Multisystem Diseases: falls (high-rise syndrome)


Cats are renowned for their agility and their jumping and climbing abilities. The saying that “Cats always land on their feet” has some truth to it, since cats’ air-righting reflexes are highly developed and they will normally turn in the air to land with their feet facing the ground if dropped from any significant height. Nevertheless, cats are not immune to injury from falls.


Falling is a particularly serious danger in the city where apartments may be located several stories above the ground. Cats fall so often and are injured so characteristically that veterinarians have begun to call the problem the “high-rise syndrome.” Cats who fall two stories or more usually suffer severe injuries that include a split hard palate, nose bleed, free air in the chest due to rupture of the lung (pneumothorax), and fracture of the lower jaw. Broken teeth, broken legs, and limb dislocations are also common. Some cats suffer ruptured diaphragms and/or bladders and injury to other abdominal organs such as the liver and kidneys.


Cats receiving proper emergency care often survive even after falling more than eighteen stories. In fact, the number of fractures that are sustained actually decreases in cats falling more than seven stories.

Prevention, though, is far better and far less expensive than any treatment.

Prevent serious injuries to your cat by keeping windows closed if you live on upper floors or by confining your cat to a safe, interior room or travel crate when windows must be opened. Closely supervise any outdoor activity on patios, decks, or balconies above ground level. A cat sleeping peacefully in the sun one minute can easily be leaping over the balcony edge after a bird in the next, and kittens are even more likely to leap before they look.