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High-Rise Syndrome: Protect Your Cat

When summer comes around, many pet parents eagerly open windows to enjoy the weather. Unfortunately, they are also unknowingly putting their pets at risk. Unscreened windows pose a real danger to cats, who fall out of them so often that the veterinary profession has a name for the complaint-High-Rise Syndrome. During the warmer months, veterinarians at the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital see approximately three to five cases a week. Falls can result in shattered jaws, punctured lungs, broken limbs and pelvises-and even death.

Fast Facts: Feline High-Rise Syndrome

  • Cats have excellent survival instincts, and they don't deliberately “jump” from high places that would be dangerous. Most cats fall accidentally from high-rise windows, terraces or fire escapes.
  • Cats have an incredible ability to focus their attention on whatever interests them. A bird or other animal attraction can be distracting enough to cause them to lose their balance and fall.
  • Because cats have little fear of heights and enjoy perching in high places, pet owners often assume that they can take care of themselves. Although cats can cling to the bark of trees with their claws, other surfaces are much more difficult, such as window ledges, concrete or brick surfaces.
  • When cats fall from high places, they don't land squarely on their feet. Instead, they land with their feet slightly splayed apart, which can cause severe head and pelvis injuries.
  • It is a misconception that cats won't be injured if they fall from one- or two-story buildings. They may actually be at greater risk for injury when falling shorter distances than by falling from mid-range or higher altitudes. Shorter distances do not give them enough time to adjust their body posture to fall correctly.
  • Remember that when cats fall from high-rise buildings, they may end up on sidewalks or streets that are dangerous and unfamiliar to them. Never assume that the animal has not survived the fall; immediately rush the animal to the nearest animal hospital or to your veterinarian.
  • There is a 90-percent survival rate for cats who are high-rise victims if they receive immediate and proper medical attention.