During summer, it’s tempting to open the windows and enjoy some fresh air, but an open window can be irresistible to a cat. Because of this, warm months are prime time for high-rise syndrome, a term used to describe cats and other pets falling from open windows, terraces and fire escapes.

Because cats enjoy perching in high places, it's easy to assume that they know how to safely handle heights, but while felines can cling to trees with their claws, surfaces like window ledges and concrete are more difficult.

Cats don’t deliberately jump from dangerously high places, but felines have an incredible ability to focus their attention — on birds, insects and other things — which can be distracting enough for your pet to lose its balance and fall.

While you may have heard that cats always land on their feet, this isn’t always the case. In 1987, New York City’s Animal Medical Center did a study of felines that had fallen from tall buildings. Ninety percent of the cats survived; however, most suffered serious injuries, including shattered jaws, punctured lungs and broken limbs.

Just because your home is on a lower floor doesn't mean your cat is safe either. The study found that cats that fell from heights of 7 to 32 stories were less likely to die than those that fell from 2 to 6 stories. Falling from a one- or two-story building can actually be more dangerous because cats don't have as much time to position their bodies correctly.

There’s a 90-percent survival rate for cats who are high-rise victims if they receive immediate medical attention, but the best way to care for your pet is to prevent a fall in the first place.

How to protect your cat from high-rise syndrome:

  • Install sturdy screens in all your windows.
  • If you have adjustable screens, make sure they are tightly wedged into window frames.
  • Remember that cats can slip through childproof window guards, so these won’t provide adequate protection.
  • Don’t assume that if a cat falls once, the animal will learn its lesson and stay away from the window.

Laura Moss writes about a variety of topics with a focus on animals, science, language and culture. But she mostly writes about cats.

Protecting your cat from high-rise syndrome
An open window can be irresistible to your feline friend, and despite popular belief, cats don't always land on their feet.