Sugar the cat, left, survived a 19-story fall from her owner's home in Boston, center. At right is the spot where she landed.
Sugar, a white furry cat who is deaf, plunged 19 floors from a window in a high-rise building in Boston and – aided by her fall into a tiny mulch patch and the feline’s ability to glide a la the "flying squirrel" – lived to walk another day, animal rescue officials say.
A woman in the West End building said she saw a “white streak” go by her window early Wednesday afternoon and then saw Sugar after she hit the ground, said Mike Brammer, assistant manager of the animal rescue services department at the Animal Rescue League of Boston.
“You could see the impact crater where she actually did hit the ground and she actually lost some fur in the hole, too," Brammer said.
The cat's small landing spot is surrounded by brick and concrete.
“Whether cats can sometimes aim, so if it did it itself or if it was a combination of luck or both … it managed to hit that small patch of mulch, so it was very soft ground,” he said.
After bouncing up from her fall of 150-200 feet, Sugar ran near the building, rather than out onto the nearby highway.
“Instead of, you know, being scared and just running out into traffic, she somehow hit the best spot and stayed near the building,” he added. “So it was very fortuitous on many different levels.”
Sugar, who was tended to by the building concierge before rescue officials arrived, suffered a small cut on her lip and a little bruising, including some to her lungs.
“Considering what she had been through, she was in really good shape,” he said.
The feline, about 4.5 years old, was aided in her fall by dynamics akin to the “flying squirrel” phenomenon, Brammer said.
“You notice where their legs attach to the body, they have … the extra fur right there,” he said. If they put their legs out, “they’re able to glide a little bit and control … where they are going, and then I guess supposedly they can use their tail and move their body as a rudder to kind of control where they want to go.”
And ironically, the height may have helped her, he added, noting that a rescue league veterinarian shared information about a study on cats falling from tall heights.
“What happens is that the higher up, they reach terminal velocity and so I guess the sensation isn’t that they’re still falling. It kind of levels out so they don’t feel as stressed and they relax a little bit,” he said.
The Animal Rescue League was able to track the owner through the microchip and with help from the building.
Sugar's owner, Brittney Kirk, a 32-year-old registered nurse, said at first she didn't think her cat had made it. She had left the window open due to the warm weather because she didn't want Sugar to be in a hot apartment.
"It just seemed so unreal … my thought was obviously that she didn’t make it," she said. "I was definitely relieved and kind of in disbelief … if there were a cat to fall 19 stories and to be fine, I think it would definitely be Sugar, because she’s a pretty special cat."
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