Photo of cat recovering after a fall

So the day before yesterday at around 8 am my cat fell off the balcony. He got a piece of the third floor's balcony on his way down but wasn't able to catch himself.

He had a bit of blood out his nose when I got to him and couldn't move any of his limbs. I thought he was going to die right there and had a broken back or something terrible.

I rushed him to the vet hospital anyway and they doped him up. They said he bruised his lungs, fractured his sternum, and maybe compressed his T13 and L1 vertebrae as the space between them looked slightly closer together than the other ones; he also injured his front right leg, probably when he grabbed the third-floor deck and was unable to catch himself.

The doctor said that a fractured sternum usually heals fine on its own without surgery then they gave me some morphine, an anti-inflammatory, and gabapentin and we went home.

The first night was really scary as he couldn't breathe right unless he was on his side, and if took my hand off him he would try and get up so I laid with him all night and he purred away as long as I was touching him.

Since about 5 am the first night, his breathing finally improved instead of sharp short breaths he can take long calm ones like before and he can breathe when he is sitting up.

Now about 72hrs out, he is doing pretty well actually he can change positions and has perked up. He has been eating since about 24hrs out though I had to carry him to the bathroom.

He has pretty bad ataxia in what seems like all of his limbs; though it might just be his two back legs as his one front leg is pretty stiff in some of the range of motions.

I am realizing though the doctor didn't really give me a prognosis, he couldn't move any of his limbs initially but now he can walk though he appears pretty drunk. Everything else about him has basically returned to normal though he is sleeping a lot especially after he adjusts position or uses the litter box (I guess it's draining for him to move considering he did fall 4 stories so that's not all that surprising.)

I have to take him to see his normal vet on Tuesday, but will he ever be able to move all his legs normally again? The doctor said he has no broken bones and his hips look fine, etc. I know ataxia is common when cats have a trauma especially if they injure their spinal cord or hit their head and it's probably fair to assume he did both.

I added a picture of him sitting up to eat yesterday, you can see his paws are in kind of odd places. (about 48hrs after falling)

So for anyone wondering, the vet basically said that there is no obvious injury to his spine from the X-rays, a CT or MRI would be needed to find out what's going on exactly, but they recommended not to spend the extra money on it. He has recovered a lot in the rest time he has already had and most likely he will continue to recover if he doesn't re-injure himself before it's healed. She did some various neurological tests that seem to indicate that his ataxia is from a spinal injury.

The lady was amazed he was doing so well when I brought him in. She can still hear something slightly in his right lung but it's quite good. The sternum fracture isn't much of a concern just rest for the next 4 weeks. The only concern is the injury to his spine.

She said I can apply cold temperature to his back 3 times a day and gave me some weird foot exercises to help him with recovery. He will also be on gabapentin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory meds for several more weeks.

There is no guarantee with things like this, but basically, spinal injuries without broken bones or fractures almost always amount to confided rest and things should hopefully go back to normal. He is doing better than she had hoped considering how badly he was injured and the amount of time he has had to heal.

She gave me some research material related to his injury and the only real factor to a favorable outcome in studies is the amount of time he spends confined over the next 4-6 weeks to prevent him from being able to make things worse before they heal and an anti inflammatory.

  • 1
    Cats can sometimes survive some pretty impressive falls with surprisingly little damage -- websearch "feline high-rise syndrome" for some population studies. But that doesn't mean every cat will come off completely undamaged from every fall, and any impact has some risk of concussion on top of more obvious injuries. Your cat still being wobbly may or may not mean anything for the longer term. Your vet will be better able to answer this question better than strangers in the Internet who have never seen the animal. Concern is appropriate, but don't presume; wait for proper evaluation.
    – keshlam
    Aug 7 at 0:55
  • none of those studies talk about ataxia, mostly the frequency and amount of broken bones and average age of the animals in question. My question is more related to general trauma and the length of ataxia and prognosis when it caused by trauma. All the relevant medical information has been included, its one of those 24/7 vet hospitals they are very busy and not the same doctor each day/time.
    – Faust
    Aug 7 at 3:53
  • 1
    Not enough information to diagnose remotely, I believe. If in doubt, consult your own vet rather than an animal ER, someone who can take the time to talk things through with the patient's human. It could be shock, it could be concussion, it could be something else; no way to tell without all the info from x-rays to observing and handling the cat to possibly other tests, plus knowing what medications the cat was dosed with. Stack Exchange is pretty good at general advice, but for specific diagnosis, ESPECIALLY when seriously concerned, nothing beats working directly with the animal.
    – keshlam
    Aug 7 at 20:12
  • 3
    Not a vet, but as far as you describe the symptoms, especially the cat already regaining some ability to walk, I would be carefully optimistic for a full recovery. Your vet will likely want to perform a thorough examination, which might be expensive, but it is important to rule out internal bleeding or damage to organs that the emergency clinic might not have caught.
    – bgse
    Aug 8 at 12:50
  • 1
    I finally am able to bring him in to see his regular vet today, its just scary when you have no idea what's going or what to expect. No matter what i am glad he's alive; that's what is important, but i just want the best for him. I thought someone else might have had a cat that had similar injuries and what ended up happening.
    – Faust
    Aug 8 at 19:26


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