Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Piper the cat falls 80 feet from tree

  1. Mar 24, 2006 #1
    Apparently much to everyone's amazement Piper was unharmed and immediately scampered away...... http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/showcase/sns-ap-falling-cat,1,653331.story [Broken] Or there is a video at: http://www.local6.com/slideshow/news/8164570/detail.html?qs=;s=4;p=news;dm=ss;w=400l [Broken]

    Without trying to encourage anyone to experiment, please don't! I once read, if I remember right, that the matter had been looked into by checking veterinarian records, and it was discovered that apartment building cats that fell out the window from the second to the 5th floor were seriously injured, broke a leg or more, but that cats that fall from greater heights were more likely to survive without breaking bones.

    This is something of a mystery, but the answer proposed in the article was that maybe that it takes the cat sometime to overcome surprise and recognize what is happening, so that he can prepair himself for landing, or that he can manuever in his fall to land on the best spot.

    Well from the formula S=16t^2 at t=2, one would be at a height of 64 feet, and it would take 2 seconds to land; so that possibly the cat needs that amount of time to prepair for landing.

    Also it is shown in the clips that Piper largely fell on its back with its legs and arms spread out before he twisted around to land. Possibly the cat had the ability to slow down the descent and reach maximum velocity at some point before it landed. This would mean that it could as easily survive a 180 foot fall as an 80 foot one.

    Anyway, I wondered if anyone had an opinion on this matter.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 24, 2006 #2
    I read somewhere that when the cats reach terminal velocity, because they're not accelerating anymore, they relax and therefore aren't so tense when they land, reducing injury. Don't know if that's true.
  4. Mar 24, 2006 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    A couple of points should be noted. First, Piper's fall was broken by branches on the tree at least once roughly halfway down so the fall was really more like 40 feet or less. (Incidentally, the reporting all says the initial height was 80 feet but it didn't look like it to me - I think it was less than that.)

    Second, Piper is quite a hairy critter which would allow him to reach a relatively low terminal velocity fairly quickly. However, that was somewhat mitigated by the fact that during much of the final portion of the fall he was tumbling. During the first half (before being slowed by the branches), Piper was spinning its tail quite rapidly and that kept him falling legs first (good example of angular momentum conservation!).

    Finally, as to the "relaxation" factor, I don't think it applies in this situation because Piper was tumbling out of control during the second part of the fall and, being a cat owner, I would say he looked totally terrified during both parts.

    I think we can all agree that he's one lucky critter!
  5. Mar 24, 2006 #4


    User Avatar

    Haha ha, how lame... but it was kind of funny. :biggrin:

    Relaxation has a lot to do with surviving falls. This is how people you may've heard jumped out of an airplane with a faulty-parachute, and survived. They go unconscious and were almost dead before they hit the ground. At least according to two shows I saw on the discovery channel.
  6. Mar 24, 2006 #5


    User Avatar

    dunno about comparison to other cats, but the larger a species is, the more deadly or damaged such an animal is after a fall of some given distance. drop an ant from 80 feet and nothing happens to it.

    it's because volume (and mass and weight assuming an approximately constant density) increases as r3 and surface area and cross section area increases with r2. wind resistance will have a greater effect and when the critter smashes into the ground, the skin of the critter will have a better chance of containing the guts. imagine tossing a big water balloon and a tiny water balloon the same distance. which is more likely to burst upon impact?
  7. Mar 25, 2006 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Well, my cat fell from the 4th floor, and got away with it. Ok, she seemed to have a sore back for a week or so, but didn't break anything. She did fall on something like 5cm of snow...
  8. Mar 26, 2006 #7
    rbj: dunno about comparison to other cats, but the larger a species is, the more deadly or damaged such an animal is after a fall of some given distance. drop an ant from 80 feet and nothing happens to it.

    I'll bet that has a lot to do with it. And that a cat is hairy as well, increasing surface area.
  9. Mar 26, 2006 #8
    I was amazed when I saw a video of the fall. It seemed very high and the cat did fall fast. The branch it hit on the way down didn't slow the cat at all.
  10. Mar 26, 2006 #9
    Greg Bernhardt: The branch it hit on the way down didn't slow the cat at all.

    I thought that as well, but we had an objection. Sometimes there was the video and lately it is just clips that are available http://www.local6.com/slideshow/news/8164570/detail.html?qs=;s=4;p=news;dm=ss;w=400l [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook