With temperatures above normal in many parts of the country, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is urging all pet owners, especially those who live in multi-story residences, to place screens in their windows to prevent their pets from falling out—incidents commonly referred to as “high-rise syndrome.” Unscreened windows pose a serious danger primarily to cats, although dogs and other pets are also susceptible. These types of falls can result in serious injuries or even death.
“Cats perched near windows can get easily distracted by what’s going on outside, causing them to lose their balance and fall,” said Dr. Emmy Pointer, staff internist and medical coordinator at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. “The good news, though, is that high-rise syndrome is 100 percent preventable and the money spent to ensure your pets’ safety could end up saving you thousands of dollars in avoidable medical expenses.”
Incidents associated with high-rise syndrome are typically reported during the summer months when open windows are commonplace. However, the mild weather has resulted in high-rise syndrome cases being seen earlier than usual in many communities across the country. In New York City, the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital has already seen 15 high-rise syndrome cases this year, a nearly 40 percent increase compared to the same time period last year. During the warmer months, ASPCA veterinarians see approximately three to five cases per week.
Because cats have little fear of heights and enjoy perching in high places, pet owners often assume that they can take care of themselves. Although cats can cling to the bark of trees with their claws, other surfaces are much more difficult for them to grasp, such as window ledges, concrete or brick surfaces.
Pet owners can fully safeguard their animals by installing snug and sturdy screens in all their windows. Cats and small dogs can slip through childproof window guards, so it is important to recognize that these do not provide adequate protection.
In 2011, the veterinarians at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital saw more than 100 cases of high-rise syndrome. The most common injuries associated with these incidents are shattered jaws, bruised or punctured lungs, and broken limbs and pelvises.
For more information on high-rise syndrome, please visit www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/high-rise-syndrome.aspx.