With Warmth comes Risk for Some Urban Cats
Two New York City cats recover from having fallen out of open windows.
By Amy Elizabeth Bennett
Published Apr. 25, 2012
The sun is out and the weather is gorgeous. What’s the first thing New Yorkers do to shake off the winter chill? They throw wide their windows, and open themselves up to an incredibly dangerous situation if they are cat owners.

Every year, thousands of urban housecats fall from unprotected windows in a phenomenon known as High Rise Syndrome. So far this year the ASPCA has seen 26 cases, a nearly 45 percent increase compared with the same period last year. According to ASPCA Spokesman Bret Hopman, the recent mild weather could be to blame for the surge in High Rise Syndrome cases, adding that during the warmer months, ASPCA veterinarians see approximately three to five cases per week.

The sentiment was echoed by animal rescue experts, who often see many cases in the spring and early summer months more so than in July and August when the summer heat causes people to close their windows and run the air conditioner. Additionally, lower floors can be more dangerous because the cat doesn’t have time to right itself and owners are more likely to believe a cat can easily survive a fall from lower stories.

Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, recently discussed the most common misperceptions people have about cats and high places.

“The number one myth is that people think that the cat’s ‘instincts’ will protect them. They think the cat knows that they’re on the fifth or fifteenth story and won’t jump from that height. However, cats have no way to know how high up they are or what the consequences are.” Cats are agile, but can be easily distracted by noise or prey and then slip and fall.

“The second big myth is that child protection guards will protect the cats. It’s just a metal grid, cats can slip right through them. The window looks covered but it’s not.”

Another serious myth that needs to be debunked, is that if it happens once, it won’t happen again. Owners may think the cat has ‘learned its lesson.’

“We see cats that have fallen two or three times, and eventually their luck runs out and they meet their death,” said Dr. Murray. “A cat has no way to process what has happened to them and why.”

It’s important to get a cat to the vet immediately after a fall. According to the ASPCA, there is a 90-percent survival rate for cats who are high-rise victims if they receive immediate and proper medical attention.

Gilbert, a four month old white snowshoe kitten (pictured above), fell almost seven stories from an open apartment window last summer. Gilbert was lucky to survive the fall, suffering fractures to the roof of his mouth and breaking his two front legs. He was brought to Animal Care and Control and an emergency medical team attended to him.

Another casualty last summer was a young, grey female cat (pictured above) who came