Can Cats Survive A Fall From Any Height?

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Fact checked by  Ma'ayan Gutbezahl
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Bengal kitten jumping off a kitchen table

Cats are known for their amazing agility and reflexes. They often amaze their owners with how gracefully they can jump down from a high shelf or wall.

Furthermore, there are many stories of cats surviving falls from a great height and it is believed by some that cats can survive a fall from any height. But is this true? Do cats always land on their feet and survive? We’ll discuss this in more detail now and explain what happens when cats fall from a height.

Also Read: How High Can A Domestic Cat Actually Jump?

Key Takeaways

Cats have the ability to right themselves while falling and landing in such a way that gives them a very high survival rate from falls.

While cats can survive huge falls, they can still sustain injuries that require veterinary attention.

There are steps you can take to make sure that your cat is unlikely to suffer a big fall.

Cats And Heights

Cat trying to jump off cat tower

Cats have a natural “righting reflex” that allows them to turn and land on their feet in the middle of a fall.

So can cats really survive a fall from any height? The short answer is no.

Cats can and do die from falls all the time. However, it is more likely for a cat to survive a fall. This is because as they free fall, they flip themselves the right way round (also known as the “righting reflex”) so that they can land feet first. These act as shock absorbers so that the main body is protected.

As they fall, cats spread out their four limbs like a parachute to increase their body surface. This lessens the blunt force on their body. The fact that cats can adjust their reflexes as they are falling in mid-air is impressive, to say the least, and is just another reason why we love cats.

It’s due to this righting reflex, that many cats survive falls regardless of how far they fall. Interestingly, cats may be more likely to hurt themselves falling from short heights. This is because they don’t have time to right themselves in time to land on their feet. However, if cats fall from greater heights of over seven stories, then they are more likely to suffer serious injuries.

Also Read: Concussions In Cats: Overview, Signs & Treatment

High-Rise Syndrome

blue tabby maine coon kitten jumping from one sofa to another

Cats have a higher likelihood of sustaining injuries from shorter falls and exceptionally high falls of over seven stories.

The term for cats falling from a height is called “feline high-rise syndrome.” This is when a cat falls from a balcony or building that is at least two stories high. The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery published a study in 2004 that studied 119 cases of cats that fell from a height (or high-rise syndrome).

The study found that 96.5% of cats that fell from a height survived. However, nearly half of those cats sustained broken bones while other cats suffered dental injuries (such as a chipped tooth) and damage to their chest (such as a collapsed lung).

This means that cats have a very good chance of surviving high falls. Many may still have injuries that require veterinary treatment, however. In some of these cases, a cat’s survival depends on them receiving emergency treatment for their injuries right away.

Also Read: 11 Signs That You Need to Get Your Cat To the Emergency Room

Why Do Cats Fall From Heights?

maine coon cat about to jump over the gray sofa

Cats are agile and graceful and are known for “always” landing on their feet.

It’s worth noting that it isn’t common for cats to fall. Cats are naturally agile hunters that have great balance and reflexes. Many owners will notice how cats study the ground first before they jump and assess where they’ll fall. You may even notice their whiskers leaning forwards. This helps them judge the distance that they need to jump.

Cats are quite careful and it’s uncommon for them to jump out of a window. It’s likely that cats that fall from a height have been distracted or are chasing an insect or fly. Young kittens or cats can be a little boisterous and less cautious when it comes to an open window. In general, they are more prone to injury than more mature cats are.

Also Read: How To Keep Your Cat From Jumping After Surgery

What Affects A Cat’s Chance Of Survival After Falling?

ginger cat is ready to jump from the rural roof

Cats use their nails to grip surfaces as they climb and jump.

There are several factors that affect the chances of a cat surviving a fall. Young cats are more likely to be curious about open windows and the outdoors, so they are at a higher risk of falling from a height.

Outdoor cats that have trimmed nails may be at a higher chance of falling off walls or trees because they can’t grip with their claws as well. This is worse for cats that have been declawed because they almost have no grip at all.

In general, cats that are used to being outdoors are more accustomed to climbing and jumping than indoor house cats. They often have better reflexes when it comes to jumping and not falling from walls, trees, etc.

Older cats with arthritis or cats with mobility issues, struggle more to right themselves as fast as other cats. Additionally, their limbs are not as good at withstanding the blunt force when they hit the ground. For these cats, falls result in broken legs and other injuries more often.

Also Read: Can Cats Climb Down Trees?

What To Do If Your Cat Falls From A Height

Cat jumping down from the kitchen table

If your cat falls and seems fine, it’s still smart to call a vet, in case they have internal injuries.

If your cat has fallen from a wall or tree and is limping or is otherwise unwell, contact your veterinarian. Cats that fall from a high-rise area should be seen as an emergency by their veterinarian.

These cats often sustain fractures or injuries to their chest cavity and need urgent care in order to increase their chance of survival. Don’t take a chance if your cat has fallen from a height, even if they seem OK initially, as they may have sustained internal injuries.

Also Read: How To Care For A Wounded Cat

How To Prevent Your Cat From Falling From A Height

Scottish straight cat jumping

Younger cats can be more boisterous and unaware of their surroundings, leading to more falls.

Cats that are kept indoors are less likely to injure themselves as they won’t be climbing and jumping outside. Indoor cats that live in high-rise apartments or multiple-story houses are more at risk of falling from an open window.

Keep windows closed or latched whenever possible. Window screens are an ideal solution because they allow you to open your window for fresh air while completely preventing your cat from falling through the window. Child gates aren’t ideal for cats, because most cats can fit through the bars.

Also Read: How To Make A Cat Feel Safe In 10 Simple Steps

To Summarize

orange cat is ready to pounce from his perch

While cats often land on their feet from falls, they can still be injured and may require an emergency vet visit.

Unfortunately, cats do die from falls. Luckily, this is a rare occurrence. Over 90% of cats that fall from a high-rise building will survive. This is due to cats having a righting reflex that allows them to land on their feet but this does not mean that a cat survive a fall from the Empire State Building because they simply won’t.

Many cats that fall from high places sustain injuries. In such cases, it is so important to get them to your emergency veterinarian as soon as possible. You can prevent your cat from falling from an open window by using a window screen or keeping windows shut.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Like Being Up High?

Frequently Asked Questions

From how high up can cats survive a fall?

Cats can survive falls from anywhere between 2-20 stories and even upwards. However, they can still sustain fractures and chest injuries from such falls. It isn’t known exactly how far they can fall and survive, but their survival rate is over 90% when they fall from a height due to their amazing righting reflex.

Can cats survive a two-story fall?

Yes, cats are likely to survive a two-story fall. As they fall, they right themselves so that they land on their feet and they extend their four limbs to increase their body surface. This helps prevent trauma to their body.

What happens if a cat falls from height?

Cats that fall from a height right themselves while falling and try to land on their feet. They extend their legs to act as a parachute to minimize the trauma to their body. While their survival rate from such falls is over 90%, they can still sustain fractures or other injuries that need veterinary treatment.

Can a cat survive a 15-foot fall?

Yes, cats can survive a fall from 15 feet and much higher but may have injuries that require veterinary attention.

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About Dr. Aisling O'Keeffe MVB CertSAM ISFMAdvCertFB MRCVS

Aisling qualified from University College Dublin as a veterinarian in 2015 and went on to work in a mixture of small animal hospitals here and in the UK, including a cat-only veterinary clinic where she currently works. She has completed a postgraduate certificate in Small Animal Medicine and the International Society of Feline Medicine's postgraduate certificate in Advanced Feline Behaviour. She wrote a children's book called 'Minding Mittens', which aims to educate children on cat behaviour and care. Aisling featured on the RTE tv series 'Cat Hospital'. She is a Fear Free certified vet, which aims to make vet visits as stress-free and enjoyable as possible. In her spare time, she enjoys looking after her pets, which includes 4 felines.