Advanced Pet First Aid Level 3 (VTQ)

139 videos, 6 hours and 56 minutes

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Cats and Heights

Video 125 of 139
2 min 31 sec
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Why Cats Survive High Falls

Remarkable Survival Stories

Cats have an incredible ability to survive falls from significant heights, even skyscrapers. These feline survivors include a 19-story fall in Boston and a jaw-dropping 32-story plunge in New York, with the latter cat emerging with just a chipped tooth and a collapsed lung, and was back home within 48 hours. A 1987 study in New York revealed that out of 132 cats falling from high-rise buildings, 90% survived, and only 37% required immediate emergency treatment.

The Science Behind Cat Survival

So, what enables cats to walk away from falls that would be fatal to humans? The answer lies in their unique physiology and instincts:

1. Body Surface Area Advantage

Cats have a relatively high body surface area compared to their weight, reducing the impact pressure upon landing. This means they reach terminal velocity more quickly than larger animals, resulting in a slower fall and reduced impact force.

2. Aerial Righting Reflex

Cats possess an innate "cat aerial righting reflex" or "High-rise syndrome," allowing them to sense a fall and twist their bodies to land on their feet. This mid-air manoeuvre helps to further slow their descent and ensures their feet hit the ground first.

3. Leg Spreading

During descent, cats instinctively spread their legs, increasing air resistance and reducing their fall speed. This clever technique acts as a built-in parachute.

4. Limb Flexibility

Cats have joints in their legs that allow for bending to the sides of their bodies upon impact, acting as shock absorbers and dissipating much of the landing force. This flexibility helps prevent immediate injury.

The Risks and Exceptions

While most cats display these incredible survival instincts, certain factors can increase the risk of injury during a fall. Overweight cats may have diminished reactions, potentially resulting in broken bones, lung damage, jaw and teeth injuries, or fractures. Thoracic injuries, affecting the chest area, remain the most common cause of death in cats experiencing high falls.