A lot of people think that a falling cat won't get hurt because he will land on his feet, but there are many factors that determine whether he will be able to survive the fall. The distance of the fall is the most important factor. The surface that he lands on is also an important factor.
Any one who has ever sky dived can tell you, the velocity of a falling body does not increase forever, because the rate of acceleration is interrupted by the air resistance (or drag). When the upward force of the air exactly balances the downward force of gravity, its acceleration becomes zero, and therefore, it continues falling at a constant velocity, called, "terminal velocity," until it reaches the ground. This is Newton's second law of physics and it can help us to understand why a cat's chances of surviving a fall of 7 to 32 stories are twice as good as its chances of surviving a fall of only 2 to 6 stories.
A skydiver reaches a terminal velocity of around 130 to 140 mph after about 30 seconds of free-falling. Cats, having a much smaller body mass in comparison to its surface area, reach terminal velocity much sooner at a speed of about 60 mph. Since a man free- falling reaches terminal velocity at about 130 mph, and a cat at about 60 mph, it would be equivalent to the man falling 13 stories and the cat only falling 5 stories.
Its instinctive for both humans and animals to tense their muscles up when free-falling, which could cause serious injury if their bodies hit the ground in such a rigid position. A dry, rigid tree limb snaps in half very easily when it drops to the ground. A flexible tree limb can hit the ground and bounce.
Luckily, after reaching terminal velocity, cats relax their muscles which allows the impact of the fall to be spread across a larger surface area. They also spread out their limbs kind of like flying squirrels do.
A second factor in the cat's ability to survive falls from great distances is its ability to correct itself. Through a sequence of split second movements, a cat can "right" itself. In the "righting" reflex, a cat adjust his head first, and then the body follows through rotation, until the cat is right-side up. This is why a cat usually lands on his feet.
A third factor seems to be just plain luck. An unlucky cat can fall 5 stories or 25 stories and be killed on impact. So, please protect your cat from having access to places where he may fall, none of us know when our luck will run out.
| The Cats