They don’t ALWAYS! But they usually do because of their skeletin – its pretty unique!
Cats do not have a collarbone, and the bones in their backbone have more mobility than in many other animals. For these reasons, cats have free movement of their front legs and they can easily bend and rotate their bodies. This allows them to land feet first. Their feet and legs can cushion the impact. This righting reflex begins to appear at 3-4 weeks of age, and is perfected at 7 weeks.
If cats fall a larger distance such as two or more floors, even though they can right themselves, their legs and feet can no longer absorb all of the shock. Their heads may hit the ground and they often bruise their chin and may fracture some teeth. Falls of four or more floors cause the cat to hit the ground at maximum velocity and thus acquire a multitude of injuries including a ruptured diaphragm, torn liver, and fractured bones.
So…don’t push a cat off a big tall thing. Actually don’t push cats at all – its mean!! 🙂
I’m concerned about how you know that cats always land on their feet, chocoholic Lea! Have you been experimenting? Have you varied experimental conditions such as height, type of cat, and initial spin? If so, that’s being pretty mean to cats just for the sake of science.