Cats Falling from Great Heights


Increasingly people do keep their cats indoors, over 65 percent according to the American Pet Products Association. Still, millions of cats are indoors-outdoors, and cats being cats will climb trees in pursuit of a bird, or sometimes just because they enjoy climbing. The problem isn’t so much going up, it’s getting down.

In a study dating back to 1987 of 132 cats brought to a New York City emergency veterinary clinic after falls from high-rise buildings, 90 percent of treated cats survived and only 37 percent needed emergency treatment to keep them alive. One individual that fell 32 stories onto concrete suffered only a chipped tooth and a collapsed lung and was released after 48 hours.

Still, don’t believe cats always land on all fours. Cats do innately have a sixth sense in their brain for equilibrium that allows them to right themselves in mid-air as they fall. However, many cats are overweight or obese cats and may no longer to perform mid-air summersaults. Elderly cats may also have lost this agility.

It is possible for a cat to survive at her terminal velocity of 60 miles per hour, as demonstrated by a study done on 132 cats falling an average of 5.5 stories, published in The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Of the cats studied, 90 percent survived, albeit many requiring sometimes significant medical attention. That’s from 5.5 stories, but from 20 floors up, cats are unlikely to survive. Even when cats do land on all fours, legs are often broken in the process. Commonly, the force pushes their neck and head to keep going until the jaw hits the ground, and broken jaws are not infrequent.

For cats falling from only two or three stories up, it’s close enough to the ground that the cats may not have time to turn around in midair and land on all fours, which also causes injuries.

In short, while cats have more protection from falls off balconies or ledges than dogs or people, injury or death may still occur, and it’s called high-rise syndrome.

So, what do you do about those cats up a tree? Shake them look, and they may or may not survive the fall – and suffer injuries.

Call the fire department?

Unless you get Sarah the Mayberry operator, you’ll likely hear a bemused operator ask, ‘You’re kidding?’ If you do convince emergency personnel to respond, there may be a fee.

​The best advice: be patient. Veterinary clinics rarely report treating cats who have fallen from trees. Emergency rooms do treat people who have fallen trying to rescue feline friends. Entice kitty with tuna or salmon at the base of the tree. . .  wait for hunger to overcome fear.

Or keep your cat indoors only in the first place.