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A cat on a window sill demonstrating feline high rise syndrome

All About Feline High Rise Syndrome: Why Cats Jump From High Places

Have you ever heard news about a cat surviving after falling from a 20-story apartment building? This is known as feline high rise syndrome, a term coined by the Animal Medical Center in New York City in the 1980s. AMC treated 132 cats within a five-month span that had fallen from buildings. Feline high-rise syndrome occurs when a cat falls from a height greater than two floors and lands on its paws, potentially causing significant harm to its bones, organs, and other body parts.

We will additionally inform you of things you need to be wary of and the appropriate actions to take if your cat experiences such an event!

What Is Feline High Rise Syndrome?

Feline high-rise syndrome refers to the injuries cats can get after falling from high places, buildings, or other tall structures. Cats are naturally attracted to high places, but they are not always able to safely navigate their way down. 

Cats falling from steep heights can get serious injuries, including broken bones, internal injuries, and head trauma. Even drops from relatively short distances can be dangerous for them!

This syndrome is more common in cities with many high-rise buildings and balconies, but it can occur anywhere cats can access high places. Consider building or buying a catio for your pet to keep them safe even when wandering outdoors.

Additionally, it's essential to supervise cats on high surfaces and ensure that windows and doors are securely closed and screened to prevent them from accidentally falling out. You should also look out for signs showing your cat may be in pain.

Why High-Rise Syndrome Happens

A grey cat perched on a window in a building.

There are many factors to consider when thinking of why high-rise syndrome happens to your cat and how it affects them.

First, the height of the window or balcony matters. The higher the fall, the more likely a cat could incur serious injury.

Second, the size and weight of the cat should also be considered. The heavier or larger its size, the more likely it is for injury to occur from a fall from an elevated space. 

Third, an indoor lifestyle increases cats' risk of developing this syndrome; without experience outdoors and without much practice at gaging distances from heights, indoor cats are more prone to miscalculations than their outdoor counterparts.

Finally, if cats have access to multiple stories in their home—like windows on both floors—they're more likely to learn that jumping out of one window gives them access to another on a different level. That sort of behavior can increase their chances of sustaining injury.

As a pet owner, you need to be aware of risks and take steps to keep your cat safe while indoors while perched on any elevated surfaces in your home.

Signs Your Cat Has Injuries

You may think your cat is safe from injuries if it lands on its feet after a fall, but that isn't always the case. A particular set of injuries characterizes feline high-rise syndrome. These include fractures of the lower jaw and roof of the mouth, fractures, bruised or ruptured organs, and internal bleeding.

You should be aware of the signs and symptoms of this syndrome so you can quickly get your car medical attention if they have it. Below are symptoms you be on the lookout for:

Physical Symptoms

Limping, panting, agitation, or disorientation are physical symptoms your cat may show if it's injured. In more extreme cases, cats may go into shock or become paralyzed. Depending on the height of the fall, cats may also suffer from bruising, joint injuries, or broken bones.

Behavioral Symptoms

If your cat normally head bumps you or shows other signs of affection, then you should be wary when they start getting shy or even aggressive.

Behavioral signs that could indicate your cat has high-rise syndrome include restlessness or difficulty settling down, aggression toward people or other animals, or hiding in unusual places that are generally not within your cat's behavior.

Early detection is critical to getting the best treatment for your cat, so tracking changes to your cat's behavior is crucial!

If you think your pet was injured from a fall, take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible for evaluation and treatment. With quick action and proper care, cats are often able to make a full recovery after their fall.

A cat that has fallen from a high floor requires immediate veterinary attention. Cats may need to be hospitalized for several days, requiring treatment for broken bones and teeth and oxygen for chest trauma.

Management And Prevention

Gray cat perched on a window with safety net.

What can you do to prevent your cat from falling out of the window? Here are some common sense tips:

  • Cat-proof your windows! You can do this by installing screens or mesh wires to cover possible exit points for your fur baby.
  • If you have higher windows in your home or apartment, choose to open those instead of lower ones that your cat can reach.
  • Don't leave windows open when leaving your apartment.
  • Guard your cat and keep them from going to balconies or fire escapes.
  • Keep in mind that your cat can squeeze through spaces as small as its head, so even slightly open windows can pose a potential hazard!


Can a cat survive a 2-story fall?

Yes, but your pet may still sustain fatal injuries if this happens. Always aim to keep your pet in a safe environment, as prevention is better than cure.

Are dogs affected by high-rise syndrome?

Yes. High-rise syndrome does not exclusively affect cats only. Research suggests it can affect dogs as well.

At what height can a cat survive a fall?

Cats can survive a fall from an average height of 5 stories. However, this doesn't mean you can carelessly allow your cat to climb and leap off windows and elevated areas.

High-rise syndrome doesn't have to be life-threatening for your pets. This article shows you can do many things to prevent your pet from falling off high places. Know your cat's needs and be aware of risks in their surroundings so you can provide a safe and happy home for your furry friend!

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