Leap Of Faith: Cats And Condos

Dr. John Kaya
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Wednesday - June 03, 2009
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Urban legends emerge from the creative minds of individuals who witness memorable events. As a child, I heard many a tales and believed them all until proven otherwise. At camp we used to put our friend’s hand in warm water in hopes that he would urinate in his sleeping bag. Unfortunately (?), it never worked. I also spent many nights staring at statues in cemeteries wishing that they would move as rumored.

And then an urban legend unfolded before my very eyes. What I’m about to share with you is true. I was there. As usual, the names and furry faces have been changed to protect the innocent.

It was a calm afternoon at the veterinary hospital with the usual appointments: coughing, vaccinations, diarrhea, etc. Suddenly, my front office alerted me of the emergency that was on the way. A cat fell from the 10th floor of an apartment building and survived. ETA (estimated time of arrival) was 15 minutes. Our staff knew the drill very well. We practice emergency situations on a regular basis just for this type of occasion. Will the cat survive? Who knows? Survival isn’t guaranteed, but we’ll try our best. We owe it to our patients.


Sunny was a happy, friendly 2-year-old cat. He would often go onto the lanai of his apartment and lounge in the afternoon sun. An occasional bird would catch his attention, but it was only a fleeting distraction. After all, Sunny lived 10 stories above the ground and he couldn’t possibly catch a bird.

Or could he? On this day, his owner, Brent, saw Sunny leap onto the rail of the lanai as a flock of pigeons flew by. One swat, two swats, and Sunny was over the edge. Not believing his eyes at first, Brent rushed to the balcony and looked to the courtyard below. The trees and bushes obscured his vision, and his heart pounded with the realization that Sunny fell 10 stories to a painful end. Rushing downstairs, Brent found Sunny under a bush, alive but definitely injured.

Upon arrival, we immediately placed an IV catheter, ran blood work and took X-rays. The results were nothing short of a miracle. Mild elevation in liver enzymes meant trauma to the liver, and the X-rays revealed lung contusions. Strangely, there was not one broken bone in Sunny’s body. We placed him into an oxygen cage and administered medication to stabilize his condition. Three days later, Sunny went home.

Since then I’ve seen two other cats survive a fall from the 10th floor and one from the seventh floor. Cats have the ability to get their bearing and prepare for the impact. Prepare for impact? How do you prepare for the meeting of earth and body after falling more than 100 feet at a speed of 9.8m/s2? Very few animals will survive a fall from those heights.

The fact of the matter is that cats are just amazing creatures. Their death-defying leaps of faith are what legends are made of.

Do I believe in urban legends? You bet I do. Miraculous true stories evolve into urban legends, especially if you live on the wild side.

Pet tips:

1) If you live in an apartment or condominium, be aware of your pets and take precautions to prevent their inadvertent fall over the balcony rail. Accidents do happen.

2) If your pet experiences a fall at great heights, take it to your veterinarian even if it looks “OK.” Some internal injuries can only be detected with tests and may warrant hospitalization and treatment.

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