Does a Cat Always Land on Its Feet?

by Fiorella Gambale, Ph.D.
Institute for Feline Research Milano, Italy

Cats have excellent balance, and are remarkably acrobatic. When turned upside down and dropped from a height, a cat generally has the ability to land on its feet. Until now, no one has systematically investigated the limits of this phenomenon. In this study, I dropped a cat upside down from various heights, and observed whether the cat landed on its feet.

Dropping a Cat Upside Down from a Height of 6 Feet I dropped the cat from a height of six feet. I did this one hundred times. The cat always landed on its feet.
Dropping a Cat Upside Down from a Height of 5 Feet I dropped the cat from a height of five feet. I did this one hundred times. The cat always landed on its feet.
Dropping a Cat Upside Down from a Height of 4 Feet I dropped the cat from a height of four feet. I did this one hundred times. The cat always landed on its feet.
Dropping a Cat Upside Down from a Height of 3 Feet I dropped the cat from a height of three feet. I did this one hundred times. The cat always landed on its feet.
Dropping a Cat Upside Down from a Height of 2 Feet I dropped the cat from a height of two feet. I did this one hundred times. The cat always landed on its feet.
Dropping a Cat Upside Down from a Height of 1 Foot I dropped the cat from a height of one foot. I did this one hundred times. The cat never landed on its feet.

Discussion Popular belief is that "a cat will always land on its feet." My experiments show this to be true for drop heights ranging from six feet down to two feet. It is not true at a drop height of one foot. Does a cat land on its feet when dropped from a height of less than one foot? This preliminary study indicates that the answer may be no. However, further experiments, preferably with the same cat, are needed to settle the question.

Acknowledgments I want to thank the cat, "Esther," for her initial cooperation in this experiment. Thank you, also, to Esther's owner, M.R. Young. And special thanks to the organization PFTAR (People For the Tarring-and-Feathering of Animal Researchers), whose incessant yacketing inspired this project.

Drop Height
Attempts
Landed on feet
Did not land on feet
6 ft.
100
100
0
5 ft.
100
100
0
4 ft.
100
100
0
3 ft.
100
100
0
2 ft.
100
100
0
1 ft.
100
0
100

 

Copyright 1998 The Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). All rights reserved.