Feline high-rise syndrome in the greater Metropolitan area of Copenhagen: a four year retrospective study

Study of Danish cats that have fallen out of windows

source: A Flagstad, J. Arnbjerg and S.E. Jensen
The European Journal of Companion Animal Practice vol IX (2) October 1999
starts p 165, 7 pages long

A Danish study of 281 cats which had fallen out of windows was carried out between 1993 and 1996. The cats had been brought to Copenhagen's Small Animal Hospital. Most of these cats were aged between one-year-old and three-years-old. Male cats accounted for 157 cats, or 55.9% of the sample, and 70 of the males were neutered (44.5%). Female cats accounted for 121 cats, or 43.0%, 23 of which were neutered. In three cases, the sex of the cat was unknown. Domestic shorthaired cats accounted for 261 of the cases, and Persians for 14 cats.

The injuries the cats suffered were generally more severe, the greater the distance of the fall, though few apartments are more than 6 floors high in Copenhagen. Three cats died before arriving, with a further 20 cats later euthanased. Common injuries included Dyspnoea and lung involvement, and orthopaedic injuries. There were no injuries found for 10% of the cats, most of which had fallen from first or second floors rather than higher up.

Mild dyspnoea can be treated by providing oxygen, and the mask can simply be put near the cat, to avoid stress. Oxygen cages can also be used. Painkillers such as butorphanol can be provided. Cats can be left to calm down for some 10 to 15 minutes, so that they are less stressed when intravenous catheters are placed, or other treatments are carried out.
Cats tend to right themselves when they fall, and land on all four paws, bending their legs, which distributes the impact force, and then the breast and abdomen hit the ground. All cats that have fallen from windows should be checked for thoracic injury, and have radiographs taken.

Cats were more likely to fall from open windows when it was warm. Owners should use grating or screens to prevent their cats from falling from open windows.