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Truth or Tail: Cats always land on their feet

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Those platforms and climbing spaces at Asian Highlands made us wonder: Is it true cats always land on their feet?

Truth!

It’s a scientific fact that domestic cats – or smaller wild species – most often land on their feet after a fall. Felines have a “righting reflex” that develops around three weeks of age. This reflex is triggered when the inner ear recognizes they are falling, and allows cats to twist their body while in motion to face down, meaning their legs are the first to hit the ground even if they didn’t start in that position. Cats have evolved with extremely flexible backbones and lack a collarbone, making this tricky lateral move more possible than in other species.

What about big cats? For obvious reasons fewer conclusive studies have been done on the likes of leopards, tigers and lions, but we do know that these agile hunters can climb, leap and balance with amazing skill. For proof in Cleveland, look no further than Asian Highlands, which features many climbing features (some at steep angles), jumping platforms and poles that showcase the cats ability to leap - and land – in a single bound.

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Photo courtesy of Kyle Lanzer/Cleveland Metroparks

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