While cats are famous for their ability to land on all fours from any height, this is not always the case. Cats falling from steep heights can suffer serious injuries.
What is Fall from Height Syndrome in Cats?
Fall syndrome refers to the injuries cats can experience when they fall from a steep height, such as a second-story interior landing or balcony, or when they fall out of a window or down a fire escape. Cases of fall syndrome tend to increase in warm weather when windows are open and outdoor spaces such as terraces are used more frequently.
How Does Fall from Height Syndrome Occur in Cats?
Cats like to sit high on windowsills, watching birds or basking in the warm sun. If they push on a loose window or if the window is too open, they may fall. They may also be prone to chasing after a bird that gets too close, or being startled by a gap in the house or another loud noise and tumbling over.
Windows, balconies, terraces and fire escapes pose risks for such accidents. Many cats love to spend time in these places to enjoy the fresh air. If they climb over a railing or slip through a gap in the iron structure, they can fall to the ground.
Cats can also fall from a high perch while sleeping. Like humans, they enter a phase of deep, or REM, sleep during which they may daydream about chasing mice or other cat activities. These dreams may cause them to move and fall from their resting place. Additionally, they may wake up from a dream feeling disoriented and lose their balance.
Risk Factors for Fall Syndrome in Cats
Cats living in apartments with balconies or unscreened windows are most at risk, but cats can also be injured by falling from the second floor.
Many cat owners believe that their cat will not fall or will get up safely if it does. Although a cat’s “righting reflex” often allows it to bend its body and land on its feet, it can still get hurt.
Kittens and young cats are more prone to falls due to their inexperience and curiosity. Older or less agile cats may suffer further injuries if they cannot reposition themselves in time or if their legs are too weak to absorb the shock of a fall.
Symptoms of Fall from Height Syndrome in Cats
The symptoms that occur will vary greatly depending on the injuries sustained in the cat. A delay in the appearance of symptoms is common; So, unless your cat is seriously wrong after the fall, you should still take him to a veterinarian for a full evaluation. Symptoms may appear as follows:
Causes of Fall from Height Syndrome in Cats
Most cases of multiplex syndrome can be prevented by people. Often the cat falls from the window or balcony of the owner’s house. Kittens may be more prone to falls due to their inexperience and curiosity. Known causes include:
- Bewildered (most often due to a vacuum or other mechanical noise)
- A very strong prey drive (the cat cannot notice its surroundings because it is too focused on a fly, bird, etc.)
- Leaving windows open without proper screening
- Involuntary REM movements while sleeping at altitude
Diagnosis of Fall from Height Syndrome in Cats
In most cases, the owner will become aware that the cat has fallen because the cat has fallen or is unable to return home. If you witness your cat fall, take him to an animal hospital or veterinary clinic immediately. You must be very careful when moving an injured cat to avoid causing further damage to it. Even if your cat initially seems fine, you need to take your cat to a veterinarian. The sooner it is evaluated, the more likely it is that the cat will survive serious injury.
The veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of the cat to detect any injuries present. X-rays and ultrasounds, including a transabdominal ultrasound, may be needed to see the extent of internal damage. These images can help identify organ ruptures or the presence of pancreatitis. The vet will determine if there is any abnormal abdominal fluid and what it consists of. Complete blood work will be done, including a complete blood count to monitor the number of white blood cells and a biochemical profile to look for increases in creatinine or potassium.
Treatment of Fall from Height Syndrome in Cats
The appropriate treatment for the cat will depend on what type of injuries are present. Certain conditions require immediate stabilization before other treatment can be administered.
If any internal organs are ruptured due to a fall and blood, urine, or other fluids leak into the abdomen, they need to be repaired immediately. Severely broken bones need realignment; sometimes nails or other implants are added for support. A splint may be required until the bone heals. The surgery requires general anesthesia and carries risks, especially when vital organs are involved.
A cat falling from a great height may be experiencing the shock of the trauma. Supplemental oxygen, a feeding tube, and intravenous fluids can help stabilize the cat’s condition so it can begin to recover.
What Should I Do If It Happens To My Cat?
If your cat falls from a steep height, you should consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. This is true even if you’re not sure how badly your cat is injured. You may notice a broken bone or tear, but you may not see internal injuries such as broken ribs or vertebrae.
Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination and may order x-rays, MRI, or other diagnostic tests to evaluate your cat’s condition. Some of the most common injuries that can occur in a bad fall include:
Your cat’s treatment will depend on the type and severity of the injuries. Medication to control pain, hospitalization, and surgery to repair broken bones or other damage may be required. Most cats survive a fall, but recovery can be a long, painful and expensive road, especially with serious injuries.
How Can I Prevent Fall From Height Syndrome in Cats?
With a little knowledge and planning, high-rise syndrome can be prevented. In addition to tips to help prevent this from happening to your cat, here are some points you should pay attention to:
- Always supervise your cat on the balcony or terrace. Don’t let them go out alone, take them in when you come in.
- Check all window screens in the house to make sure they are properly installed and secure. Cats can fall if they lean on a loose curtain.
- Consider placing screens on windows that do not currently have them. If this is not possible, keep windows closed.
- Avoid opening windows without a screen. Remember that cats have a way of getting through tight spaces, especially when there is something that catches their attention. Even if you open the window just a few inches, your cat can still climb out and fall.
- Cats can also climb out of iron structures, rods or wooden slats on balconies or terraces with large gaps. You can cover these gaps with deck netting or wire mesh to help keep your cat safe.
- Place patio chairs, sofas and tables far enough away from patio or balcony railings so your cat can’t use them to climb and accidentally fall.
- Don’t rely on childproof window guards as cats can slip through them.
- Close all windows before playing fetch or chase with your cat. Your feline friend may be so focused on the game that he doesn’t notice an open window and falls right out.
- Spay or neuter your cat so they won’t be tempted to escape through an open window or other high spots to look for a mate.
Also remember that all cats should be kept indoors. This helps protect them from any accidents, fights with other animals, infectious diseases, and parasites such as heartworms.