Highrise Syndrome in Cats

Highrise Syndrome in Cats (Cats that Fall from Heights)

To a cat, a window may look like a path to freedom, but to many it leads to injury and death from upper story apartments. Each year, many cats fall from windows and balconies. The trauma sustained from a fall of over two stories (24 to 30 feet) is known as “high-rise syndrome.”

As you would guess, high-rise syndrome is more common in urban settings. Studies done on cats that have fallen from 2 to 32 stories show that the overall survival rate is a surprising 90 percent. Strangely, cats that fall from a height under 6 stories have more severe trauma than those that fall from over 6 stories. One theory is that cats reach terminal velocity at about 5 stories, and at this point they relax, allowing a more distributed force of impact and less severe injuries. When cats land before reaching top speed, they are rigid and flexed and prepared for the landing. This results in most of the force impacting the parts of the body that hit initially.

Injuries from Falls

Cats that fall from a height over 24 feet usually sustain significant injuries. The most common cause of death is due to severe chest trauma. Injuries most commonly seen are in order of occurrence:

Diagnosis of Injuries from Highrise Syndrome in Cats

The diagnosis of high-rise syndrome is not difficult. Typically, the cat is found outdoors, several stories below, and a nearby window or patio door is open. It is difficult, however, to detect all the injuries. Your veterinarian will need to do several tests to determine the types and severity of injuries.

Treatment of Injuries from Highrise Syndrome in Cats

Treatment will depend on the types and extent of your cat’s injuries. If your pet shows signs of shock – collapse, weakness and pale gums – your veterinarian will start intravenous fluids. Other treatment will include:

Home Care

There is no home care for cats affected with high-rise syndrome. Your cat should be examined by your veterinarian, even if s/he appears normal.

Take care when picking up and carrying an injured cat. Some injuries associated with high-rise syndrome are extremely painful and your cat may bite and scratch as a reflex. Wrap the cat in a heavy towel or blanket and place in a carrier or box when transporting to your veterinarian.

Preventive Care

The best way to prevent high-rise syndrome is to make sure there are no open windows without heavy screens in your home. Make sure screens are intact and strong – cats insistent on going outside have been known to slash through thin screens. Unscreened balconies and upstairs porches should be off-limits to your cat.

Is Pet Insurance Right for you?

The best pet insurance offers coverage that’s broad enough for whatever care your pet needs and with enough options to get the perfect coverage for you and your pet.

Are you pet crazy? Sign up for our email newsletter and get the latest health and wellness info, useful tips, product recalls, fun stuff, and so much more!