Common Injuries In Cats Who Fall Out Of Buildings

During my internship at The Animal Medical Center in New York City, I was introduced to a condition in cats called ‘High-rise syndrome’.  When people open their windows to enjoy the fresh air, some cats accidently fall to the sidewalks below.  On the first nice day of spring, I remember the senior veterinarian saying, “It’s going to rain cats tonight.”  An hour later, I saw my first high-rise syndrome cat.  The orange tabby dropped 18 floors and lived to tell of it!  He came into the clinic with blood pouring from his nose, a fractured leg and difficulty breathing.  He went home a week later with a promise from his owner to purchase screens for their windows.  

In 1987, Drs. Whitney and Mehlhaff, analyzed the medical records of cats brought to the Animal Medical Center with high-rise syndrome to determine what kind of injuries they sustained.  Here are the findings:

-Lung contusions 68%
-Pneumothorax 63%
-Abnormal respiration 55%
-Limb fracture 39%
-Shock 24%
-Traumatic luxation 18%
-Hard palate fracture 17%
-Hypothermia 17%
-Dental fractures 17%

Last week, I treated a kitten who fell 3 stories on to gravel. A good samaritan found her lying on her back crying.  She was one of the lucky ones who survived the fall without any serious injuries.  


Whitney, W.O., Mehlhaff, C.J. ‘High-rise Syndrome in Cats’ J. Am Vet Med Assoc. Dec. 1987; 191 (11):1399-403. 

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.