Can cats really survive a fall from great heights?

We’ve read about it in the news—cats falling off of high rise buildings only to have suffered minor injuries such as bruises or scratches. How is this possible? Do they really have ‘nine lives’? Read on to find out more.
By Claudia Chia
Published on Tuesday, 20 September 2016

In 2012, a feline named Sugar fell off a 19-storey building in Boston and escaped with only a bruised chest. Her paw-rent, Brittany Kirk, left the window slightly ajar to let the breeze in as it had been a particularly warm day. Somehow, the curious kitty managed to climb out onto the ledge and fell 200 feet down. Miraculously, she dodged bricks and concrete, and landed on a small patch of mulch.

How did Sugar do it? Can felines really survive falls from such great heights?

In 1987, a scientist studied 132 cats that had been brought to a New York City emergency veterinary clinic after falling from high-rise buildings. 90% of the treated cats survived, and only about 37% of those that survived needed emergency treatment to keep them alive.

One kitty that had fallen 32 stories onto concrete ground suffered only a chipped tooth and a collapsed lung. It was released from the hospital after 48 hours.

The truth is, cats have relatively large surface areas in proportion to their weight, so they tend to fall from great heights at a slower rate than larger mammals. When falling from high rise places, they are also able to twist their bodies to prepare themselves to land on their feet. This is known as an aerial righting reflex.

Their legs are long and muscular, and extend under the body rather than straight down (like a human’s legs)—allowing them to absorb the shock during landing.

Although the chances for survival are pretty high, prevention is always better than cure. For cat paw-rents who live in HDB estates, do wire-mesh all your windows to prevent your feline pal from climbing out. For more information on how to care for your kitty, click here.