The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is facing criticism after a video showed a worker dropping a cat from a crane bucket at a height of 15 to 20 feet.
The worker had just rescued the cat from high on a power pole in Sunland. Video shows the apparently long drop and the stunned reactions of onlookers. But was the cat really in danger?
KTLA-TV reported that the cat had been stuck on the pole for three days and that residents called the Los Angeles Fire Department and LADWP to get it down on Nov. 14. LADWP crews were on the scene by 3:30 p.m., said Michelle Figueroa, spokeswoman for the LADWP.
In the video, the worker takes the cat from the pole and then about halfway down drops the animal over the side. A woman standing by with a blanket is unable to catch the falling cat. KTLA reported that the drop was 15 to 20 feet.
"Sorry, but he was really clawing me up there," the worker says in the video, once the bucket is lowered.
The video shows the cat running away between houses after it hits the ground.
"Historically, cats are known to land on their feet pretty successfully," said Rancho Palos Verdes veterinarian Peggy Herrera.
Cats have been documented to survive incredible falls. One study looked at cats that had fallen from a height of two to 32 stories. Most survived. But the study found that the longer the fall, the better the cat's chance of surviving.
The theory is that when a falling cat reaches terminal velocity -- the point at which the speed of the fall does not increase, about 60 mph for a cat -- the animal may relax, stretch out and increase air resistance, so the impact is distributed more evenly across its body.
Herrera said that in the case of the pole cat, its energetic run following the fall was a good sign.
"Likely if there had been any significant injury, it wouldn't have skedaddled so quickly."
The LADWP seems to regret how this rescue panned out, but says the important job got done at risk to the rescuer himself.
"It was a difficult situation because the cat was scratching, so the worker did the best he could to handle the situation," Figueroa said. "The bottom line is that the cat was rescued. Staff risked electrocution to save the cat."