The wildcats are predators and make their living off of being agile, strong, and flexible. They can reach heights of nine times their normal height from a sitting position, and can squeeze through tight spaces with their chest and shoulders. They can land in midair, get up on their feet and change direction in a blink of an eye.
Cats can rotate their flexible spines much more than other animals. They can also twist their bodies to a greater degree. Cats’ vertebrae–the spools-on-a-string-like bones in the back–are very flexibly connected and have especially elastic cushioning disks between them. It allows cats to do graceful and elegant acrobatic feats. However, it also helps them run faster. Cats can increase their speed by flexing and stretching their backs alternately to reach their top speed of 30 mph. The cat pushes forward to begin a new stride, using its claws as spikes to traction. Each stride propels the cat three times its length.
The feline shoulder blade can be attached to the rest only by muscles and not bone. The cat’s shoulder blade has a lot of freedom and can move freely as it runs, which allows for a longer running stride. Cats have smaller rudimentary collarbones than humans, which contributes to their ability to squeeze through narrow openings.
Between the bones of a cat’s spine are elastic cushioning discs. The discs allow cats the ability to rotate their bodies 180 degrees to either left or right. Humans can only rotate their torso up to 90 degrees. This means that a cat’s head and front legs can face in the opposite direction to their hips or back legs. Cats can extend their spine muscles, which allows them to move more easily.
The joint connecting the upper arm and body is formed by the shoulder blades of a human. However, the muscles that attach the shoulders to the body of a cat are not strong enough to hold them together. This allows them to run faster. This is what allows cats to maneuver in tight spaces they might not have thought possible.
THE “RIGHTING REFLEX”
People often say that cats always land on their feet because of their righting reflex. Cats can adjust their bodies when they fall from high heights. Their inner ear functions as a compass and allows them to see when they are facing the right way. Their combination of their flexible spine, skeletal structure, and lack of a collarbone makes them very responsive. Their body volume is also low in comparison to their body weight, which allows them to slow down their falling speed and create wind resistance by spreading their bodies.