Jon Geller, D.V.M.,, Dipl ABVP  
Ft. Collins, CO

Specialties: Canine and Feline Medicine

Interests: Urgent Care, Emergency care, critical care
Veterinary Emergency Hospital
970 484-8080
Ft. Collins, CO
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High Rise Syndrome: Skydiving cats

Aug 05, 2009 - 8 comments





high-rise syndrome


underwater treadmill

Several weeks ago, a kitten came into our emergency clinic that had fallen 50 feet out of a tree. Amazingly, the owner had caught the falling feline just before it hit the ground, but on the way down the kitten hit a large branch. His back leg was clearly broken, and after giving some pain meds we talked to the owner about his two options: Fix the broken leg, or amputate. Three legged cats, or "tripods" as they are affectionately known, have become quite the designer pet as of late. Thankfully, so far, Paris Hilton et all have not discovered this trend.

Unfortunately, this kitten owner was cash-strapped, and was forced to elect a third option: humane euthanasia due to lack of funds. The owner signed a euthanasia and cremation form, and the Siamese-mix kitten sat in a cage awaiting his fate. As the doctor on shift, it was my job to perform the euthanasia, but I stalled. After all, pain meds were on board. My procrastination had its reward an hour later when one of our vet-student nurses came to work. She took one look at the kitten and proclaimed her willingness to take over its care if the previous owner was willing to surrender him. One phone call later, and with the help of another veterinarian skilled at fixing bones, and Thomas' (his new name) broken leg was pinned together.

Cats have an amazing ability to survive large falls. In New York City, a veterinary study showed that if a cat fell more than 7 stories, it was much less likely to be injured than a cat that falls just a few floors. With the occasional absence or removal of window screens, it is not unusual for cats to find their way onto window ledges and airborne danger. What usually happens when they fall is that they slowly try to right themselves (by this time they have fallen 3-4 stories), and once righted, float down, parachute-like, to land on their feet. If they land before they are righted and relaxed, there are usually severe injuries because they are tense and flailing.

As I write this Blog, Thomas is curled up in my lap (occasionally introducing some typos on the keyboard), because our technician could not keep him after his leg was fixed, and she was trying to find a new home for him, and no one else would take him and well...here he is.

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Very handsome boy!   And kudos to you and your staff for helping out this little guy.

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by Tammy2009, Aug 05, 2009
Awwww the poor kitty!

My 3 year old scared the hell out of me when we got his paw between and actually got our screen opened, all to get a bug.  

Of course this was only from the second story and nearly gave me a heart attack seeing him perched on the window seal reaching out to smack a moth.  

I named him Boomer for a reason, he is the least graceful cat I know, constantly falling off the steps and cat scratcher.  -rolls eyes-

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by riec49, Aug 05, 2009
The title "Skydiving Kitties" caught my attention. My new kitten, Estrella, likes to bask in the sun and chase bugs on my balcony. I have a safety screen, but there is a space at the bottom. Unfortunately just big enough for her to get through. I constantly worry she will chase a bug over the edge. Needless to say, she doesn't get as much outside time as she would like. I am working on a solution.
I am so glad Thomas is okay. And three cheers for the last minute saviors.

Avatar universal
by A_Mark, Aug 06, 2009
Personally would return him to his original owner.

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by deebelle3, Aug 08, 2009
Indeed Thomas is a survivor and meant to have a full life!!!


Avatar universal
by h8pain, Aug 09, 2009
did you check with previous owner if he-she wants tripod thomas? Or was the cash poor -person making excuses? He deserves a good life after such a rough patch. KUDOS on the save.

Avatar universal
by critterlvr7, Aug 09, 2009
Unfortunately, if the cash poor person was so quick to sign the "death" papers,and someone else footed the bill, I do not think the cat should be returned. I'm not saying it might have been a hard decision for the previous owner, but it
may have been a case where they just didn't want to deal with it. Having an animal is a responsibility as well as a pleasure. If there were complications or further care needed, would the previous owner again say,  I can't afford it, just put him to sleep?
Although "tripod Thomas" sounds like he gets around pretty well, he is still sort of a "special needs" cat, and is already in an environment where someone is willing and able to handle it.

Avatar universal
by Gringojon, Dec 20, 2010
Has anyone saw the PBS special about Sky Rise Fever where English researchers throw cats out of different levels to study how they deal with it. They said all cats turn the same way and the further up the cat is the more he can kite like a flying squirrel. Hence low flung cats get hurt while higher cats survive unscratched.
Nevertheless the cats didn't appear amused.
Please send me the name of the show:***@****

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