Does a Falling Cat Always Land on Its Feet?

Is it true that cats always land on all fours or is this feline fact a myth?

ByABC News
August 13, 2007, 1:13 PM

Aug. 15, 2007 &#0151 -- Lots of people say a falling cat always lands on its feet. Is that true? Maybe that's why they're said to have nine lives.

Scottie and Rodney Colvin of Summerville, S.C., thought their kitty Piper cashed in one of her lives last year. Piper was stuck high up in a tree for eight days. When a rescuer started up the tree to save her, Piper crept farther away until the limb beneath her snapped. She fell 80 feet more than six stories twisting and turning in the air before slamming into the ground, feet first.

Talk about hitting the ground running Piper wasn't even dazed. She scampered off and hid under a car before anyone could catch her. A vet checked Piper out and said she was fine, just providing her fluids for dehydration and ibuprofen for stiffness.

We asked Ann Hohenhaus, a veterinarian at New York's Animal Medical Center (, one of the busiest veterinary hospitals in the country, whether it's true that cats always land on their feet.

"They darned sure land on their feet an awful lot of the time," she said. "It's because the cat is very flexible."

Cats have an uncanny way of righting themselves as they fall, Hohenhaus explained.

"They fall on their front feet, probably because that's what's righted first," she said. "The physicists describe the middle of the cat as being a universal joint. First the front half, the head and the front feet, rights itself. And then the back feet follow around."

"20/20" used slow-motion photography provided by the National Geographic Channel ( ) to illustrate the phenomenon.

In 1987, the Animal Medical Center published a study of falling cats in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. So many cats had fallen from unscreened windows in tall buildings that researchers gave it a name: High-Rise Syndrome. Staffers examined the cases of 132 cats that had fallen out of high-rise windows and were brought to the center for treatment.