When the weather gets nice and people open their apartment windows, cats and dogs can (quite literally) start falling from the sky. This emergency occurs so frequently that it has its own name, “high-rise syndrome.” So if you live with pets (or young children) above the second floor of any building (it need not be a true high-rise), pay very careful attention to this one.
When cats fall, they are likely to suffer severe injuries that extend well beyond broken bones. This is particularly true when they fall from heights between two and seven stories. In such cases, it’s common for them to sustain bruising to their heart and lungs, fracture of their lower jaw and the roof of their mouth, and swelling of the brain. Many of these cats will also suffer a rupture of their urinary bladder, internal bleeding, or rib fracture — and this is all in addition to broken legs.
Amazingly, many of these cats survive and do quite well. However, fixing them is neither cheap nor fast. Costs for treating severe high-rise syndrome cases are often in the range of $2,000 to $5,000-plus, and these pets are typically going to need to be in the hospital for several days. These poor guys require true intensive care, often requiring supplemental oxygen therapy and temporary feeding tubes.
Interestingly, cats who fall from heights above seven stories typically sustain fewer and less severe injuries. But that’s not to say that you should let them do it. Make no mistake — even these cats can suffer painful or fatal injuries.
Cats often suffer a case of high-rise syndrome after having been startled off their perch, like the sill of an open window, by a loud noise (vacuum, blender, doorbell, screaming kids, etc.) or by losing their balance while jumping onto the ledge. It also occurs while hunting passing bugs, flies, or birds from an open window.
Given the potential severity of their injuries, the risk of death, the costs associated with treatment, and the fact that it can also happen to your children, I’d suggest doing all you can to prevent it.
Here are some useful preventive steps you can take.
1. Installing well-fitted and secure window screens.
If you have windows you want to open, such safety measures won’t prevent your cat from getting the fresh air they may desire, but they can help prevent them from suffering a painful fall. Just be sure to check regularly to ensure that your screens are snug and secure, and that your cat hasn’t been slowly scratching a hole in them with his claws.
2. If possible, open the top portion of your windows, rather than the bottom.
Or, if you have ‘hotel-style’ windows, open them to the side, rather than out.
3. Close all windows before you go out.
Get in the habit of closing your windows before starting any loud appliances. Many cats (and dogs) are scared of loud noises, especially sudden ones. This fear can serve them well in certain situations, but it can prove painful or deadly if there’s an open window around.
4. Don’t let your pets out on your balcony unobserved.
And even then, do not let them jump onto the railings. Move your patio furniture away from the railings to help keep your pets (and kids) from getting to a level where they are more likely to fall over. You can also consider using outdoor cat enclosures on your balconies and decks.
5. Close your windows before throwing toys to your cat.
Or do as your mother told you (for once), and don’t play ball in the house.
If one of your pets ever falls out of a window, bring her in immediately for veterinary evaluation and treatment. As outlined above, the list of potential injuries they may have suffered is much longer than just broken bones, and many of them aren’t likely to be obvious to you. There is no at-home treatment, and many of these pets are in extreme pain. Get them to the vet immediately.