Cat Jumping: Why Do They Jump So High?

Cats have an incredible talent: their graceful, swift ability to jump high and far while always, and I mean always, landing square on their feet. If you are a cat owner, you know this. You have certainly seen your cat’s ability to jump up on windowsills, tables, bookshelves, and even the highest of furniture. Maybe you have seen your cat race across your yard and jump halfway up the trunk of a tree in order just seconds before landing gracefully on a branch.

How High Can Cats Jump?

A cat’s ability to jump comes from the power in their hind legs to propel them into the air, along with a great deal of flexibility. So, you’re wondering, how high can a cat jump? An adult cat can jump approximately 5-6 times their height. An average cat’s height is 30 cm (12 inches), so on average, a cat can jump 150-180 cm (59-70.8 inches). So, this means your one-foot tall cat can potentially jump up to six feet!

What Affects a Cat’s Ability to Jump?

Several factors influence a cat’s ability to jump. First, there’s the cat’s age. Younger cats will naturally be able to jump higher than older cats because, as cats age, they are prone to arthritis. A one-year-old cat is in its jumping prime!

Also, the cat’s height will determine how high he can jump. Obviously, taller cats can jump higher than shorter cats. To measure your cat’s height, locate the tallest point on his back, between his shoulder blades, and measure his height from this point to the floor.

The Journal of Experimental Biology published a study that determined how high a cat can jump is based on the length of their hind legs. The amount of muscle mass a cat has will also affect its ability to jump. Cats maximize their jumping strength by starting in a deep crouch, then lifting their front legs, before exploding on their back legs, which propels them through the air.

Certain cat breeds can jump higher than others due to a combination of leg length and natural athleticism. For example, cats breeds with shorter legs, such as the Munchkin won’t be able to jump as high as those with longer legs, such as the Siamese. The Bengal domestic cat, which has characteristics of small wildcats, is also a notably skilled jumper.

In addition, underlying medical conditions will impact a cat’s jumping ability. In particular, arthritis and obesity will slow down a cat’s overall agility.

Jumping Cat

What is the Highest a Cat Can Jump?

Known as “the Jumping Cat,” Nya-Suke, a Tabby from Japan, was filmed jumping 196 cm (6.4 ft!) You can watch the video here. On average, cats jump 5-6 times their own height.

How Far Can Cats Jump?

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest horizontal jump is 213.36 cm (7 feet), held by Waffle, the Warrior Cat from the United States. His long jump occurred on January 30, 2018, and you can watch this incredible jump here!

How Can Cats Jump So High?

Cats are agile and made for jumping! For cats, the ability to jump stems from how their leg bones and muscles work together. Cats have both long hind limbs and short forelimbs. The longer legs give them the ability for a powerful push-off from their jumping platform, which results in a longer, faster, higher jump!

The cat’s jump consists of two epochs. First is a preparatory phase where the cat coils its muscles, similar to a spring, and the second is the launching phase where the cat jumps, releasing its muscles. Cats are able to fully activate their muscle fibers when they jump. To put this in perspective, humans activate just 40-50% of their muscle fibers when jumping.

Finally, there’s a cat’s tail, which is strong, muscular and used for balance while leaping. Equally impressive is a cat’s ability to land on its feet. How do they do this? Cats have a strong sense of balance and extremely flexible backbones, which allows them to twist their bodies in order to correct their balance as they fall. This innate ability is known as their “righting reflex.”

Keep in mind a cat’s early cat ancestors lived in the wild and spent a lot of time in trees. They had to be able to leap out of the trees to catch their prey, and then climb back in the trees with the carcass for dinner. While indoor house cats have no reason to stalk their prey from a tree, they still have the ability to do so!

How Do I Keep My Cat From Jumping on Tables and Countertops?

It’s cute to watch your cat jump, but you may not want her on your table or countertops. It’s best not to discourage her from jumping since that’s just part of who she is! However, you can certainly redirect her jumping behavior to include acceptable climbing spots.

Indoor cat tree furniture is a great option because it is made specifically for jumping and climbing cats. Many also include “kitty condos” with room for a nap! Also, keep in mind that your cat may be jumping on the table or countertops because that’s where the food is! More than often, when I see my cat, Libby, on the table, she is trying to scarf down some crumbs that my sons left. I realize she’s hungry, so I give her a mid-morning snack. Problem solved.

Yelling at your cat is not only not effective, but it may also make her frightened of you. Redirecting her attention to spaces she can freely jump and climb is your best bet. You can always sprinkle some catnip in areas (like a cat tree) where she is free to jump.

Cat Jumping In The Kitchen

Bottom Line?

Cats are marvelous creatures with some incredible talents: jumping high and far is one of them! Cats jump 5-6 times their height unless they are older or suffer from medical conditions that may prevent jumping.

Now, go check out some of these cat jumping videos; they will surely make you smile!

Renee Whitmore is an American college professor and freelance writer from North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in English Education. When she is not driving her teenage son to wrestling practice or learning the ins and outs of Fortnite from her younger son, she is working on her first book to be published soon.

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