June 24, 2014

Cat Who Jumps Like A Ninja

Cats are without a doubt among the most agile animals. They are fast, they can scale steep walls, they can climb almost anything and they can jump over distances which you wouldn't expect them to be able to do given their relatively small size. In the following video, a cat shows that it's a good jumper by jumping several feet from a parked car to a roof to get to his owner.
In 2002, Michelle Harris and Karen Steudel have written a paper entitled "The relationship between maximum jumping performance and hind limb morphology/physiology in domestic cats" which can partly explain this ability by cats.You can read the full paper here.

Here's an excerpt from the Summary: "The present study examined whether a relationship exists between maximum takeoff velocity (TOV) and several carefully chosen morphological and physiological traits in domestic cats. Based on the contributions of extensor muscle work to increasing the kinetic and potential energy of the center of mass (CM) during takeoff, we predicted that maximum TOV would be dependent upon relative limb length, relative extensor muscle mass, body mass and the percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers. Both maximum TOV and this series of traits were measured in 18 cats. We found that variation in cat maximum TOV is significantly explained by both hind limb length and fat mass relative to lean body mass, but not by extensor muscle mass relative to lean mass or fast-twitch fiber content.

The effect of body fat mass is pervasive because it reduces the proportion of muscle mass/body and thus increases the muscle work invested in increasing the CM potential energy as compared with kinetic energy during takeoff."

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