Cats always fall on their feet, but why is this incredible sense of balance in these little cats?
A perfected system of five tubes, filled with liquid and housed inside the cat's ears, is responsible for this. The ducts are covered with fine hairs inside, and these hairs in the liquid detect any strange turn or movement in the cat.
And these in a matter of tenths of a second, transfer the correct position to head, trunk and legs to cushion the blow in the best possible way, that is, with a landing on all four legs
The first information received by the body of the cat that precipitates in free fall from the tubular system lodged in its ears is what the normal position of the head should be. This reflex causes the immediate rotation of the animal's neck, so that it allows the head to be placed back at its usual height. [quote_center] ”After putting his head in the normal position during the fall, the cat causes an internal movement that causes the rest of his muscles to turn” [/ quote_center]
Behind the head, rotates the spine of the cat and, with it, first the front legs and, finally, the rear. Once in this position, it is easier for the animal to fall to the ground without doing so much damage.
Source: Eroski Consumer
Although it is common, there are times that felines are not so lucky.
Even though it's not always like that... fortunately for the cat world, this is what happens most frequently, although everything depends on the height from which it falls. If it exceeds three meters, the cat has almost all the ballots to fall on its paws, but if the route is shorter ... it may land with its back.
This is because during the fall, cats can make a turn and rotate their body as long as they have time for it (hence the 3 meters). The tail is the helm and helps balance the body of the cat before the forced one.
It all starts in the ear
Imagine that a somewhat neglected cat suddenly stumbles and slips, falling into a vacuum in an awkward and dangerous position. Immediately, the process begins in the inner ears of the cat, in the vestibular system. The ear, in mammals, is responsible, among other things, for helping us maintain balance, detecting at all times what position we are with respect to our center of gravity. In cats, the fine vestibular system reacts in less than a decade from a second, when our cat's head has lost its normal position after the trip. At that time, and at the signal that something is wrong, the neck reacts by placing the animal's head in a correct position. The muscles of his whole body are immediately put to work to circumvent the "law of conservation of angular momentum".
"Mocking" the physics
Well, more than mocking, what it does is take advantage of the law of conservation of angular momentum. This law explains that a rigid body has some resistance to rotate on an axis, that is, to change its angular velocity. If the cat falls "on its back", turn 180Вє it should not be possible because it is falling with an angular velocity equal to zero. However, the cat turns, changing the angular velocity. To do this, what the cat does is arch the spine while stretching the hind legs and picking the front ones. The mass of the rear is away from the axis of rotation which creates a small angular velocity of the rear.
This will cause the same angular momentum (by conservation law) than a larger angular velocity at its front. This is due to how close their legs are (and the mass) of the axis of rotation. In a followed motion, the cat retracts the hind legs and stretches the front ones, what causes the turn, taking advantage of the law of conservation. In the end, the cat will be in the same position as at the beginning but turned towards the ground. In order to be able to carry out this whole process, the signal originated in the ear of the cat causes an automatic response that puts all the muscles of its body into motion immediately, acting as motors on its own axis of rotation.
The paratrooper cat
In this way, the next point is to retract the legs preparing to cushion the impact and bend the spine. With the arched column the cat increases friction with the air, which acts like a parachute, reducing the speed of falling. This position has earned him the name of "paratrooper cat". According to some research the cat is able to reduce the speed of fall by half than another body. For example that of a human. However, the acceleration of a body in free fall continues to exist, so the speed is increasing, even more slowly. Therefore, if our cat fell from a 100 floor, for example, it could hardly survive the impact. However, not only the position of the body acts to save the cat.
Its excellent damping system is the final safety measure of the cat, which is already touching the ground. First it does so with its front legs that absorb and transmit the force of impact in an elastic system (the cat's body). In addition, they do it with extended claws to avoid slipping, and the arched back. Thus, unlike a rigid body (such as a glass cup, for example), the body distributes the force of the fall minimizing damage as a shock absorber. There are cats that have survived even a 32-story fall (as documented). What is nothing, but not bad. And this is just one of the fascinating secrets that cats hide, an animal branch with many, many surprises.