How high can cats jump?

Cats are natural climbers and jumpers and excel at these two tasks. But how high can cats jump? Are they better than us at jumping? Let’s find out.

kitten arguing about how high can cats jumps - comic
Photo of a kitten by andreykuzmin.

There are several studies that needed cats to perform maximum height jumps for different purposes (for example: here, here, and here) and we can extract numbers from them.

With a little practice, an average cat can jump up to 1.3 to 1.6 meters high (4.3 to 5.2 feet) from the spot. With assistance from their claws, cats can cover fences that are even higher. But straight up, one can say that cats can jump six times their height.

Their height, but not length!!! Cats can jump six times their height. Why are we stressing this? Because many, many websites claim it to be the length. We suspect it is becasue these pages copy data from each other without checking.

Bonus fact: According to the book “How mammals run” by Milton Hildebrand, a cat can leap 1.7 meters (5.5 feet) when jumping forwards. And, in fact, Guinness World Records places the longest cat’s forward jump at 2.13 meters far. Not, though, how long average cats jump; Guinness book lists superhuman and superfeline performances.

These websites do the maths and come up with highly exaggerated numbers, such as nine feet, and even refer to this National Geographic video below. Watch the video, and at 29 seconds you will hear Richard Hammond saying that cats are “capable of jumping up to six times their own height.”

The height of cats is measured as a distance between the floor and top of their scruff when they stand on all four feet. The average cat is 24 cm (9.4 inches) high. That is according to Wikipedia, but you can check your own cat’s height if you don’t believe us, it will be close.

These measurements, however, do not allow you to calculate how high your cat would jump. The whole “six times their own height” thing is a result of maths. An average cat jumps so high, and an average cat is that high; thus, divide one by the other, and you get six.

By no means, it is a claim that a cat’s jump height depends on their height. It may sound logical to be so, becasue larger cats have more leaping power, yet, at the same time, the larger the cat, the more mass it has, and the more mass it has, the more power it needs. That’s physics.

Physics is also an answer to how are cats able to jump so high. Cat’s hind legs are extremely powerful and can be used as a spring. Take a look at a cat right before jumping.

bengal cat crouched before jump
Photo by Bonzami Emmanuelle

The colored portion is a cat’s foot, which is enormous, and cats use all of its energy to spring up. You might normally view this part as their lower leg, yet it isn’t. It’s the foot. Cats normally walk on their toes, like most mammals, except primates, do. Take a look at a cat’s skeleton picture and you’ll understand.

cat sekelton anatomy
Illustration from “The Cat” by St. George Mivart, 1881

Cats’ skeleton is perfectly adapted for jumping and surviving high falls. They rely on powerful leaps to obtain their food in the wild: they pounce at their prey, and high jumping is essential when attempting to hunt a bird. This is also why cats jumps are not only powerful but also precise.

We also know that cats get better at jumping with practice. Cats who jump for maximum height in lab experiments undergo training jumps beforehand. One thing, it is needed so the cat understands the task, but they also increase their air during the process.

There are also real-world examples. See the below video, in which the owner trained his cat jump to an impressive 1.96 meters even though his first attempt was 1.5 meters.

The 1.96 meters is 6.5 feet and is absolutely impressive. Notice that it is nine times his own height, and the video even compares it to humans performance.

True, if a human could jump nine times their own height, they could jump over a three-story building. However, you shouldn’t compare it that way. As you remember from the above, human height is measured fundamentally different from cats’ height.

Of course, that must not take away from the fact that cats’ jump (and sprint, for that matter) is much more impressive than ours. Ours is pathetic. Even top basketball players and track-and-field athletes can’t jump as vigorously and relatively high as cats do.

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