Cat Suffering From High-Rise Syndrome Falls From 12-Story Building

A kitten's fall from a 12-story building has prompted SPCA officials to warn pet owners about the dangers of "high-rise syndrome."

A kitten, nicknamed Lilac by responders, fell from the 12th story of a Philadelphia apartment building in April, PSPCA Humane Law Enforcement officers say.

Lilac was taken to the PSPCA shelter hospital, where she was found to have fractures in both femurs and her hard palate and a soft tissue injury to her wrist. She underwent successful surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, before being put into foster care and later adopted.

PSPCA officers say they had initially been told the cat had been thrown from the window, but officers who inspected the scene found no evidence of animal cruelty. Investigators soon determined Lilac wasn’t thrown from the window, but rather fell from it while her owner was away from home — a result of high-rise syndrome, they said.

High-rise syndrome describes when animals, especially young cats, become startled while near a window or chase a bug or bird off a balcony or through an unsecured window, officials say.

“Oftentimes people say, ‘Cats always land on their feet,’ but it is a common misconception that cats will not be injured if they fall from even low height levels,” says PSPCA Staff Veterinarian JoEllen Bruinooge. “In fact, they may actually have more damage when falling from only two-to-four stories because they do not have time to adjust their body position.”

While cats often survive falls from heights higher than a human can survive, they still suffer serious, life-threatening injuries.

If your pet falls from a window, make sure you contact a veterinarian immediately.

“If your pet does accidentally fall from a window, get them to the veterinarian immediately," a PSPCA spokeswoman said. “There is a 90 percent survival rate for cats who are high-rise victims if they receive immediate and proper medical attention. There is no 'at-home' treatment, and many of these pets are in extreme pain, whether they show the symptoms of pain or not.”

High-rise syndrome is prevalent during warm weather. Officials have the following tips for orders to protect their pets:

  • Secure windows with well-fitting, animal proof screens
  • When able, open the top pane of windows that are inaccessible to pets, rather than the bottom panes
  • Never leave windows open when animals are unattended
  • Close windows before starting loud appliances such as vacuums or blenders that may startle cats
  • If pets are allowed out on balconies never leave them unattended. Even then, do not allow then to jump onto railings or banisters. Move all furniture away from railings to lower access or better yet just don't let them out. Accidents happen!
  • Close windows before playing chase or fetch games inside with your pet, they may be more focused on that laser pointer than the approaching window
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