Few in the animal kingdom can match the all-around athleticism of the cat. Pound-for-pound, the various cat species are some of the strongest, fastest, and most agile creatures that exist.
One example of their awesomeness is the cat’s ability to jump. How do cats jump so high?
In this article we’ll cover the following:
We know cats are great jumpers, but, what makes them so good? It really all comes down to the way cats are built.
For cats, or any mammal for that matter, the ability to jump depends on how their leg bones and muscles are put together. Generally, good jumpers have long hind limbs and short forelimbs.
Longer legs give a cat the ability to generate a longer and harder push-off from the jumping platform. This allows a more powerful, faster, and farther jump.
Many jumping animals, such as kangaroos, have elongated foot and ankle bones, and they sometimes possess additional joints. This adds more segments to the leg, effectively making it longer.
Though not as dramatic as the kangaroo, if you took an x-ray you would clearly see that a cat’s hind legs are longer than their front legs and well-proportioned for jumping.
For a good comparison of the two, let’s take a look at a video of cat and kangeroo friends:
Actually, I don’t know if that qualifies as friendship, but maybe they just don’t want to admit they like each other.
At any rate, you can see the way their legs are build for jumping.
Jumping mammals also have strong muscles in their rear legs. Large, strong leg muscles produce more force, resulting in better jumping performance.
Additionally, a cat’s muscles just work better for jumping than humans. As a result, cats can jump proportionately much higher than humans.
The cats’ jump consists of two epochs. The first is the ‘preparatory phase’ where the cat coils its muscles like a spring, and the second is the ‘launching phase’ where the cat releases its muscle potential.
One of the reasons their muscles work so much better for jumping than a humans is that cats fully activate all of their muscle fibers when they leap. By contrast, the average human’s leg muscles are thought to be only about 40 to 50% efficient when jumping.
Cats also have a much higher percentage of “fast twitch” muscle fibers in their leg muscles than people. This allows for a quicker, more explosive muscular burst.
Before you get too sad about not having as many fast twitch muscle fibers as a cat, just remember that slow twitch muscles are what allow us to have fine motor skills. In other words, you wouldn’t want a cat to do brain surgery on you.
One other feature you often see in cats and other jumping animals is a muscular tail. A strong, mobile tail is important for maintaining balance while leaping.
Now that we know the mechanics, let’s watch a cat in action:
Being smaller and less powerful, kittens obviously can’t jump as high as an adult cat. As explained above, one reason is that long legs are essential to high jumps.
Kittens simply haven’t grown into their jumping legs. Also, kitten’s muscles are still developing so they are less efficient.
Furthermore, kittens lack the fine motor skills and balance needed to achieve jumps towards the limits of their abilities. But this doesn’t mean some kittens won’t try.
Just about the time you think you put something out of reach of your kitten, they set their personal best record jump and get it.
Never underestimate your kittens jumping ability, because they will be leaping like adult cats before you know it. Make sure you put anything harmful away where your can’t won’t be able to get to it.
Most healthy cats that are not overweight can easily jump over a baby gate. A gate may deter a dog or baby, but it’s not much of an obstacle to most cats.
Most cats can jump over six times their height. The record for a human is about one time their own height.
To put this in perspective, if a person could jump as well as a cat, they could clear a 35-foot wall in a single bound!
So, a baby gate is no match for a cat.
With long hind limbs full of strong, explosive muscles, cats are superbly adapted for jumping and leaping great distances. To jump really high, cats coil their legs like a spring then fully activate their muscles to launch themselves skyward.
You can help your cat stay in top jumping form with this Cat Feather Toy. It’s fun for your cat and a great way for you to have a good time together.
If you keep your cat indoors, which is best for them, keep them jumping around with the CatHaven Cat Condo Treehouse. They’ll think they’re back in the wild!
If you have any questions or would like to share a story about your cat and how high they can jump, please tell us in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!
Phil’s lifelong love of animals began as a young boy growing up with three pet dogs. As a teenager and young adult, Phil spent six years working as a veterinary technician, later earning a B.S. in Animal Science. After college, Phil continued working as a vet tech part-time while caring for a private collection of mountain lions used in wildlife educational programs. During this time, Phil volunteered at the Dallas Zoo and was eventually offered a position as a zookeeper in the zoo’s naturalistic Wilds of Africa area. Phil became the primary keeper for a black leopard named “Grady” and a caracal named “Tut” in the predator/prey exhibit.