“A cat has nine lives,” goes a famous English saying describing the feline’s ability to cheat death several times.
Indeed, cats can maneuver themselves out of dangerous and challenging situations without getting harmed or hurt.
A mountaineer captured a befitting example of this famous saying in a video of a snow leopard that accidentally fell from a steep and rocky mountain slope.
The clip shows the big cat expertly maneuvering along the slope, perhaps chasing prey, before miscalculating its steps and falling down a distance that should have ended in a fatality.
Surprisingly, the leopard lands on its feet. It remains still for a few seconds, perhaps shocked by the fall, and walks away without limping.
The Cat’s Amazing Ability to Survive a Dangerous Fall
The cat’s secret to surviving dangerous falls lies in its aerial righting reflex.
A cat can twist in midair, so it always lands on its feet, regardless of its falling position. Their aerial righting reflex protects them from falling back or face first, which can be fatal.
As you can observe in the video, all cats, including the snow leopard, can survive at great heights.
A BBC News article once featured a story about a cat that survived a 32-story fall and walked away with only a cracked tooth. How amazing!
Besides employing their aerial righting reflex, cats have flexible backbones, low body weight, powerful hind legs, and no working clavicles. Together, these anatomical features allow the cat to minimize impact during a fall.
Falling cats spread their legs to increase their surface area and greater a parachuting effect. The larger surface area reduces their falling speed, minimizing the chances of an injury.
Their long and muscular legs help them produce a springy effect while landing. A cat’s legs are positioned at an angle to its body and are not extended vertically downwards like humans, horses, and many other animals.
Their angled hind legs allow their leg muscles to divert the falling energy, shielding their bones from absorbing the falling force, which could easily fracture them.
Your domestic cat can survive this fall but do not push it over the windows because that would be animal abuse. Moreover, it will make your cat scared of you, which you do not want.
How Is the Snow Leopard Capable of Balancing Along Steep Rocky Slopes?
Snow leopards and mountain goats are among the very few animals that seemingly defy gravity while balancing along sharply inclined mountain slopes.
Their interesting anatomy is also responsible for this feature. They have thick and long tails that help them survive their rocky habitats. The tails help them to shift the centers of their bodies’ gravity and counter-balance their body weight along thin surfaces, much like a pole does for a tightrope walker.
Snow leopards have convex-shaped feet that reduce slippage at their balance in tight spaces. In addition, the feet design maximizes grip allowing them to move fast along these risky slopes.