high-rise syndrome in cats dangers to cats

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High-Rise Syndrome

By Terry Ambrose, Writer & Ardent Animal Advocate

October 4, 2017

High-Rise Syndrome in Cats

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The famous quote for my life is:

“I did what I knew — when I knew better, I did better.” Maya Angelou

High-Rise Syndrome in Cats

It has been true of everything I have done in my life from parenting my daughter to parenting my cats. This story is about the dangers to cats concerning high-rise syndrome in cats.

No matter how conscientious a pet guardian you may be, you will make mistakes. You can limit the severity of those mistakes by reading everything you can get your hands on regarding cat care.

Buff! Buff! Get Back in Here Now!

I had just gotten home from work one day and lay down on the sofa in front of the wall-to-wall window in my apartment. An hour later I awoke and smiled to see my cat, Buff, strutting along the window sill enjoying the view seven stories below.

As I rubbed my eyes a niggling feeling told me something was wrong. To my horror, I realized Buff was prancing along the ledge outside the window of my high-rise apartment. She had pushed through the screen of the open window!

Although I was in a complete panic, I knew I had to calm myself to keep Buff calm and get her to come through the open window. Lowering my voice to prevent screeching, I called her to me. She ignored me as she waltzed further away. I bribed her with food. She glanced over her shoulder and walked on. I threatened her. She pivoted on the tiny ledge and faced me defiantly. I apologized and begged her to come to me. Teasing me, she came closer. Leaning out the window, I grabbed her and pulled her inside.

Lesson learned. Don’t trust window screens.


High-Rise Syndrome in Cats

Wikipedia defines high-rise syndrome as follows: “High-rise syndrome is the phenomenon of cats falling from higher than two stories (7–9 m (23–30 ft)). This is generally from high-rise buildings, or skyscrapers, and is also used to refer to the injuries sustained by a cat falling from a great height.” Veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center in New York City coined the term high-rise syndrome due to a large number of cats they saw who had fallen out of windows and off fire escapes. The term also applies to the injuries resulting from these falls. These injuries can include:

  • Broken jaws, limbs, ribs, and pelvises
  • Fractured teeth or palates
  • Spinal fractures
  • Ruptured bladder
  • Punctured lungs

Because many of the injuries are not clearly or immediately visible, you should always take your cat to the vet as soon as possible after the fall.

“Righting Reflex”

We have all heard that cats always land on their feet, that is mostly true. Cats have an inborn righting reflex. The righting reflex is possible because cats have extremely flexible spines and they do not have collar bones. This allows them to twist themselves into an upright position and normally land on their feet. See a cat using the righting reflex and an excellent explanation of high-rise syndrome in this National Geographic video. Beware that cats falling one or two stories may incur more serious injuries than those falling from 8 stories or more. This is because the cat’s righting reflex may not have time to fully kick in before it hits the ground. Falls from single-family homes can be just as dangerous as falls from high-rise apartments.

Protect your cat from high-rise syndrome. If you open your windows, make sure that your screens are securely in place and cannot be dislodged by your curious feline.

land on their feet

For more information see the ASPCA’s Paw Prints article High Rise Syndrome in Cat’s

For more information to extend the life of your cat see Add Over 10 Years to Your Cat’s Life