If you are currently residing in an urban high-rise apartment building, or if you are planning to move into one, you need to be aware of a phenomenon known in veterinary hospitals as high-rise syndrome. You can take steps to prevent its life-threatening consequences by protecting your cat during her pigeon patrol duties.
Eyes On Her Prize Can Send Her Plummeting
High-rise syndrome refers to accidental falls from a height greater than two stories and the injuries sustained as a result. These falls typically occur when a cat is intently focused on something that she sees outside, such as a bird flitting by, and in her attempt to move closer to the object of her attention, she missteps and tumbles to the ground below. This can also happen if she is startled by a sudden loud noise. Windows are the most common openings through which these cats fall, but these accidents can also occur from balconies, terraces and fire escapes. Emergency animal hospitals see a dramatic increase of cases during the warmer months when human inhabitants of these apartments open the windows.
Height Determines Severity of Consequences
When a falling cat makes impact with the ground, she may not always land on her feet, contrary to popular myth. When a cat falls from a high enough elevation, her balancing instinct kicks so that she can right herself to slow the speed of her fall by splaying her limbs apart and land on her feet. However, falling from a lower elevation, such as between two and seven stories, provides an inadequate amount of time for her to correct her landing position, and her injuries can be more extensive and serious than those sustained from a fall from higher elevations.
Numerous Injuries Can Result from One Fall
According to the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan, high-rise syndrome injuries most typically occur in the chest, limbs, head, and face, but internal abdominal injuries, such as a ruptured bladder, can result as well. Some common injuries that cats can sustain when they experience a fall include the following:
- Broken limbs
- Fractured hips
- Shattered jaw
- Broken teeth
- Hard palate fractures
- Bruising on the lungs
If you witness your feline friend tumble overboard from the windowsill, balcony or fire escape, rush her to the nearest emergency animal hospital at once to assess and treat her injuries.
Most Are Injured, But Most Can Be Saved
Most cats who fall from their apartment dwellings sustain some degree of injury, and some injuries are life-threatening. However, the majority of these injured cats survive their falls when emergency medical attention is promptly sought. While you may observe signs of certain injuries, such as respiratory difficulty from a torn lung, symptoms of other serious internal injuries may not be immediately evident. It is important to remember that cats tend to conceal their pain. A veterinarian will perform a complete examination that includes blood panels and diagnostic imaging to pinpoint her injuries and determine a treatment plan.
Be Proactive to Prevent the Plunge
One of an indoor cat's preferred pursuits for entertainment is to sit at a window and watch the birds, leaves, and snowflakes fluttering by. High-rise syndrome usually occurs on pleasant weather days when apartment residents open the windows to welcome fresh air into their abodes. Take the following steps to keep your kitty safe:
- Always check the window screens for any tears, and make sure that they are installed tightly and securely to fill the entire window frame. Do not open any window that fails your inspection or any window that does not have a screen.
- Consider opening the screened-in window only a couple of inches. Fresh air will still permeate your apartment, but the space will be too narrow for an adult cat to fall through.
- Your cat, no matter how pudgy she may be, is smaller than a child. Do not expect childproof window guards to keep your cat safely contained.
- Do not allow your furry bird-watcher onto your balcony, fire escape or terrace for a closer vantage point.
- Provide your cat with plenty of toys, scratchers and cat furniture to provide her with indoor mental stimulation and to focus her time and attention away from the window.
- Always keep your apartment windows closed when you are not home to supervise your cat.
- Shut the window before you fire up any loud appliances that can startle your cat, such as a vacuum cleaner or coffee grinder.
Keeping your cat indoors keeps her safe from such perils as being struck by a moving vehicle, getting lost, or falling victim to torture or poison. By following these precautions, you can protect her against high-rise syndrome and the medical care that ensues, which can be extensive, costly and lengthy in duration.
Contact your local veterinary clinics for more information and assistance.