Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Why Doesn't A Cat Ever Go Splat?: High Rise Syndrome Explained

Why do cats that fall from higher altitudes suffer lesser injuries than those that fall from lower heights? A revealing National Geographic video presents some intriguing new answers to this eternal cat conundrum, a phenomenon New York vets call "high rise syndrome". A group of Park Avenue vets became so spooked by the way cats sustained worse injuries in falls from the twelfth floor of tower blocks than they did when they fell from greater heights they began studying the aero-dynamics of the cat. They discovered what many cat lovers have long known, the feline has a brilliant self righting mechanism, probably inherited from its ancient, tree-dwelling ancestors. As it falls through the air, the cat's brain is sent a series of messages from its eyes and inner ear that sets its head rotating back into an upright position. As its fall continues the cat twists its spine then arches its back to absorb the shock of impact better. When it comes to so-called "high rise syndrome", the key thing is that the more time the cat has to go through this process, the more time it has to get into position and the more time it then has to relax about is fall to earth. Cats that fall from higher altitudes can apparently enter a sort of freefall, like a parachutist. This relaxes them, in turn reducing the amount of trauma they suffer when they hit earth. The New York vets concluded that cats that fall from lower levels reach the ground rigid and less relaxed, thus suffering more trauma. So there you have it - if you want your cat to live its nine lives, move to the nineteenth floor.

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