Last night our cat failed to live up to the reputation of his species for executing four-footed landings when he lept off a perch in hot pursuit of a piece of string, landed on his front paws with too much forward rotation, performed a graceful flick-flack and thuded head first into the CD rack. After a couple of seconds looking very dazed he got to his feet again and decided (to our relief) he was still fit enough to teach that bit of string a lesson.
Which led me to looking up videos of cats landing on their feet. I think this one is one of the best. (How did he get the cat to co-operate? – I have no idea!)
It’s amazing how they do it. An Olympic high-board diver has the advantage of a push-off from the board in order to start his twisting motion, but a cat that is just released has no such luxury. There has to be conservation of angular (rotating) momentum as he falls – if one bit of him rotates clockwise, some other bit has to rotate anticlockwise. Watch the cat’s tail here – it whips round the other direction to which the cat is rotating, while at the same time the legs are first drawn in to decrease its moment of inertia (like a spinning ice skater draws in his arms to rotate faster) and then opened out to slow the rotation and prepare for landing.
Maybe our puddy could benefit from watching. (NB no signs of lasting injury when we left him this morning…)