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The ASPCA Warns About High-Rise Falls by Cats

High-Rise Apartments, Windows, Terraces and Fire Escapes Pose Risk to Urban Cats


(New York, NY) June 30, 2005 – The ASPCA© American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals© is sending a nationwide alert to all cat owners about a potentially deadly yet entirely preventable epidemic. With summer here, pet owners are eagerly opening their windows to enjoy the warm weather. They may not realize that they could also be putting their pets at risk. Windows without screens pose a real danger to small pets, particularly cats, who can fall out of the windows and to their death. This unfortunate happening is so prevalent in cities that veterinarians have given it a name, "high-rise syndrome." And as the name suggests, the worst accidents usually occur from city high-rise buildings.

"During the warmer months we see approximately three to five cases a week at our animal hospital in New York City," said Louise Murray, DVM, director of medicine for the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. "Pet owners need to know that this syndrome is 100% preventable if they install full window screens and take other simple pre-cautions. Inexpensive accordion-type screens can be purchased at almost any home or hardware store."

Why would pet owners allow their cats to tread on precarious fire escapes or balance on windowsills? The ASPCA says popular myths including the belief that cats can take care of themselves or that they have "nine lives" seems to have given pet owners the false idea that cats can save themselves from dangerous predicaments. The truth is that cats are as vulnerable to injury as other companion animals, and pet owners need to understand how they can prevent their felines from plunging to possible death.

ASPCA High-Rise Facts About Cats and High-Rise Safety:

  • Cats have excellent survival instincts and they don’t deliberately “jump” from high places that would be dangerous. Most cats fall accidentally from high-rise windows, terraces, or fire escapes.
  • Cats can slip through childproof window guards. To fully protect your cat, you should install screens in your windows.
  • Cats have an incredible ability to focus their attention on whatever interests them. A bird or other animal attraction can be distracting enough to cause them to lose their balance and fall.
  • Because cats seem to have little fear of heights and enjoy perching in high places, pet owners assume they can take care of themselves. Although they can cling to the bark of trees with their claws, other surfaces are much more difficult such as window ledges, concrete or brick surfaces.
  • When cats fall from high places they don’t land squarely on their feet. Instead, they land with their feet slightly splayed apart which can cause severe head and pelvis injuries.
  • It is a misconception that cats won’t be injured if they fall from one or two story buildings. They may actually be at greater risk for injury when falling shorter distances than by falling from mid-range or higher altitudes. Shorter distances do not give them enough time to adjust their body posture to fall correctly.
  • Remember that when cats fall from high-rise buildings they may end up on sidewalks or streets that are dangerous and unfamiliar to them. Never assume that the animal has not survived the fall; take the animal immediately to the nearest animal hospital or veterinarian.
  • There is a 90% survival rate for cats that are high-rise victims if they receive immediate and appropriate medical attention.
  • Cat owners should also make sure they keep their cats indoors to protect them from additional dangers such as cars, other animals, disease or getting lost. People that want to give their cats outdoor stimulation should look into full screen enclosures for backyards and terraces.

About the ASPCA©

Founded in 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (ASPCA) was the first humane organization established in the Western Hemisphere and today has one million supporters. The ASPCA's mission is to provide an effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. The ASPCA© provides national leadership in humane education, government affairs and public policy, shelter support, and animal poison control. The NYC headquarters houses a full-service animal hospital, animal behavior center, and adoption facility. The Humane Law Enforcement department enforces New York's animal cruelty laws and is featured on the reality television series Animal Precinct on Animal Planet. Visit www.aspca.org for more information.

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