This surprising summer danger for cats is easy to prevent

High-rise syndrome
CC BY 2.0 Pete/Flickr

Cats are agile and smart, but they frequently fall victim to this counterintuitive phenomenon during the warmer months.

It’s summer; it’s hot, we open our windows to cool the rooms. But for those who have cats and live in multi-story homes or high-rises, you could unwittingly be putting your kitty in harm’s way. Cats fall out of unscreened windows so frequently that vets even have a name for it: High-Rise Syndrome.

Which seems really strange. Cats are agile; they climb trees, they leap impossible distances and land lightly on their feet, cat burglars mimic their sleek acrobatics! We just don’t think of cats as the kind of creatures that would clumsily fall out of a window. But during the summer, veterinarians at the ASPCA Animal Hospital alone see approximately three to five cases a week. Injuries range from shattered jaws and punctured lungs, to broken limbs and pelvises. Some injuries are fatal.

Cats have great survival instincts and know better than to try and jump out, but they do fall. You know how intently they can focus; sometimes the draw of a bird or other animal will distract them enough that they lose their balance. This is compounded by the fact cats don’t have a huge fear of heights. They love high places, and we are accustomed to it and figure they will be fine.

Cats often land on their feet, but when falling from a one- or two-story building the injuries can be worse because they don’t have enough time to get into proper falling position. And even then, they don’t land squarely on their feet; rather, they land with their legs splayed in a way that can cause serious head and pelvis injuries.

When a cat falls from a building, remember that they will end up on a sidewalk or street, too, which presents a whole new set of dangers for him or her. If your cat falls, go to it immediately and take it to the vet ASAP. Cats that fall from windows have a 90 percent survival rate if they receive immediate medical attention.

The ASPCA offers the following precautions to keep your high-rise kitty safe this summer:

  • Install snug and sturdy screens in all windows.
  • Ensure that adjustable screens are firmly wedged in windows.
  • Cats can slip through child window guards! They aren’t enough.

And then throw open your windows knowing your cat won't be giving up one of its lives anytime soon.

Tags: Animals | Pets | Summer


treehugger slideshows