What goes up must come down – except when it comes to cats, it seems. Cats possess what sometimes seems to be a death-defying ability to leap and jump incredible distances.
These abilities extend to both vertical and horizontal jumps, too. As long as the basic conditions are in place, a cat’s jumping abilities often seem unlimited.
But how high can cats actually jump? Is there a scientific limit on how far or high a cat can leap? We explore all this and more in this article.
How High Can Cats Jump
According to Veterinary Medicine News, cats can jump distances of up to six times their own body length.
As iPetCompanion points out, since different cat breeds can be very different sizes, this means that cat jumping ability is measured in a range rather than a single number.
Learn How Cats Jump So High
In this YouTube video, National Geographic explains how cats achieve such amazing leaps.
You can watch a cat jumping up in slow-motion to see exactly how the feline body works to support leaps more than three times their own body length.
How Do Cats Jump So High
Cats have evolved to possess the unique anatomy required to make such immense leaps and jumps.
Cats use their flexible tails for balance
As Dr. Marty Pets points out, cats use their tails to help them balance before and after a jump.
This means tail-less or stub-tailed cat breeds may struggle more to jump long distances with accuracy.
Cat hind leg height or length is important for jumping
A longer or taller cat is naturally going to be able to jump farther distances.
But what matters more than this, according to the Journal of Experimental Biology, is hind leg length and strength.
A cat that has stronger, longer hind legs are going to be able to maximize the spring-like effect of crouching on its hind legs in preparing to jump.
Cats use their front paws for gripping
When a cat jumps, they rely on their hind leg strength and length for trajectory. But what happens on the other end of that jump?
As you watched in the YouTube video here earlier, a cat will then stretch out their front paws and grasp onto the destination surface and pull themselves up after a jump.
Here again, the strength and length of front legs will impact how successfully a cat completes a long jump up or laterally.
Cats use all of their muscle strength to jump
According to Semantics Scholar, a jumping cat is going to activate the full strength and springing power in their leg muscles.
As Biology Stack Exchange points out, this is possible in part because a cat’s total body weight is quite light compared with its muscle strength.
Cats make use of the righting reflex to survive falls
As Adidarwinian Blog highlights, cats have very flexible spines and shoulder scapula that are attached only by muscles and not my bones.
But the righting reflex, as a feline’s lightning-fast course correction reflexes are called, also depends on the acute sense of balance cats have – a function of their eyes and inner ears.
A cat can quickly bend their spine, arching its back near the other end of a jump to lessen the impact of landing.
Last but not least, cat paws are equipped with soft and springy cushions on the underside of each paw that helps ease the shock of landing.
These remarkable and unique adaptations may be why cats have been reported to survive falls from as high as 32 stories up with minimal injuries.
What Is the Longest Jump a Cat Has Ever Made
The Guinness Book of World Records states that the longest known jump by a cat covered a whopping distance of seven feet!
This incredible jump was made by a black and white male cat named Waffle on January 30, 2018.
However, it is also worth pointing out that anecdotal evidence now exists to suggest some cats can jump even farther than seven feet.
What Is High Rise Syndrome for Cats
As Always Compassionate Veterinary Care points out, high-rise syndrome injures or kills cats every year when the weather turns warmer.
High rise syndrome is the name given to what happens when cats are allowed access to high places outdoors during the warm season.
Not only do cats naturally seem to prefer resting and sitting up high, but finding an elevated perch can increase airflow and lower body temperature during hot weather.
But pet cats in particular can get easily distracted by a passing bird or butterfly. They can get startled by a loud noise or a sudden bright light. And cats that fall asleep on these high perches may literally fall off while napping.
This is why it is so important to cat-proof your home, especially if you live in a condo, apartment, or high rise and you are not on the ground level.
While all the natural reflexes you just learned about can protect a jumping or falling cat to a certain extent, it cannot control what is underneath the cat when the fall or jump occurs.
If your cat does try to jump down from a high place, injuries are likely. However, the faster you get treatment for your cat, the better the chances that your pet will make a full recovery.
Can Cats Calculate a Jump In Advance
According to the San Antonio Express News Animals Matter column, cats absolutely can learn from past jumping errors.
A cat that tries and fails to jump a certain distance may repeatedly try again until the animal figures out the exact right combination of muscle power required to get from point A to point B.
Cats also appear to remember this data for future jumps.
Putting It All Together Into the Perfect Feline Jump
As PetCareRX highlights, cats make the very complex maneuver of jumping look remarkably easy.
In reality, it has taken millennia for evolution to give cats the precise physical mechanics required to leap such far distances with such awesome grace and precision.
When a cat decides to jump, the first thing that happens is that the cat tests the surface beneath its paws for stability.
Next, the cat can be seen crouching, folding the hind legs, and lifting the front legs off the ground.
The next step is similar to what you would see if you watched a tightly wound spring suddenly uncoil. The cat unfolds their back legs and literally springs away from the ground, simultaneously stretching out their back and front legs in either direction.
As the back legs launch the cat up into the air, the front legs are already reaching out towards the destination surface.
When the cat nears the desired destination, they will use the front claws to grasp that surface and help stabilize their landing and, if necessary, pull their body up.
And all of this takes place in what amounts to the blink of your eyes. Cats may just be the ultimate engineering marvel not just for their sheer jumping distance but also for how well they navigate complex landings on things like fences and tree limbs.
A cat in mid-jump is having to make many calculations all at once to reach safety. Most cats do this remarkably well!