High-rise syndrome

High-rise syndrome

High-rise syndrome is the name given to the phenomenon of cats falling higher than two stories (7–9 m / 24–30 ft). This is generally from high-rise buildings, or skyscrapers, and is also used to refer to the injuries sustained by a cat falling from high up.

Injuries sustained by cats falling

Studies done on cats that have fallen from 2 to 32 stories show that the overall survival rate is 90 percent. [cite web
url = http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a5_190.html
title = The Straight Dope: Do cats always land unharmed on their feet, no matter how far they fall?
accessdate = 2008-03-13
] Strangely, cats who fall from less than 6 stories have greater injuries than cats who fall from higher than 6 stories. [ [http://www.petplace.com/cats/highrise-syndrome-in-cats/page1.aspx Highrise Syndrome in Cats ] ] This is because cats reach terminal velocity after righting themselves (see below) at about 5 stories, and after this point they relax, leading to less severe injuries in cats who have fallen over 6 stories. [ [http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~barneye/kitty.html Falling Cats ] ] Another possible explanation for this phenomenon is the fact that cats who die in falls are less likely to be brought to a veterinarian than injured cats, and thus many of the cats killed in falls from higher buildings are not reported in studies of the subject. [ [http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a5_190.html The Straight Dope: Do cats always land unharmed on their feet, no matter how far they fall? ] ]


During a fall from a high place, a cat can reflexively twist its body and right itself using its acute sense of balance and flexibility. [cite web | title = Falling Cats | url = http://www.verrueckte-experimente.de/leseproben_e.html | accessdate = 2005-10-24] This is known as the cat's "righting reflex". It always rights itself in the same way, provided it has the time to do so, during a fall. The height required for this to occur in most cats (safely) is around 90 centimetres (3 ft). To achieve this, cats probably relax their ventral muscles, "flattening" their bodies to some extent and creating more resistance to air. Cats without a tail also have this ability, since a cat mostly moves its hind legs and relies on conservation of angular momentum to set up for landing, and the tail is in fact little used for this feat. [cite web | url = http://helix.gatech.edu/Classes/ME3760/1998Q3/Projects/Nguyen/ | title=How does a Cat always land on its feet? | author = Huy D. Nguyen | publisher = Georgia Tech University, School of Medical Engineering | accessdate = 2007-05-15]

Why cats fall from high places

Cats have a natural fondness for heights, but they do not often fall, because they are aware of their surroundings. However, if a cat is distracted by a potential prey, or if it falls asleep, it can fall. If this were to occur in a tree, for example, the cat would often be able to save itself by grabbing on with its nails. Many building materials such as concrete and painted metal, however, do not allow a cat to grip successfully. [ [http://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pets_highrise ASPCA warning on high-rise syndrome] ]


External links

* [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/09/060928-cats-land-video.html a video of how cats always land on their feet (nationalgeographic.com)]
* [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=3692980&dopt=AbstractPlus a paper (with links to other papers) about high-rise syndrome]
* [http://www.petplace.com/cats/highrise-syndrome-in-cats/page1.aspx a news article from petplace.com]
* [http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~barneye/kitty.html strobe photos of a falling cat]
* [http://www.cds.caltech.edu/~mleok/falling_cats.htm a page about the physics behind falling cats]
* [http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a5_190.html a useful site]

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