High rise syndrome is a term used in veterinary science to describe a fall from a balcony or window of a high rise building. The fall is from at least 2 storey high. Some of the most common reasons why cats fall are: play related, chasing/hunting insects or birds, and slipping from the balcony railing or window.
Statistically speaking: Is it safe to let cats on balcony?
Cats falling from high rise buildings is a fairly common occurrence. A 4 year study by Vnuk, D et al. shows that 8.5% of cases presented at the veterinary hospital are of high rise syndrome. In that study, it shows that the cats are typically quite young, between 1-2 years old. An interesting finding is that there are more reported cases of high rise syndrome in the warmer months than the colder months. A possible explanation is that the balcony and windows will most likely be open and accessible to the cats during warmer months.
Some studies show that the greater the height, the more severe the injuries and rate of death. But some studies find that the relationship between height and injury severity is not linear.
High rise syndrome injuries include:
- Head injuries: facial wounds, eye injury and broken teeth
- Respiratory injuries: chest injury, rib fracture
- Abdominal injuries: abdominal pain, blood in urine, urinary bladder rupture
- Neurologic injuries: head trauma, spinal trauma
- Limb injuries and fractures
- Signs of shock
While a majority of cats treated for the injuries will survive, this doesn’t mean fatality is low. This is only because the cats brought into vet clinics are still alive. One can assume if the cat is already dead, the owners won’t be bringing them into the vet for treatment.
Preventing your cat from jumping off the balcony
Prevention of high rise syndrome is possible if owners are willing to pay attention and be observant. Keeping cats indoors, installing cat proof screens and nets, creating a cat proof balcony and providing a safe enclosure for cats when owners are not around to supervise them are some ways owners can prevent high rise syndrome. Read our guide on how to cat proof a balcony.
While training cats early on that balconies and window sills are off limits, cats are not as trainable as dogs are, it is simply not enough in most cases. Knowing that cats will jump and prepare your environment to avoid that is the best way to mitigate it. It’s really one of the most preventable deaths.
Also, owners should take note of any signs of abnormal behaviour such as uncharacteristic aggressiveness, pacing and restlessness. These signs can be an indication of stress, which may lead to the cats trying to escape via a balcony or window. While providing an environment where cats feel secure and eliminating potential sources of stress can prevent this from happening. Neutering your cats will also help reduce this behavior significantly.
High rise syndrome is a serious condition and proper precautions should be taken to protect our pets. With the right care, knowledge and attention, owners can help reduce the risk of high rise syndrome drastically.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Always consult your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has been injured due to a fall from a high rise building.