That they have 7 lives, that they are tightrope walkers, that they always land on their feet… Several myths that go to pieces in a second, at the very instant when your cat loses their balance, falls from high up and, like a parachutist, flies several metres before meeting the ground.
This is a common cause of veterinary care: trauma in cats due to the so-called feline high-rise syndrome.
It is true that they have an instinctive ability to fall on their four paws whatever their position before falling; this happens because their body weight is distributed symmetrically and harmoniously so that their centre of gravity is the same as the geometric centre of their body. This allows them to restore their physiological position whilst falling… but they don’t always manage it. They can fail.
It is called ‘feline high-rise syndrome’ when a cat suffers injuries due to having fallen into a void from a balcony or a window. It doesn’t happen because they jump, but rather because they slip or something makes them lose their footing (a gust of wind, something that frightens them, a lapse in their concentration…). When a cat falls into a void and cannot correct their posture in the air, the height is too much or they meet objects like washing lines or protrusions that they hit, they can suffer injuries of varying severity.
Just the fact of falling out of a window, even if they come out unharmed, can be an experience that frightens them quite a lot. Don’t be surprised if after an “adventure” like this, your cat hides for 2 or 3 days.
The traumas or injuries caused by this type of fall primarily affect the head, the spine, the thorax and the abdomen.
Although it may seem surprising, cases where cats have fallen from a height of less than two stories are more serious, because they have less time to adjust their body and stretch out to reduce the speed of the fall and in so doing reduce the impact upon landing. However, their ability to survive a fall from a height does have a limit: heights equivalent to a 5th or 6th floor end up being fatal.
A cat that is more susceptible to suffering from feline high-rise syndrome has two characteristics:
- They are younger than 2 years old: it is less common for older cats to fall.
They are not neutered: jealous behaviours may mean that they end up falling out of a window or off a balcony.
However, no cat is completely safe from falling from a height: prevention at home will be the best solution!
If your cat falls from a significant height, pick them up carefully in a sheet or a towel and take them quickly to a veterinary hospital where they can handle trauma cases.
Just the fact of having fallen out of a window, even if they come out unharmed, can be an experience that frightens them quite a lot. Don’t be surprised if after an “adventure” like this, your cat hides for 2 or 3 days. Give them time to recover, do not force them, and little by little they will return to their usual behaviour.