Many cat owners live in (high-rise) buildings that have balcony access, and most felines will love spending time outdoors on it looking at the world. As a cat owner you might ask yourself if it’s safe to leave your cat on the balcony, and if they will jump down. If you don’t have a balcony, don’t stop reading just yet, as curious cats can also get in trouble if you have windows only, and these pose more dangers than just the risk of falling out of them. Let’s have a closer look at what dangers balconies and windows pose to our cats and what we can do to keep them safe.
Do cats jump off balconies?
In short, yes it happens. While cats naturally love to seek out high places which might make you believe they are always safe to do so, this is not always the case. While most cats generally won’t intentionally jump off balconies or out of windows, there are many scenarios possible in which they (unintentionally) do. We will discuss a few of these scenarios below.
A first scenario is that cats might lose balance when trying to catch or chase a bird on the balcony, or on the railing of the balcony. Even cats that are normally not interested in going near, or jumping on the ledge, most likely will be unable to resist a bird that is right there. Once their instinct kicks in and they try to catch the bird, one wrong move, or a slightly wet ledge which makes it slippery, will mean your cat will fall off the balcony. While climbing and hunting in trees and on wooden surfaces often provide a cat with a lot of grip, balconies do not offer this option making the risk of accidents higher. Another risk of chasing prey on balconies is that cats might get stuck mid-hunt at unreachable places while also being unable to get back.
Another scenario in which cats fall off balconies or out of windows is when they bolt away in fear or lose balance and fall when frightened. Even if your cat is generally not the scared type, unexpected situations can always happen which might frighten your cat. A loud sound, fireworks, people yelling, thunder, the list is endless of situations which might scare your cat.
But don’t cats always land on their feet?
Cats do have a pretty neat mechanism that makes them almost always land on their feet, and even though research shows that the survival rate of cats that fall off the balcony or out of windows and get taken to the vet straight away is high (90%), those making a fall from a high point often do end up with a common set of injuries which vets refer to as high-rise syndrome. It’s not uncommon for cats that fall from a height to end up with serious injuries like ruptured organs, a shattered jaw, and broken limbs and will need (emergency) treatment to survive and recover. For some cats the injuries will be too severe and fatal, while others might end up with lifelong injuries like being (partially) paralyzed. A percentage will survive the ordeal without any further issues, but it’s not worth the risk.
A dangerous misconception is also that falling from lower heights isn’t dangerous, but this is not the case. It will take time for a cat to twist midair and make their feet face the floor, increasing the risk of them not landing on their feet which in turn highers the risk of injury on impact.
Cats and Windows
Don’t have a balcony? Your feline can also get in trouble jumping out of the window if it’s left open. Besides the dangers of falling out of the window, tilting windows pose another great threat to your cat. Tilting windows that open at the top, pose a trapping risk and there have been cases where cats ended up trapped and not being able to get themselves loose, which in the worst cases lead to death. They can also seriously injure themselves trying to free themselves.
How can I safely let my cat on the balcony and cat-proof the windows?
Balconies can be secured with specifically designed safety nets. When choosing a net make sure it can withstand cats climbing in it or biting it. There is also safety netting available for windows if you wish to have them open. Always check the safety netting for holes before letting your cat on the balcony and check the safety net on your window before opening it. Make sure that the safety net is installed properly and there are no gaps or loose points where your cat might slip through. Always keep in mind that most cats will be tempted to climb into the net, so the structure needs to be durable and secure, and has no escape points, even upwards.
Letting your cat on the balcony without safety measurements is unsafe. Even though it will go well in most cases, it takes just one fall for your cat to end up injured or in the worst-case dead. It’s not worth the risk, and as the cat’s guardian you should keep them safe. If you can’t cat proof your balcony, do not let your cat on it. Be mindful about windows and secure them where necessary.