For this initial research post I will compile information regarding the ‘cat righting reflex’ which is the topic I intend to visually communicate in my infographic.
- Cats have a unique ability to orient themselves in a fall, allowing them to avoid injuries. This is the result of a unique skeletal structure and a ‘righting’ reflex (Source 2).
- Cats maintain a highly tuned sense of balance and have very flexible backbones (they have more vertebrae than humans), this allows them to twist their bodies around to ‘right’ themselves when falling (known as the ‘righting reflex’) (Source 1).
- When a cat falls from a high place, it uses its sight or vestibular apparatus (a balance system located in the inner ear) to determine up from down – then the cat will rotate its upper body to face downward and its lower body will follow suit (Source 1).
- The ‘righting reflex’ is augmented by an unusually flexible backbone and the absence of a collarbone. When these two factors are combined it allows for amazing flexibility and upper body rotation. When the head and forefeet are turning, the rest of the body will naturally follow and the cat will be able to reorient itself (Source 2).
- Cats are said to have a non-fatal terminal velocity. That is, because of their very low body volume-to-weight ratio cats are able to slow their descent by spreading their bodies out – flying squirrel style (Source 2).
- The minimum height required for this to occur in most cats safely would be around 30 centimeters (Source 3).
- The ‘righting reflex’ can be observed with kittens as early as 3 – 4 weeks, and is eventually perfected once they reach the age of 6 – 7 weeks (Source 3).
- Cats can easily be distracted by things such as a bird or squirrel, causing them to lose their balance and not have enough time to ‘right’ themselves (Source 1).