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ASPCA Urges Pet Owners to Install & Secure Window Screens to Prevent "High-Rise Syndrome"

Rising temperatures result in instances of pets falling out of windows; Incidents are 100 percent preventable
April 10, 2013

NEW YORK— The warmer spring weather is finally approaching, and 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 who never leave their residence may not realize how high up they are, and if they are distracted by what’s going on outside, they can jump out of the window, or lose their balance and fall,” said Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA Animal Hospital. “It is important for pet owners to realize that high-rise syndrome is 100 percent preventable. The cost of a screen is far less than the thousands of dollars in emergency veterinary care, not to mention your pet’s pain and suffering, that could result from an easily avoidable high-rise accident.” 

Incidents associated with high-rise syndrome are typically reported during the summer months when open windows are commonplace. In New York City, the ASPCA Animal Hospital has already seen its first high-rise syndrome case of the season, a six-month-old kitten named Cricket who is currently recovering at the Adoption Center. During the warmer months, ASPCA veterinarians see on average 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. 

Last year, veterinarians at the ASPCA 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.