Sometimes your cat's instincts could work against him, particularly this time of year. All across the country, warmer months become prime time for high-rise syndrome, a term veterinarians use to describe the trend of pets—usually cats—falling from open high-rise windows, fire escapes, or balconies.
The open-window allure of fresh air and passing birds, butterflies, and leaves is virtually irresistible to cats, creatures that instinctively want to chase or pounce on attractions just outside of the window. "People think cats won't fall or jump, that they have an instinct warning them not to jump. This is a fallacy," explains Louise Murray, DVM, vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City.
When cats fall from higher places, they don't land squarely on their feet, setting them up for a specific set of injuries. And it doesn't take falling from the 20th story to incur major injuries. In fact, falling from a one- or two-story building could be more dangerous because the cat doesn't have as much time to position her body to fall correctly, the ASPCA notes.
In fact, Dr. Murray's hospital sees three to five cases of high-rise syndrome a week, injuries that often feature multiple broken legs, a fractured pelvis and jaw, ruptured lungs, a split roof of the mouth, and other pricey and painful problems. "A cat has no way of knowing they're five or 20 stories up," Dr. Murray adds. "Their instincts actually work against them. Curiosity killed the cat is probably most accurate for this situation."
A fall from a high-rise can be fatal, but surviving cats often face orthopedic surgery, ICU care, and oxygen.
Although many high-rise syndrome victims can be saved with prompt medical attention, it's clear from a financial and wellness standpoint that it's best avoided altogether. If your cat does fall from a window, rush to its aid—being in the unfamiliar street below could prompt the cat to scurry away, if physically able.
The 5 Ways to Protect Your Cat from High-Rise Syndrome:
1. Install snug and sturdy screens in all your windows.
2. If you have adjustable screens, make sure they are tightly wedged into window frames.
3. Don't rely on childproof window guards—cats can slip through them.
4. Keep cats indoors to protect them from additional dangers, such as cars, other animals, and disease. If you want to give them outdoor stimulation, look into screen enclosures for backyards and terraces.
5. Don't assume cats will know better or learn their lesson. "They'll do it more than once," Dr. Murray explains. "Once they hit the ground, they have no idea what happened, they probably don't even remember it. We've seen cats that have fallen out of windows several times."
Published on: May 6, 2013
Updated on: May 6, 2013