High-Rise Syndrome

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Also known as: Falling from high buildings — Jumper Syndrome — High Flyer Syndrome


The term 'high-rise syndrome' is used to describe traumatic injuries in cats resulting from falls from a height greater than two stories.

Unlike humans and dogs, cats are able to survive falls from heights greater than 6 stories due to the effectiveness of their vestibular system and low body mass.

The cat's righting reflex means that it usually lands on all four limbs in a splay-legged position.

Injuries sustained

Because of their landing position, cat commonly sustain either direct trauma to the head or secondary injuries through bouncing, therefore facial injuries are one of the most common signs of this syndrome in cats.

Maxillofacial injuries include:

traumatic cleft hard palate
traumatic splitting of the mandibular symphysis
other mandibular fractures
temporomandibular joint luxation
soft tissue injuries and skin loss

Additionally, because of the minimal soft tissue coverage on the limbs, fractures occur frequently, most often open femoral and tibial fractures.

Thoracic injuries, pulmonary contusions and pneumothorax are rarer, but occur most frequently after falls from a height greater than the 6th storey.

Abdominal, spinal and pelvic injuries are very uncommon.


The first line of treatment is the management of shock and pulmonary contusions, which can be fatal to the patient.

This should include oxygen, fluid therapy and pain relief. Fracture correction should only be attempted once the patient is stable.

For cleft palate injuries: if the fracture is not displaced, the palatal mucosa can be sutured to enable first intention healing.

Alternatively, a tension band wire can be placed between the roots of the carnassial teeth to close the split, and removed 4-6 weeks later. This enables a more rapid relief from pain and return to eating.

Limb fractures are treated using a variety of fixation methods depending on the location and configuration of the fracture.

Though abdominal injuries are rare, it is essential to ensure the cat's bladder is intact and it is passing urine effectively.

Prognosis is generally good and average mortality rate overall is 11%.

High-Rise Syndrome Learning Resources
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Denny, H. (2000) A quide to canine and feline orthpaedic surgery John Wiley and Sons

Scott, H. (2007) Feline orthopaedics Manson Publishing

Duhautois, B. (2010) High-rise syndrome, comparative and retrospective study of 204 cases Communication to l'Académie Vétérinaire de France

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