Cats have a remarkable ability to fall from impossible heights and survive.
From June to November 1984, an animal medical center in New York recorded 132 cats that had fallen an average of 5.5 stories onto concrete, 90% survived.
Remarkably one cat fell 32 stories and lived to tell the tale.
One of the most interesting findings of this study was that the greater the fall the more likely the cat was to survive.
Out of 22 cats that fell from 7 stories or more, only one died.
The cat that fell from 32 stories suffered a minor lung puncture and a chipped tooth.
How Does A Cat Fall?
The incredible survival rate of cats is attributed to the squirrel-like way in which they fall.
The terminal velocity of a falling cat is 60mph, this is half the speed of terminal falling velocity for a human.
Cats have a far slower terminal velocity than humans for 4 reasons:
- They are much smaller.
- They have a light bone structure (much lighter than dogs).
- Their thick fur catches the air.
- They spread out their body as they fall to create more drag.
A cat would need to fall about 6 stories (18m) before they reach terminal velocity.
As a cat is accelerating they instinctively straighten their legs to brace for impact, however once terminal velocity is reached they spread their legs out to effectively parachute down, this better cushions the blow and makes them less likely to suffer certain injuries.
This combined with a cats’ incredible flexibility, lack of clavicles and muscular springy legs means they are very well adapted to dealing with falls from considerable heights.
This is the main reason why cats that fall from lower heights are more likely to survive than cats that fall from 6 stories or more.
In theory a cat could survive falls from as high as 40,000 feet (so long as they didn’t freeze!), as they wouldn’t exceed 60mph so would have the same chances of survival as they would falling from a 7 storie+ building.
Thankfully there are no known cases of cats falling from planes or hot air balloons so we can’t be 100% certain of this.
Cat Fall Statistics
- The record for the highest cat fall without injury is 46 stories. This cat landed on a canopy which it bounced off before landing safely and uninjured.
- The record for the highest cat fall onto the ground without injury is 26 stories.
- In theory a cat could fall from a plane and survive.
- The most dangerous height for a cat to fall from is around 6 stories as this is the highest they could fall without reaching terminal velocity.
How Far Can Cats Fall Without Getting Hurt?
As we’ve mentioned the paradox of cat falls is that shorter falls more commonly result in serious injury than higher falls.
Our own cat Whisky fell 2 just stories and sustained a bad leg sprain.
Realistically, for most cats, a one storey fall wouldn’t hurt them as there is insufficient time to build up enough speed to do any damage.
That said if your cat is old with stiff joints then there is a chance that a one storey fall could cause damage.
How To Prevent Cat Falls
These sorts of falls are increasingly common with more and more people living in high-rise flats and choosing to keep cats.
Cats have no fear of heights and will happily sit on a dizzyingly high window sill or balcony railing.
The problem with this is that cats are also easily distracted by insects or birds flying close to them, an ill-judged swipe can easily send them falling to the ground.
Cats often fall asleep in precarious positions too, while a cat who falls to sleep in a tree can usually save themselves if they start to fall by digging their claws into the bark, concrete or plastic railings and window sills aren’t very easy for them to get their claws into so this behaviour can result in a big fall.
Cats that get stuck in trees often also will fall if they get tired or dehydrated from being stuck up there for too long.
That said cats can be quite happy living indoors in a high-rise flat but it is important to put safeguards in place.
If you have a balcony or windows that you like to leave open then here are a few things you could do to ensure your cat’s safety:
- Fit a cat window screen or net around your window or balcony.
- Keep your cat in a separate room when windows or the balcony are accessible.
- Don’t open windows more than a few centimeters.
- Place obstructions such as plants on window sills and railings to prevent your cat from getting too close.
Can a cat survive a 10 story fall?
Yes cats do survive falls of 10 stories.
Your cat’s chance of surviving such a fall are around 90%, they may even survive without sustaining any injury at all.
Realistically they are likely to suffer injuries falling from this height.
Falling from this height would cause them to reach terminal velocity before they hit the ground. This means that they would lift their legs and parachute down, hitting the ground chest first.
Common injuries from a fall of this height include; punctured lungs, cracked ribs and broken jaws.
Can a cat survive a 15-foot fall?
Yes, 15 feet is just over 1 storey, this is not a height that will cause a cat any problems and is unlikely to cause injuries unless your cat is particularly old and struggles with joint issues.
In fact some cats may regularly jump from that kind of height if it offers an easy way to get out into the garden for them.
Can a cat survive a 50 foot fall?
Yes a cat can survive a 50 feet fall, however they are likely to sustain injuries.
50 feet is roughly 4.5 stories, a cat falling from this height would not have reached terminal velocity by the time they hit the floor.
This means that they will land feet first with their legs outstretched so they are more likely to sustain a serious injury than a cat who has fallen from a greater height and reached terminal velocity.
Also read: How High Can Domestic Cats Jump?
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