Lilac the Kitten Rescued after Falling from the 12th Story of an Apartment Building

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Lilac before surgery. PSPCA photo.


Humane Law Enforcement officers with the PSPCA (Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) received a report of a “cat thrown from window” from the 12th story of an apartment building last month and went to investigate the call. After inspecting the scene, there was no evidence of animal cruelty and the kitten in question was rescued and taken to the PSPCA shelter hospital for examination. The officers called the kitten “Lilac”.

PSPCA veterinarians noted that Lilac had fractures of both femurs, a fracture of her hard palate and a soft tissue injury to her wrist. She was stabilized, and then sent to the University of Pennsylvania for surgery. She had both femurs surgically repaired, dental radiographs done to better asses her jaw, and oral surgery to repair her palate.

When the Humane Law Enforcement officers returned to the apartment building the next day to collect more information, they were approached by a very upset woman that heard the PSPCA may have her cat. While owner wasn’t home, the kitten had access to balcony and fell from 12th story of the building. Knowing the large medical bills that the kitten would require – potentially up to $6,000 worth of medical care – the woman surrendered her kitten to the PSPCA. Lilac was a victim of High-rise syndrome.

With the warm weather, cat owners are eager to open their windows and let their pets bask in the sun. This can lead to High-rise syndrome, an often overlooked potential danger. A common problem seen by veterinarians in cities nationwide, it occurs when animals, especially young cats, become startled in their cozy spot in the window or unknowingly chase a bug or bird right off a balcony or through an unsecured window. “Oftentimes people say, ‘cats always land on their feet,’ but it is a common misconception that cats will not be injured if they fall from even low height levels,” says PSPCA Staff Veterinarian JoEllen Bruinooge. “In fact, they may actually have more damage when falling from only two-to-four stories because they do not have time to adjust their body position.” Cats will often survive from heights higher than any human could survive, however, these cats will often experience very serious, life-threatening injuries such as fractures of their jaw or the roof of their mouth, brain injury, lung damage or multiple broken legs.

Dr. Bruinooge believes that prevention is key to avoiding High-rise syndrome injuries and suggests the following tips:

  • Secure windows with well-fitting, animal proof screens
  • When able, open the top pane of windows that are inaccessible to pets, rather than the bottom panes
  • Never leave windows open when animals are unattended
  • Close windows before starting loud appliances such as vacuums or blenders that may startle cats
  • If pets are allowed out on balconies never leave them unattended. Even then, do not allow then to jump onto railings or banisters. Move all furniture away from railings to lower access or better yet just don’t let them out. Accidents happen!
  • Close windows before playing chase or fetch games inside with your pet, they may be more focused on that laser pointer than the approaching window


If your pet does accidentally fall from a window, get them to the veterinarian immediately. There is a 90% survival rate for cats who are high-rise victims if they receive immediate and proper medical attention. There is no ‘at-home’ treatment, and many of these pets are in extreme pain whether they show the symptoms of pain or not.

After Lilac the kitten had surgery, she went into foster care with one of the students working at UPenn who was involved in her care. Lilac was later adopted by that same student and her injuries have fully healed.

Fox29/MyFoxPhilly reported on the story and the warning to petparents about cats and tall residential buildings:


Lilac after surgery. PSPCA photo.


<via the PSPCA>

2 thoughts on “Lilac the Kitten Rescued after Falling from the 12th Story of an Apartment Building”

  1. in Brasil you must have some sort of netting to keep your cats in and also your children! many shelters will not adopt to you if you do not have highrise safety in your home!!!

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