How Cats Survive Falls from New York Skyscrapers by Jared Diamond…. Short summary
Feline Pesematology, the science of falling cats, is difficult to study since it’s ethically questionable to go throwing cats off of skyscrapers.
So the scientists studying the subject had to look at natural occurrences, like when Fluffy saw a bird and forgot that she was 12 stories high. You wouldn’t think that this would be such a common happening; cat’s aren’t that dumb.
But apparently it happens. Cats fall off of skyscrapers all of the time, especially in New York. It happens enough without having to recreate the circumstance in a lab. Scientists can/have-to study actual occurrences in the real world, which is difficult because it makes for more undesired variables than a well laid out experiment, but often this is how it must be done.
The really interesting part is that cats would have the worst injuries between two and six stories…. It’s better for a cat to fall out of a 10 story high window as opposed to falling two stories.
What!? That just seems counterintuitive. The higher you fall the more it hurts. That’s what makes sense to us (and that is pretty much how it works for humans).
But not cats. If a cat falls out of a window, it usually manages to twist around so it’s feet are first (much better instincts than the baby in the picture that is going to land on its head). Then the cat does what we do in scary situations; it tenses up. Its muscles go tight.
This is actually what messes it up for the poor cat. Rigidness makes for broken bones. Broken bones from 2 or more stories are bad news because the cat is traveling fast enough that it hits with a significant force. Whereas if the cat only fell one story, it isn’t going fast enough to hit the ground hard enough to create a serious injury.
But once the cat hits terminal velocity at about 7 stories high, it’s safer. It relaxes! It isn’t tense because it doesn’t feel like it’s falling any more. It’s like a little ball of fluffy jello! It bounces right back!
Having never personally reached terminal velocity, I can’t be sure of what the cat is feeling as it falls 20 stories to the concrete below. But, having a basic knowledge of physics, this all makes sense. I’m still not interested in experimenting on myself since I’m not so good at falling on my feet and my terminal velocity of about 120mph is a little higher than a cats of 60mph.