Cats are agile and fast animals surrounded by myths and legends, like their so-talked 9 lives.
In several cultures and places around the world it is very common to hear that cats have 9 lives, in some cases, it is also believed that these felines have 7 lives. This belief has a reference to how agile and fast they are and the ease with which they always land on their feet regardless of the height.
But, where does this idea comes from? Let’s go back to 1894, when a French scientist named Étienne-Jules Marey was able to take twelve consecutive photograms per second and analyzed the behavior of various animals in this way. Surprisingly the most famous was that of a cat in the Bois de Boulogne park.
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We can see how he drops the animal in order to check if it always landed on its feet. Besides being considered the first film in history to show images of a living feline, it is also one of the first studies aimed at investigating the nine lives of cats.
Incredible abilities that make them almost superheroes
There is no magic behind this phenomenon, the reality is that their anatomy has evolved to allow them to climb and jump on their prey.
In 1987, a study was conducted in New York that showed that 90% of the felines that had fallen from a tall building had ‘miraculously’ survived the fall. The study was conducted on more than 130 cats that were admitted to a veterinary clinic after having fallen from a great height. The results surprised more than one since only 37% needed emergency treatment to survive.
One cat that fell from a 32-story building only broke a tooth and had a collapsed lung, which after 48 hours had him back home.
Their multiple lives
Cats and their multiple lives are nothing more than a myth. The reality is that they are quite easy to land without hurting themselves because of how their body is designed. This still does not exempt them from better resisting illness and even so, falls are dangerous and should be avoided with protective devices on windows and balconies.
In the past, their ability to land led people to believe that they could escape death numerous times until the final death finally came.
The number seven was chosen because in many cultures it is a magical, almost divine number and has also been chosen for many lists created by us, such as the days of the week and the deadly sins. Cats only have seven lives in some cultures.
In Anglo-Saxon countries they are said to have nine; however, in Turkish and Arabic legends, kittens have only six lives.
The number nine comes from ancient Egypt, as it is said that Ra, the Sun-god, traveled to the underworld turned into a cat and took a life for each of the deities of his mythology, including himself and Shu, Tefnut, Nut, Geb, Isis, Osiris, Nephthys and Seth.
It must be taken into account that cats are light and the mass of the animal determines the force of the impact. Their lightweight alone is coupled with other factors, such as their ‘righting reflex.
The spine of cats is very flexible and they have a vestibular system, which we humans also have, and which is responsible for balance. It should also be added that their front paws are not attached to the trunk through the clavicular bone and this makes them more flexible and extensible.
Thus, when they detect that they are falling, they can turn their upper part and then the lower part to land on their paws. They can also retract their limbs and arch their spine to increase their air resistance and their body ends up acting like a parachute.
On top of everything else, their legs are very muscular and can absorb a good part of the impact against the ground.
All these factors are what ensures the survival of felines more than other species.
So no, cats are far from having superpowers, they are simply very elusive animals, but death comes looking for them the same number of times as it does for humans. Their tricks are not infallible, so try to protect your feline friend well.