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Syndrome of the falling cats

When summer comes many owners eagerly open their windows to enjoy the good weather. Unfortunately they unknowingly exposing the animal at risk. Unsecured windows represent a real danger to cats that fall from them so often that the veterinary profession even invented a name for this if it can be called a “disease” – “syndrome of high-levels” ( “High-Rise Syndrome”, HRS).

As you might have guessed HRS were characteristic of urban environments and is a serious problem for big cities in Bulgaria. Vets from veterinary clinic “Sofia” daily encounter fallen cats and their number often exceeds 5-6 per week during the warmer months. Although HRS is typical for cats, dogs are not insured and rarely they become victims of unsafe balconies..

Some interesting facts about HRS:

  • Cats have extraordinary survival instincts and they do not jump just so thoughtlessly from high places, which can be dangerous for them. Most cats accidentally falling from windows or balconies of the upper floors.
  • Cats have an incredible ability to focus full attention on something that attracts them. Accidentally flew or perched on the ledge bird or some other animal passing can be enough to dispel her to lose balance and fall.
  • Because cats don’t have any fear of heights and prefer to stay in high places, owners often suggest that cats can protect by themselves. Although cats can adhere tightly to the branches of trees with their claws, other surfaces such as windows or their boards would be much more difficult to adhere.
  • Studies have shown that the survival rate of cats, fell from second to 32nd floor is the astonishing 90%. Surprisingly, but the fact is that cats that fall from height below 6 floors get a lot more injuries than those that fall from the higher floors. One theory is that cats have a top speed of about 5 floors and thereafter they relax, allowing more even distribution of the force of impact and the assumption of more serious injuries. After reaching maximum speed it is believed that cats become less rigid and they take a more horizontal posture. These cats are better prepared for the landing and can absorb the impact force more evenly distributed in the body, thereby reducing the extent of the injuries that they receive.
  • When cats fall from high places they do not fall squarely on straight legs. Instead, they narrowed them away, which can cause serious cranial injuries and pelvic fractures.
  • Common misconception is that cats will not be hurt if they fall from one- or two-storey buildings. They actually may be at greater risk when falling from lower altitudes than medium or high ones. Short distances do not give them enough time to adjust their body in the right posture for landing.
  • Note that fell cat can move between the streets and blocks, which in any case are not the most appropriate place for them. You should NEVER conclude that the cat do not survived from the fall. Instantly search cat and bring her to an experienced veterinarian to be given immediate veterinary assistance.

DO NOT FORGET: the survival rate is about 90%, but only after providing immediate and appropriate assistance! Around 25-33% of the fallen cats are in need of urgent life-saving assistance!!!

Only to note that the record of the fallen and surviving cat is in the USA and it is a cat fell from the 46th floor!

Injuries

Cats that fall from height above the second floor, often receive substantial injuries. The most common cause of death due to severe chest trauma. The following injuries are listed in the order in which most frequently occur:
Chest trauma – pneumothorax (air in the chest outside the lungs), lung injury and fractures of the ribs
Maxillofacial trauma – fractures of the jaw, broken teeth, cleaved palate and skull trauma
Injuries of the limb – bone fractures in the front and hind limbs
Spinal fractures – broken spine, fractures of the vertebrae, dislocated vertebrae (though rarely in cats)
Abdominal injuries – bleeding, injury to the liver, spleen or kidney, bladder rupture

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of HRS is not difficult. Typically, cats are found outside the building that inhabit or several floors below. For owners it is difficult to spot any damage and injuries that have occurred as a result of the fall, so we need immediate to bring the animal to an experienced veterinarian . He will have to make a number of studies and tests to ascertain the number and extent of injuries.

Chest X-ray – even if it seems that your cat breathe normally, X-ray of the chest is always needed for diagnosis of a collapsed lung, pneumothorax, pulmonary contusion or fracture of the ribs. All of these injuries can be life threatening and require special monitoring in the next 72 hours!

Examination of nose and mouth – cats often landed on the chest or face, which often leads to fractures of the jaw, cleaved palate and broken teeth. This examination deserves special attention!

Orthopedic examination – cat examined for possible fractures of the legs or pelvis. The most common fractures of the forelegs are observed below the elbow, while the most common fractures of the hindquarters are those of the femur. The power of the hit often causes bone pieces out of the skin, causing open fractures. They also deserve due attention due to significantly higher risk of infection.

Additional radiographs – if it is necessary you may make additional radiographs of the abdomen, skull or spine.

Screening ultrasound – recommended for the diagnosis of possible injury to organs in the abdominal cavity (torn bladder, rupture of the spleen, etc.)

Blood tests – initially they would not be of great diagnostic significance, but over treatment they are required to follow the normal functioning of organs.

Therapy

Treatment will depend on the type and severity of the injuries. If your pet shows signs of shock – collapse, weakness and pale mucous membranes, your veterinarian will start fluid therapy. The other therapy includes:

Chest trauma – the supply of oxygen is paramount and can help your cat to breathe. Rib fractures are very painful and require anesthesia seriously. Often requires performing thoracentesis and even placement of the chest tube in order to more readily evacuate the air from the rib cage.

Facial trauma – often accompanied by cranial concussions and injuries and needs a very cautious approach. A fluid therapy and the use of diuretics and / or steroids. Broken jaw often need to be fixed using a variety of orthopedic techniques as split palate in most cases heal itself. Broken teeth require specific treatment, but in the worst case and extirpation (removal).

Fractures of the extremities – usually first just cleaning the wounds and putting a temporary bandage. Later, when life-threatening injuries were managed, can proceed to orthopedic surgery.

Abdominal trauma – compression bandages can be used as temporary control of bleeding and surgery is recommended for rupture of internal organs.

Home care

There is no home treatment in cats injured after HRS. Your cat must be examined by a veterinarian, even if everything seems normal.

Be very careful when lifting and transferring the wounded cat. Some injuries can be painful and your cat may bite or scratch you. Wrap cat in a thick towel or blanket, put her into a cage or box and transport to your doctor.

Precautions

The best way to prevent HRS is to make sure that you do not have home windows open or open balcony. Make sure windows are strong and thick enough (there are cases where cats break and go through a thin windows). Secure balconies.

For cat the window may seem like a way to freedom, but for many of them the fall through it can be fatal!