Can Cats Jump Higher Than Dogs?

Cats definitely rule in jumping when compared with dogs. The average dog can only jump about one body length high. Cats can jump five or six times that!

Jumping cat photo
Cats can jump five or six times their body length. By: Taiyo FUJII

While visiting my son recently, I was astonished by my grandkitty’s outstanding acrobatic skills.

Not having any cats of my own, I was not accustomed to an animal jumping from here to there without any warning. Blizzard would be happily playing with a toy one minute, and in an instant she would suddenly appear on top of the refrigerator.

I would be in the den, totally absorbed in a TV show, only to feel two eyes glaring down at me from the drapery rods.

“Geez,” I said to myself. “Can cats jump higher than dogs? I haven’t noticed either of my dogs back home making these kinds of jumps!”

Can Cats Jump Higher Than Dogs?

Cats definitely rule in jumping exercises when compared with dogs — or humans.

The average dog can only jump about one body length high, with breed and size (and personal skill) determining exactly how high he can jump. Humans aren’t even that good at jumping — we can only jump straight up in the air a little over one and a half feet on average.

So how high can a cat jump on average? A young, healthy cat is capable of jumping five or six times his body length in one huge leap.

How Do They Do It?

According to Animal Planet, cats owe their unique jumping talents to their strong leg and back muscles. Also contributing to their acrobatic finesse is their good calculating skills.

First, a cat will push off with great strength, testing the sturdiness of the take-off point with his hind legs. Next, he sizes up the distance from point A to point B and figures out how much hind leg force is needed to make a successful plunge.

Cats usually land on their front paws and pull their hind legs in. Their flexible shoulders, along with their solid feet, ankles, and wrists absorb the brunt of the landing. Their padded paws serve as mini shock absorbers.

Preventing High-Rise Syndrome

Cat high rise
In danger of falling. By: Vladimir Agafonkin

As summertime approaches, many pet owners begin opening windows to let some fresh air drift inside their homes. Unscreened windows pose a real threat to cats, who often fall out of the opened spaces.

These falls can result in punctured lungs, broken limbs and pelvises, shattered jaws or death. There’s even a name for the common problem of pets falling from windows: “high-rise syndrome.”

Most often, a cat falling from a high-rise window is accidental, as with fire escapes or terraces. With their excellent survival instincts, cats do not intentionally make jumps that would be dangerous.

Pet owners often believe their cats can take care of themselves. The truth is that although their claws are tough enough to cling to tree bark, other surfaces may be hard for them to hold on to.

Take the following precautions:

  • Install screens in all windows.
  • Don’t trust childproof window guards for your cat — he can slip right through them.
  • To give your cat a little outdoor enjoyment, invest in some full-screen enclosures for your backyard or patio. This will also offer protection from other animals, disease and cars.

Consider Getting a Cat Tree

Mama and child cat tree. (Click to enlarge.) By: Craig Howell

If you aren’t happy with your cat’s jumping preferences (on countertops, tables, etc.) provide him with other methods of satisfying his jumping urges. Cat trees and kitty condos make ideal replacements.

I am convinced that it is probably too late to teach Blizzard where not to jump. After all, she is pretty set in her ways at this point.

Her house is definitely her home and she rules. At least she has proven to me that cats can jump higher than dogs.

Gayle Hickman

View posts by Gayle Hickman
Gayle Hickman has been researching and writing about pet behaviors since 2011. In addition to Petful, her articles have appeared on Reader's Digest, Yahoo Shine and WebVet, to name a few.

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