Cats are known for their exceptional physical abilities. They are very nimble creatures that seemingly take no damage when jumping or falling from a great height. All cats are naturally very athletic, thanks in part to evolution giving them an edge in chasing prey quickly and efficiently, as well as evading predators with ease.
When you observe your domesticated house cat and compare it to a panther in a nature documentary on TV, there are a lot of things that they have in common physically. The house cat is much smaller, but imagine the cunning and power of a house cat in a body 20 times its size. That creature would rule the world!
One of the feats a cat can do with no problem is to jump incredibly high. They can jump as much as six times their height, or even higher if they get a running start. For comparison’s sake, the world record for the highest jump from a human is eight feet, and the athlete was six feet five inches tall.
How are cats able to do this? Is there anything special in their anatomy that makes this possible for them? If you want the answers to these questions, keep on reading.
What makes a cat jump high?
A cat’s capability to jump high has a lot to do with the anatomical structure of their legs, spine, and tail. A cat’s agility has nothing to do with its weight because overweight cats can still jump pretty high.
1. Muscles in the hind legs
- The muscles in this area work to give more power to the hind legs when the cat jumps.
- Cats jump proportionally to their height and weight.
- When a cat jumps, they go into a preparatory mode where the muscles in the hind leg coil to prepare for release. You notice this more clearly when the cat is about to jump onto a small surface area. It may look like they are fidgeting, but the cat is actually testing the launching surface for stability, estimating the distance, and calculating the force she will need to exert for the jump.
- Then, like a spring, the tight coil releases during the engaged mode to propel the cat into the air.
2. Flexible spine
A cat’s flexible spinal column allows the cat to move more freely during the ascent while jumping. This lets the cat move in all kinds of awkward positions without doing any damage to the fragile spinal cord.
- The cat’s tail helps greatly with balance. This is why cats have no problem sauntering across the tops of narrow fences. The tail acts like a counterbalance to keep them from tipping over to one side.
- When the cat jumps into the air, the tail helps the cat with its body orientation so it always knows which side is up and which side is down.
- Even if the tail is an important appendage, cats are able to live without it the same way a man can lead a normal life after getting a foot amputated.
4. General physique
- The cat’s body has gone through thousands of years of rigorous evolution to become the near-perfect physical specimen that it currently is.
- Their bodies are designed to be able to do all sorts of impressive physical acts.
- If a cat is taller than the average cat, it will naturally be able to jump higher than other cats.
5. Motor skills
As your cat matures from a kitten into an adult cat, it will learn how to refine its motor skills.
The muscles and bones of a younger cat are not fully developed to do all of the amazing things full-grown cats are able to.
Once their bodies are at their most mature, their skills will be honed, they will have perfect balance, and their muscles will be at their full strength.
Cats are one of nature’s best athletes. A full-grown cat can jump six times as high as its body length. The factors that allow your cat to be able to jump so high are the specialized muscles they have in their hind legs, their flexible spine, their tail giving them good balance, their overall physique, and the refined motor skills that they acquire once they become adults. All of these attributes combine to give cats the physiological ability to scale walls. Just be sure to secure your yard so your cat won’t jump over the fence.
Image: istockphoto.com / slowmotiongli