How High Can Cats Jump?

Cats are incredibly athletic and agile. If you have a curious cat, you are probably especially aware that they can get into anything, even if you hide things high up on the shelves or on top of the fridge. While we may think that hiding things high up in our house will keep our valuable items away from the curious paws of our cats, the top of the fridge is a simple jump to many of our cats. Your kitty will have no problem jumping up to the top of the fridge to investigate your loaf of bread or knock down a flower vase. So just how high can cats jump?

How High Can Cats Jump?

Cats can jump approximately 6 times their body length, which can mean they can jump between 6 feet to 8 feet high.

The world record for how high a human can jump is 8 feet high (IAAF). Cats are specially designed through thousands of years of evolution to be agile predators and also to evade predators themselves. Years of chasing small prey items and running from bigger predators have made them skilled at jumping up into trees.

How Can Cats Jump So High?

The leaping power of cats lies mostly in their back legs, although their spine and back muscles also play an important role. Cats have strong, muscular back legs that work to spring them into action when they need to jump. The spine is very flexible and is surrounded by strong back muscles as well. All these anatomical features help to launch the cat up to great heights.   

Not all cats are as skilled at jumping as others. There are a number of factors that influence a cat’s athletic abilities, including how high it jumps.

What Factors Determine How High A Cat Can Jump?

A number of factors can determine a cat’s jumping ability. These factors include age, sex, weight, breed, health status, and motivation. Here is how each of these factors may influence how well a cat can jump.

How Does Age Affect A Cat’s Jumping Ability?

Juvenile animals can take months to years to fully develop their brains and bodies enough to perform certain behaviors. Kittens around 7 weeks of age have begun to exhibit adult locomotion, but it may take as long as 10-11 weeks for them to perform other cat like behaviors, such as balancing and turning on narrow surfaces. Proper limb-placing techniques develop throughout the first two months of life (Bateson, 2013). Cats continue to grow and develop throughout their first year of life and may not be considered full grown until 18 months of age. Larger cat breeds, such as Maine Coons, may not even be considered full grown until 2-4 years of age.

During this time of development, the bones, muscles, and joints are all continuing to change and strengthen to support the cat’s adult body. A cat’s jumping ability is largely determined by the muscles in the cat’s back legs. Therefore, as cats grow into their adult body, it can be assumed their ability to jump high continues to develop. For jumping ability, practice is key, so even if younger animals have the physical ability to jump, they may not have had enough practice to reach the incredible heights we see in cats.

As cats continue to age past their middle prime years, their bones and muscles may begin to decline, negatively impacting their jumping ability. If you have had an aging or senior cat, you might have noticed that cats may be less willing or able to jump around like they were used to.

How Does Breed Affect A Cat’s Jumping Ability?

Each cat breed was bred for different purposes, which may affect their ability to jump. The most athletic cat breeds tend to be equally as skilled at jumping as they are at running due to their sleek bodies and muscular back legs. The cat breeds that are likely to have the best jumping ability include Abyssinian, Somali, Bengal, Savannah, Manx, Siamese, Ocicat, and Oriental (Becker, 2015). The bigger, bulkier cat breeds, such as Maine Coon and Ragdoll, may have a harder time launching themselves upward, but they still have amazing athletic abilities.

How Does Gender Affect A Cat’s Jumping Ability?

Previous research on gender differences in athletic abilities in mammals has typically concluded that males are faster and more agile than females (Rezende et al., 2006, Cheuvront et al., 2005). However, in lion populations, the females tend to be the better hunters, suggesting that they would be more athletic and agile than the male lions, who use their size and strength to protect the pride. Unfortunately, no studies have looked at gender differences in jumping ability in cats. Therefore, there is no confirmed answer to this question.

How Does Health Status Affect A Cat’s Jumping Ability?

As stated above, cats can jump about 6 times their body length. However, this statistic is based on average-sized, healthy cats. A cat who is sick, injured, overweight, or otherwise physically or mentally impaired may not be able to jump as high as a healthy cat. Many of our house cats are obese, which can have severe consequences on a cat’s physical abilities (CFHC). 

How Does Motivation Affect A Cat’s Jumping Ability?

If you are a cat owner, you know that getting a cat to do something it does not want to do is a fool’s errand. The ability of a cat to jump high will first and foremost depend on its motivation to do so. Many cats will jump to get to a desired lying spot or to get to certain food items. If you typically discourage your cat from jumping on certain surfaces, you may never even realize that your cat enjoys jumping to the top of the fridge until you find the evidence that they got into something they should not.

If you have a high-energy breed, you can help them practice their jumping ability, which will help burn off excess energy in your cat and hopefully make for a more harmonious life together. Wiggle wands are a great toy for getting cats to jump. Swing the end of the toy down, up, and around similar to how birds fly, and your cat will be jumping up in no time. Some cats may amaze you with their acrobatic abilities while playing with a wiggle wand and you will both have a great time!

How High Do Other Cat Species Jump?

Our domestic cats may be small, but they share a lot of similar physical abilities with their large, wild counterparts. Here are some of the popular big cat species and how high they can jump (Side note: not all cat species would jump vertically. For some species, it is more important that they can jump far, and therefore jump horizontally across a surface):

Cat

High (ft)

Long (ft)

Cougar

18

 

Snow Leopard

 

45

Lion

 

35

Tiger

 

35

Leopard

10

20

Caracal

10

 

Lynx

6

 

Bobcat

6

 

Domestic Cat 6-8

Who Is The Highest Jumping House Cat?

As of this writing, the Guinness World Record for the longest jump by a cat is held by Waffle the Warrior. Waffle jumped 7 feet in 2018 in California. Waffle is 10 years old, which shows that even though most mammals reach their athletic peak at middle age, there is a large variation in everyone’s abilities and you should to never count yourself out!

In conclusion, cats are amazingly athletic because they needed to have the physical capability to chase prey and to evade predators. Cats can jump about 6 times their body length, but a number of factors such as age, breed, sex, health status, and motivation, can influence the height of their jump. Many species of cats are great jumpers with cougars being one of the best vertical jumpers, able to reach an amazing 18 feet high. The powerful back legs of cats give them their jumping ability, along with their flexible spine. Cats have to practice their jumping to reach those amazing heights and you can help them do so through play! Get your wiggle wand and use it to help your cat learn to jump. This will provide them mental and physical enrichment and help strengthen your bond with your kitty.

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Works Cited

Bateson, P. 2013. Behavioural development in the cat. In D. Turner and P. Bateson (Eds), The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour (p. 201-212). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Becker, K. 2015. The 9 Fastest Cat Breeds. Healthy Pets Presented by Mercola. Retrieved July 10, 2019.

Cheuvront, S.N., Carter III, R., DeRuisseau, K.C., and R.J. Moffatt. 2005. Running performance differences between men and women. Sports Medicine 35(12):1017-1024.

Cornell Feline Health Center. Obesity. Retrieved July 22, 2019.

IAAF. High Jump. Retrieved July 22, 2019.

Rezende, E.L., Kelly, S.A., Gomes, F.R., Chappell, M.A., and T. Garland Jr. 2006. Effects of size, sex, and voluntary running speeds on costs of locomotion in lines of laboratory mice selectively bred for high wheel-running activity. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology: Ecological and Evolutionary Approaches 79(1):83-99.


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