 5:10am CST
It's been scientifically proven that cats that fall off things will always land on their feet, thanks to something that Wikipedia tells me is called the 'cat righting reflex'. Apparently it should work at any height about 30 cm but theory and practice aren't always the same thing. My little black cat, Bagheera, was sprawled on my lap the other evening when I was sitting on the sofa. In his sleep he rolled over and fell straight off my knees and onto the floor with a thud. Not the best way to wake up. So my adapatation to the 'cat righting reflex' would be that if the cat is fast asleep and the distance isn't more than about 40 cm, the cat CAN land on its back or side. My old cats who lived with me in my first house would often sleep on top of wardrobes. I think it was something they did when feeling insecure or threatened by neighbouring cats. They would find the highest place to sleep in. And in the night, they would roll over and fall off. And as far as I know, even when a cat is asleep, a wardrobe height drop is enough for them to get themselves turned around and landing on their paws.
12 people like this
13 responses
@JolietJake (51114)
• United States
29 May 16
I saw something posted one day about how cats always land on their feet, and toast always lands butter side down, so if you properly attached a piece of buttered toast to a cat and dropped it, it would never hit the ground but become suspended above it rotating...
4 people like this
@Fleura (7194)
• United Kingdom
29 May 16
@JolietJake The buttered cat array has been proposed a few times over the years as a perpetual motion machine!
3 people like this
@boiboing (12882)
• Northampton, England
29 May 16
@Fleura The problem is that toast DOESN'T always land butter side down - we just notice it more if it does.
1 person likes this
• United Kingdom
29 May 16
I have never seen a cat fall on anything other than its paws. It might have something to do with the environment as you say, i,.e more closed in, they may well feel that they don't always have to land on their feet compared to more open spaces.
3 people like this
@boiboing (12882)
• Northampton, England
29 May 16
I think he was just so stoned up with tummy rubs and affection that he rolled off.
2 people like this
@bwjsdems (498)
• New Zealand
29 May 16
Definitely have a minimum height that is required to realign themselves. and yes the depth of sleep also affects their distance requirement. Morph often falls off the bed with a thud if he isn't paying attention.
3 people like this
@Inlemay (16730)
• South Africa
29 May 16
Not always - many years ago my at took a leap our of my hubby's arms and fell on her back, she broke her hip and the vet could not do anything for her, so it was on the advice of a keen cat person to keep her in a box, take her out to toilet daily and feed same, till her hip healed - she did heal and now she wobbles a little but is as fast as can be. I feel so sorry for her but she was then already going blind,
2 people like this
@boiboing (12882)
• Northampton, England
29 May 16
Poor puss cat.
2 people like this
@Inlemay (16730)
• South Africa
29 May 16
@boiboing I know
• Manhattan, New York
29 May 16
Very interesting observation indeed, I remember as a child. I used to play with our cat and try to make it land on its back....haha, it never did!!
2 people like this
@boiboing (12882)
• Northampton, England
29 May 16
You could be locked up for that these days.
1 person likes this
@Fleura (7194)
• United Kingdom
29 May 16
Apparently when my mother was a child she once tested this by throwing the family cat out of a window. She was always a person who learned best by experience!
1 person likes this
@boiboing (12882)
• Northampton, England
29 May 16
I'm not sure the cat would have enjoyed it.
1 person likes this
@Fleura (7194)
• United Kingdom
29 May 16
@boiboing No I don't think it did. It probably also learned from experience - to stay away from my Mum!
@paigea (22454)
• Canada
29 May 16
@Fleura ha ha ha. I am sure staying away from your mom was a helpful lesson!
2 people like this
@KristenH (24728)
• Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
29 May 16
Poor Bagheera. I'm glad he's all right.
@boiboing (12882)
• Northampton, England
29 May 16
He bounces. He's a little rubber cat.
1 person likes this
@KristenH (24728)
• Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
29 May 16
@boiboing Oh wow!
@JudyEv (130175)
• Bunbury, Australia
30 May 16
I've seen cats land but not on their feet. Admittedly I haven't seen it often.
@Jessicalynnt (47895)
• Centralia, Missouri
30 May 16
I bet they wake up fast once their fit touch down lol
@teamfreak16 (41175)
• Colorado Springs, Colorado
29 May 16
We've had a cat or two land with a thud when they fall off a shelf or something. Otherwise, they do land on their feet.
@paigea (22454)
• Canada
29 May 16
I watched an episode of Bondi Vet this week. A small kitten fell off the scratching post and banged it's head. They kept it in the vet's office and were concerned it might not survive. So, cats always landing on their feet is not quite accurate as you've noticed.
@pgntwo (21928)
• Derry, Northern Ireland
29 May 16
A shame it does not apply equally to buttered toast or a Cornish cream tea scone...
@Macarrosel (7542)
• Philippines
29 May 16
After reading your post now I realized that cats really did that. Well, I'm not really fond of cats so I have no direct idea about it.