Cats are born climbers. They’re known to scale fences, ascend trees, and perch on top of kitchen cabinets. And how can they be so good at always landing on their feet?
Despite their grace, cats do fall. As with any fall, the higher the height, the more dangerous it becomes. Even though cats are known for landing on their feet, they can still be gravely injured if their landing is “off” or if they are surprised by the fall. If your cat has fallen from a tree, off a piece of furniture, or even out a window, here’s what local veterinarians say you should do during those all-important first two hours.
0-30 minutes in: Check for Emergencies
One of the primary indicators of whether a fall has caused a cat serious injury is the loss of consciousness. If you witness your cat’s fall into unconsciousness or come upon him unconscious after a suspected fall, take him to an emergency vet immediately. Even relatively short falls can result in head trauma or serious broken bones such as those in the back or neck.
If your cat is unconscious, check for a heartbeat using fingers placed on his chest. If you don’t detect one, you should perform feline CPR; if there’s more than one adult present, one should perform CPR while the other drives to the emergency vet. If your cat is showing any signs of shock (pale gums, faint heartbeat, trouble breathing), proceed as quickly as possible to an emergency vet’s office.
Likewise, head trauma may be present while your cat remains conscious. The most obvious signs of head injury include unusual eye movement, seizures, abnormal behavior, and even bleeding from the ears. If you have any reason to think your cat may have suffered a head injury, call a professional immediately.
Serious falls can result in a broken back. If you suspect your cat’s back is broken due to sudden paralysis or difficulty breathing, take great care not to jostle him. Call the closest emergency vet for instructions on how to create a stiff backboard for transporting your cat to the office without further injuring his back or neck.
If your cat does not lose consciousness after a fall, injuries may take a few more minutes to become apparent. Read on for what to watch for.
30 minutes – 1 hour in: Look for Injury
The most obvious signs of injury from a fall are limping/extremity pain and/or bleeding. If you notice your cat limping, do your best to get him to lie still while you examine his injury. If he shows signs of pain when you move his limbs or touch certain areas of his body, transport him to a vet immediately for a thorough evaluation.
Blood is another surefire sign of a serious fall. The most common places to see blood after a fall include around the nose or mouth. If your cat has landed something on the ground, he may have suffered an abrasion that begins to bleed. If the bleeding is profuse or gets worse after a few minutes, proceed to an emergency vet. If the bleeding stops after a few minutes, the injury may have just been impact-related; watch your cat closely for signs of more late-developing issues.
1 hour – 2 hours in: Monitor Your Cat
So, you know your cat fell but you don’t see any visible signs of injury? That’s a great start. Remember, though, that some serious internal injuries can take a while to become apparent. Watch your cat closely over the following few hours for worrying signs such as lethargy, confusion, pain, or limping. Cats are notoriously stoic, so they often try to hide it when they’ve been hurt.
If you have any worries at all that your cat may have been injured in a fall, contact a vet near you for an appointment. Better safe than sorry…having a thorough evaluation of your cat performed by a knowledgeable vet will give you peace of mind.