My cat fell off the balcony - high-rise syndrome in cats

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The high-rise syndrome in cats is the term used to describe the cats that fall through the windows or terraces in urban areas with a minimum average height of two floors (about seven meters).

The accidents take place especially with young cats of less than two years, being the most frequent causes the falls during play, when walking by the edge of the windows, when trying to jump between balconies, trying to hunt some bird or insect... even sometimes... although it seems incredible, by being pushed by other cats...

Accidents increase during the periods of spring and summer, which is when the windows of homes are open more frequently.

How high can a cat fall withoug hurting himself?

During the fall the cats have the ability to change the position of their body and land flexing their limbs, being the landing when most of the fractures occur. However, from a certain height (seventh floor) his equilibrium system is not able to orient himself and the cat arrives at the ground in a horizontal position, producing internal and thoracic injuries.

Thus, in 80% of cats that fall from a third floor, fractures of the extremities and pelvis occur; while 80% of cats that fall from a seventh floor suffer chest trauma.

The type of injuries that occur are related to the height of the fall, the type of ground on which they fall, as well as if they encounter some obstacle during the descent that minimizes the impact.

The most frequent injuries seen in the clinic are diverse:

  • Oral trauma, with a fracture of the hard palate, jaw, teeth, and perforation of the lip,...

  • Thoracic trauma, with fractures of ribs and sternum, pneumothorax, pulmonary contusion, diaphragmatic hernias.

  • Injuries to limbs, pelvis, and spine.

  • Internal abdominal injuries with rupture of the urinary bladder and, less frequent, rupture of spleen, liver or pancreas.

Can a cat jump from the second floor without hurting himself?

A large percentage of accidents are witnessed by the owners. The most important thing at this moment is to try to stay calm and go immediately to the aid of the cat with a blanket and a rigid base, which can be the same carrier you use for him. Take him with care, inspect the external wounds, and, if there is blood in the nose or mouth, you have to remove it so he can breathe well. Once rescued, you should go to the veterinarian as soon as possible to stabilize him and be able to evaluate the injuries he may have.

How can I reduce the risk of falls?

Here are some tips to reduce the risk of an accident:

  • Remove furniture or objects that he can climb to reach the window.

  • Install windows, nets or protection meshes in windows and terraces.

  • Try to keep the windows always closed and secured.

  • If you do not have security barriers and you have to open the windows to ventilate, put the kitten in another room while you do the cleaning.

  • Enrich your home environment so he does not feel attracted to the outdoors.

  • Some cats when they are in heat have more tendencies to escape and suffer this type of accidents, so, if it is the case of your cat, go to your veterinarian to arrange the castration.

Eva Gato, veterinary at Campo de Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic.