High rise apartments are typically safe for indoor cats, unless they have balconies. As such inquisitive creatures, cats will want to explore a balcony. Legend claims that cats always land on their feet, but you definitely won’t want to test that theory from multiple stories.
If you have a balcony, you need to restrict your cat’s access as it’s better to be safe than sorry. However, if you are going to let your cat out, you should at least safety-proof the balcony.
Is it Safe to Let My Cat on the Balcony?
With the right stimulation, felines are contented as indoor cats. This makes them ideal companions for just about anybody living in a high rise apartment.
There is an issue with cats living in such conditions, though. If you have a balcony, your cat will be intrigued by it. In some respects, a balcony is the equivalent of a small yard. You can allow your cat to explore a balcony, and take in some fresh air.
They can also watch the world go by from such a location. As cats enjoy looking down on their empire from height, they’ll enjoy this position greatly.
Some people even place their cat’s litter box on the balcony. This certainly masks any unsavory scents. If your cat enjoys al fresco dining, you could even put its food dish outside too.
These actions are littered with potential problems, though. Before we even contemplate the potential dangers, there are logistics to consider.
If your cat has some pivotal possession outside, it’ll need access to the balcony 24/7. If it grows accustomed to eliminating in an outdoor litter box, that’s where it’ll want to go.
This is fine on a summer’s day, when you leave the door open. Your cat can come and go as it pleases. How about the winter, though? Will you be happy leaving the door open, and allowing a freezing draft in all day?
Even the nights will become a problem. Your cat will be active while you’re asleep. If it needs to use the litter box, it’ll want to go outside, so you’ll be woken continuously up to let it in and out.
It’s not precisely security-conscious to leave a balcony door open all day, either. What will you do while you’re at work?
Even if your building is high enough to deter potential burglars, animals can access your home. This means neighboring cats and birds could be spreading disease and making a mess indoors.
Of course, these issues pale in comparison to the safety concerns of cats using a balcony. You may be convinced that your cat is sensible, and enjoys innate good sense and balance.
Accidents can and will happen, though. Falls from tall buildings are so commonplace that a name for the phenomena has been coined. Cats falling from a height greater than two stories is known as ‘feline high-rise syndrome.’
Feline high-rise syndrome was first discussed in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery in 2004. 119 cats tumbled from a height over 4 years, and the results were studied.
Unsurprisingly, most of the cats in question suffered injuries of varying severity. While cats have a ‘righting instinct’ that helps them land on their feet, they’re not invulnerable. Falling from balconies can be damaging.
With this in mind, it’s best to avoid letting cats onto a balcony. Prevention is always better than cure.
If your cat cannot get onto a balcony, they can’t jump off it. If your cat does use your balcony, you should take steps to ensure its safety.
How Can I Keep My Cat Away from My Apartment Balcony?
To keep your cat away from your balcony, make the area unappealing. Your cat will be innately curious, and we all know how that ends.
Keep the door to your balcony closed whenever it’s not in use. If your cat cannot gain access to the balcony, it may lose interest.
This could be wishful thinking, though. Cats want what they can’t have, and forbidden things will always intrigue them.
Think about what your cat sees out of a window. High-flying, singing, birds. That will send its hunting instincts wild.
You’ll likely find your cat chirping and scratching at balcony doors, trying to access these airborne snacks. If they cannot see them, your cat cannot be driven crazy.
That may be as simple as drawing blinds or curtains. That will mean that you’ll suffer too, though. It seems a shame to live in darkness when you have a large balcony window.
You can still keep light pouring into your home through a balcony window. Just tint the glass a little. This will restrict your pet’s view and calm them down.
Another technique is to make the surrounding area unwelcoming to a cat. This can be done through training or deterrents.
Training is simple, but not for everybody. It will involve making a deterrent noise when your cat approaches the window. Blowing a whistle will do the trick, or any other short, sharp sound.
You’ll need to watch your cat like a hawk and act quickly. If your cat doesn’t associate the training with their presence by the window, it’ll grow confused.
For a more low-key approach, make the balcony area unappealing. This is achieved by sparking negative responses from your cat’s senses of smell and touch.
Never underestimate how impactful a distasteful smell can be for a cat. Citrus and mint are typical aromas that felines loathe. Keep them by the window, and your cat will stay away.
If your pet has a hardy disposition and tolerates these scents, use touch. Cats do not enjoy sticky sensations under their paws. Double-sided tape will keep them away. Just place it on the ground in front of the window.
How Can I Cat-Proof My Apartment Balcony?
If you’re unable to keep your cat off your balcony, cat proofing is the next best thing.
The first step is to supervise your cat’s balcony time. If you’re enjoying some time on your balcony, let your cat join you. That way, you can watch them.
You could also consider attaching a lead and harness to your cat. This will restrict your cat’s movement. They will be unable to make a daredevil leap if they’re attached to you.
If this is not an option, investigate the possibility of balcony netting for pets. This is a mesh that can be draped over your balcony.
Netting will enable your cat to enjoy time on a balcony, but not slip through any holes. This will minimize the risk of a cat losing its footing or slipping.
What balcony netting will not do is prevent your cat from jumping onto a balcony. Your cat will still be at risk of falling if it falls.
You could invest in a larger enclosure for your cat to prevent this from happening. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘catio.’ Essentially, you will be building a safe outdoor area for your pet.
You will need landlord permission to do this in a rented apartment, though. If you own your apartment, this may affect the value.
There is no way of making the balcony of a high-rise apartment completely cat safe. You’ll need to supervise your pet, deny them access, or accept the inherent risks.
Why Would a Cat Jump Off a Balcony?
We have discussed what feline high-rise syndrome is, but not why it happens. Are cats compelled to throw themselves off high balconies for an adrenaline rush?
The answer to this is no. Cats do not jump from height for their entertainment. Felines are governed by survival instinct, and will not willingly place themselves in jeopardy.
Cats can have vertigo. Looking down from height will not cause this reaction, though. Cats actively seek out high vantage points. In felines, vertigo could strike at any time.
If your cat loses its footing at height, it will be perilous. The impact of the ground can have a significant impact.
Another reason for a cat to fall from a balcony is because it is chasing prey. When a cat is perched on a balcony, it’ll be faced with several birds. It’s unlikely to sit quietly and watch for long.
Your cat’s hunting instincts will kick in, and it’ll try to capture its flying prey. Sure, it’ll wait for the birds to approach it first. Eventually, it’ll look to take matters in its own paws.
A cat will perch atop a balcony and swipe. It may escalate this, and lean forward to bite. Eventually, if it becomes over-excited, it may even jump to catch a bird.
Another possible explanation for a cat falling from a balcony would be that it’s startled. High-rise apartments are often found in major cities, and such locations tend to be noisy.
If your cat is in its own world, a loud, sudden noise could seriously scare them. Car horns, loud voices, and wailing sirens will be commonplace. If your cat is teetering on a balcony, it could lose its balance and fall.
In addition to this, the big city is also filled with unusual smells. Imagine a passing garbage truck, for example.
This will smell disgusting to you, but to your cat, it’s many interesting new aromas. It may lean over for a deep breath, and we’re back to worrying about tumbles.
Also, consider whether your cat is trying to get to another balcony. It may see another cat in a nearby apartment, and want to make friends. In the excitement, it could easily misjudge the distance between balconies.
Ask yourself whether your cat is just bored. Felines are innately curious, and will want to investigate their surroundings.
If a cat usually stays indoors, it may want to explore more of the outside world. You’d hope that it’d use a staircase. If your cat gets caught up in the moment, it may not think straight.
How High Can a Cat Safely Fall from a Balcony?
Anything above two stories is considered a bad fall for a cat. This is the height that qualifies for feline high rise syndrome.
In some respects, it’s almost safer for a cat to fall from a higher floor. This affords more opportunity for your pet to right themselves, and land on its feet. Once a cat reaches seven weeks of age, it will have perfected this instinct.
Pet Place explains the science behind this. In essence, it’s a combination of instinct and biology.
- When your cat begins to fall, its sense of balance informs them which way is up.
- The cat then lifts their front legs, which protects its face.
- The cat will then rotate their spine, so its back is in line with its head.
- The cat will then ensure that its rear legs can share the impact.
This isn’t saying that a cat can fall from anywhere and be fine. Even if the cat lands on its feet, it can injure itself.
Its legs will absorb substantial impact, and potentially fracture. Your cat could also damage its chin and teeth. However, it remains safer than a headfirst landing.
Think back to the previously discussed study of feline high rise syndrome. 90% of the 119 cats profiles survived their fall from over five stories high. They were not unscathed, though, so it’s far from advisable to allow it to happen.
My Cat Fell from a Balcony
If your cat does fall, it’s terrifying. However, you will have a responsibility to remain calm. Cats can sense fear in humans. If you start to freak out, they’ll grow increasingly concerned.
You must take your cat for medical attention. Check them over yourself first, but don’t delay in seeing a vet. Not all injuries are immediately visible to the layperson.
Your cat may have internal bleeding, for example. This can cause significant problems for your pet. Head injuries, too, are not always immediately apparent.
How Stuff Works details, the first aid steps essential following a fall for your cat. These involve:
- Checking your cat for any bleeding. A nosebleed could be a warning sign of serious injury.
- Open your cat’s mouth, and check for any broken teeth or a split lip.
- Check your cat’s limbs for signs of fractures. This could include protruding bones, or reluctance to place weight on the leg.
- Keep your cat warm with a blanket and get them to the vet.
In theory, your cat will recoil to the touch if it has a broken leg. However, this is not always the case. If your cat is in shock, it may not yet feel the full extent of its injuries.
Once you get to a vet, surgery may be necessary for your cat. It depends on the extent of any damage that they have incurred. This may involve a splint, or even amputation, if the damage is particularly severe.
Insurance will be pivotal in these scenarios. If you have a balcony, you must take out pet insurance. Almost every policy will pay for the required surgery. This can easily run into four figures, and you’ll be relieved to have the policy in place.
Training and cat-proofing are essential if your cat is going to enjoy a balcony. Even if you keep it away, it’s advisable to take precautions. Your cat will likely find a way to get out there if it is determined enough.
Once it’s out there, a cat will not leap from a balcony for fun. Cats aren’t silly and know the risks involved. That doesn’t mean that it won’t fall, though. Even the most graceful cat can lose its footing, or grow distracted.
Always be prepared to react quickly if your cat uses a balcony. You may have to take rapid action to save it. If you’re concerned that you’re unable to do so, it may be best to restrict balcony access.