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Leaping Cats!

One amazing thing about a cat's ability to jump or "leap" is that the animal can twist its body around, even upside down, and then manage to land on its feet - with precision!  I had one cat that jumped to the top of an open door, landing with all four paws lined up in a row to stand at that great height and survey the room - remarkable!


Once every four years, we add an extra day to February. We call that year a “leap” year and that extra day is “Leap Day”. We use the word “leap” all year long. We play “leap” frog. We might take a “leap” of faith. We should always look before we “leap”. We may even “leap” to conclusions.

The word “leap” means to jump a long way, or really high, or with great force. Javier Sotomayor still holds the world record for his high jump of 2.45 meters (just over 8 feet) set in 1993. That was some leap!

It amazes me to watch my cat leap onto or over tall objects. It is especially impressive when I consider how small she is by comparison to the heights she can reach. Have you ever wondered how cats do that?

According to scientists, an average-size, healthy, young, adult cat can be expected to jump about five or six times its body length, thanks to its powerful leg muscles. So if a normal cat is about 18 inches long (not counting the tail), then six times that could be – wow – 9 feet! A longer cat could jump higher or farther, which means a healthy cat that is, say, about 22 inches long could clear about 11 feet or so.

When you compare that to what a human can do, let’s take another look at the world record holder. Javier Sotomayor was about six feet, five inches tall. That’s pretty tall for a human, especially since the average height for an adult man is about five feet 10 inches. So the average cat can actually jump higher than the world record holder, who was over four times as tall as the length of the average cat. I guess you could say the cat would win that contest by leaps and bounds!

Playing with your cat can help to strengthen its jumping abilities and give you a chance to see its amazing biology in motion. If you are wishing you had a cat, visit your local animal shelter and take a new feline friend home. It might be a perfect way to celebrate “Leap Day”, when you’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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