Deciphering The Cat’s “High Jump” Technique

In 2013-2014, Nya-Suke – a domestic cat with “nationality” of Japan – stormed the country’s social networks through “unbelievable” high-jump videos.

This cat jumps from the ground and reaches a height of 180cm – 196cm, about 7-8 times its body height. The cat owner recorded and posted the video, attracting millions of likes and shares.

In 2020, another video caused a fever when recording a cat in Parma (Italy) quickly jumping from the floor to the ceiling to get a balloon in just “one note.” This cat skillfully twists in the air and returns to the ground perfectly with the resulting “trophy.”

According to Rowyn C. Rose – a cat expert – most cats today possess outstanding jumping ability, often able to jump five times higher than their body. Cases of jumping 6-8 times higher than the body are rare.

Rose explains: “Most modern domesticated cats are descended from wildcats of North Africa or the Near East. They are all arboreal, capable of jumping quickly to high places. They can also twist and turn to ʜᴜɴᴛ and evade predators in the blink of an eye.”

Rose says that today, domestic cats have retained many of the ᴀɴᴀᴛᴏᴍɪᴄᴀʟ features of their ancestors. The cat’s body has more than 500 quick-twitch skeletal muscles, which are coordinated almost all by the cat when jumping.

More substantial and longer hind legs support a maximum range of motion. When jumping, cats often extend their front legs to reach their destination while the back legs push the body forward.

Cat’s paw pads have dozens of nerve receptors, which help cats assess the surface where they are standing to calculate the force needed to jump and land.

The ability of cats to land is also very “miracle.” When landing on the ground after the “dumpling,” the cat’s hind legs create an angle for better shock absorption. Claws can also make them easier to grip, providing more stability when landing.

Rose explained a cat usually has about 30 backbones. The flexibility and ability to flex the spine allow the cat to adjust its direction in the air. Cats easily twist themselves in the desired direction to achieve the ideal “landing” position.

Even a cat’s tail and whiskers are helpful. Cat tails help keep balance when moving and when jumping high. Meanwhile, cat whiskers have somatosensory follicular cells that allow them to sense their body’s position, location, and orientation relative to the ground.

As a result, cats sense small vibrations and airflows, protect their eyes and face from objects like tree branches, and judge the distance and size of space.

Professor Patrick Bateson of the University of Cambridge (UK) – former president of the Zoological Society of London – said experts highly regard the cat’s grounding skills as an “art.”

He believes that thanks partly to his unique body structure, cats are easy to bounce and increase their ability to survive in accidents. According to the survey, 90% of cats falling from apartment buildings from the 2nd to the 32nd floor can still survive if treated promptly.

Professor Bateson said that today’s domestic cats could develop “high jump” skills at three weeks old. By seven weeks old, the cat will master this “super move.”

“Cats have a high sense of balance, and their flexible spine structure allows them to make spectacular landings. Even if cats carelessly fall, free-fall, or be thrown into the air, they can still rotate in the air to adjust their posture perfectly,” Bateson said.

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