Ask Mr Brain . . . all will be explained

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 July, 2000, 12:00am

Do cats really have nine lives? Cats have been known to fall from amazing heights (for example, the 32nd floor of a building) and have then, incredibly, been able to skulk away with a broken tooth and a few other minor injuries to purr his story and lick a few wounds.

With people, it is completely different. The injuries are severe. We can break our skull or back and may bleed internally.

Humans can rarely survive a fall of more than a few stories.

Cats have the unique ability to survive colossal falls that would kill another animal or person, so it might seem as if a cat is coming back to life after a deadly incident.

Seeing this occur again and again might lead one to conclude that cats really do have multiple lives.

However, in reality, cats only have one life. The reason why they may seem to have nine lives is because cats are remarkably good fallers.

For a start, cats are smaller than people and weigh a lot less, so they hit the ground with less impact than we do. But why are cats better at falling than other small animals such as rabbits and dogs? When a cat starts falling upside down, it will try to swivel around to land on all fours.

A cat is able to do this thanks to the excellent balancing equipment in its inner ear which acts as a built-in gyroscope that enables it to quickly figure out what position it is in and switch to the right position before it hits the ground.

When a cat falls on all fours, all four limbs absorb the impact. In addition, when a cat lands on the ground, his legs are bent. This reduces the force of the fall that travels straight through brittle bones by redirecting the blow through softer muscles and joints.

Amazingly, cats are more likely to survive a fall if it is from a higher level, rather than a lower one.

Veterinarians in New York City found that 10 per cent of their feline patients died when they fell from two to six stories above the ground, and that only 5 per cent died when the fall was from seven to 32 stories high.

What is organic farming? Organic farming is a system of cultivation employing biological methods of fertilisation and pest control.

These methods are used in place of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which are regarded by organic farmers as harmful to health and the environment. Organic farming rejects modern agri-chemical techniques.

In the 1930s, Sir Albert Howard, a British agricultural scientist, started a system in which town wastes were used to fertilise the soil.

This practice has been used in every continent where various organic materials, including animal manure, sewage sludge, compost, grass turf, straw and other crop resi dues, are applied to improve the soil.

Organic farming uses less petroleum than conventional farming does and is most suitable with diversified, small-scale cultivation.