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I just bought a cat and live on the 14th floor of my building, and I realized that he doesn't have any fear of heights like dogs do. I am really afraid that he might jump from a window.

I did some research, but could only find things like "If a cat jumps from the third floor he might survive, even with some injures" and I was like "don't cats have any sense of height?! Why would he jump from so high?"

So, should I be worried about my cat jumping out of a window and hurting himself?

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Entry 998 on old.qi.com/talk/viewtopic.php?p=994 talks about cats effectively "parachuting" from anything higher than about a seventh floor. I remember it being discussed on QI, which means it's documented somewhere, so worth looking up, though not necessarily still held to be true, hence I've not posted as an actual answer. Google for qi cat fall floors to find that episode. –  ClickRick Jun 6 at 18:32
    
The terminal velocity of a small animal is low, so any fall is more survivable. Most studies are biased by the fact that if the cat is obviously dead, often he isn't taken to the vet for examination at all. –  Oldcat Jun 6 at 21:28
    
    
He won't jump. He might fall. –  Preston Fitzgerald Jun 8 at 22:18
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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes you should worry, lots of bad things could happen:

  • The cat may get frightened or be chasing an insect and bolt for the window then fail to stop in time, slip and fall.

  • The cat may sleep in the windowsill in the sun, roll over, and fall.

  • The cat may run out on a ledge outside or jump down to someone's air conditioner sticking out below or otherwise trap themselves someplace that would require trained rescue specialists to retrieve them.

Cats are thought of as extremely coordinated and agile but they slip, trip, fall and fail in estimating jump distances all the time.

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Cats don't purposefully fall from heights, but it can happen accidentally in the ways that Beo's answer states. You can see dozens of videos of cats falling short distances on youtube by searching "cat fall", so it's not difficult to imagine the same mistakes being made even when the stakes are much higher.

Cats falling from apartment buildings has been called "high rise syndrome", since veternarians have noticed a tendancy for cats to be less injured when falling from 6-8 stories than from 1-2 stories. The thought is that a longer fall time gives the cat more time to flip its body to land on its feet. However, it may be that the cats who die from the longer falls are not taken to the veternarian, so it's difficult to know the truth from observational studies.

What we do know is that injuries are common no matter what the fall height. In one observational study, "Ninety percent of the cats had some form of thoracic [heart/lung] trauma", and in another "Falls from the seventh or higher stories, are associated with more severe injuries and with a higher incidence of thoracic trauma."

Clearly, you should take some types of precautions to protect your cat. The ASPCA recommends the following steps:

  • To fully protect your pets, you’ll need to install snug and sturdy screens in all your windows.
  • If you have adjustable screens, please make sure that they are tightly wedged into window frames.
  • Note that cats can slip through childproof window guards—these don’t provide adequate protection!
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Cats are a bit head heavy, so a long fall tends to concentrate damage up front somewhat. –  Oldcat Jun 6 at 21:29
    
Related to what @Oldcat said, I don't have the references handy, but while cats generally tend to always land on their feet thanks to the righting reflex they don't have any way to brace their neck when they land so it's common for cats falling from a considerable height to break their jaw as it hits the ground on a landing. This is also partially why a fall from a high height can be so dangerous. –  Dan Herbert Jun 11 at 22:55
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Yes, absolutely you should worry about your cat falling from the window. Even if the cat is able to twist around and land on its feet, a fall from that height would cause serious injury including damage to the internal organs. You must insure that your cat cannot accidentally fall or jump from the window, perhaps not realizing how far down the ground is. Cats have been known to fall to their death by jumping at a bird that lands on the windowsill. Make sure that if the window is open it has a sturdy screen that cannot be pushed out even if the cat jumps against it.

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