Protect your cat from accidental falls
One foot precisely placed in front of the
other, displaying a balancing act rarely
surpassed, Serafina navigates the narrow two-inch
walkway high above the ground. She leaps over
obstacles in her way, landing solidly beyond them,
determined to reach her destination. Olympic
gymnast? Circus high-wire artist? No, Serafina is
a common house cat.
mammals can outshine the cat in balance, leaping
ability and depth perception -- all talents needed
for a predator who, for thousands of years, had
hunted at least some of her meals from trees. The
single-tracking foot placement of the cat allows
her to move across thin tree branches as well as
the narrow back of a sofa. Powerful rear leg
muscles and relatively large hind feet enable her
to explode in a forward or upward thrust, while
keen depth perception ensures that the cat seldom
misses her target, be it windowsill or morsel of
Should the bough break or the counter prove too
slippery, do not fear -- the cat comes equipped
with a righting mechanism. The feline's
fast-working nervous system and flexible spine
enable the cat to right herself to a feet-first
position before falling twenty-four inches. Spongy
paw pads cushion the landing. In falls from fairly
high places, the cat will extend her spine and
stretch out her limbs in a sort of "flying
squirrel" likeness that slows the fall's velocity.
This allows some cats to survive plunges from
twenty-plus floors. But these capabilities too
often give pet owners a false sense of security
regarding a cat's safety.
Balance isn't enough
In warm weather, cats frequently are spotted
snoozing in open windows or sunning themselves on
fire escapes. Their caretakers are unconcerned
because they believe that their cats are creatures
of good sense and uncanny balance. If that is the
case, why are the cat wards of urban veterinary
hospitals filled with felines suffering shattered
jaws, punctured lungs and broken limbs and
pelvises? Why do these acrobatic daredevils come
crashing down to the ground with such frequency
that the veterinary profession has named the
complaint -- High-Rise Syndrome (HRS)?
One reason for HRS may be that napping cats,
like humans, experience both REM (Rapid Eye
Movement) and deep sleep. The muscle twitches and
dreaming associated with REM sleep can result in
enough movement and disorientation to knock a cat
off a narrow ledge. The intense prey drive of some
cats also may be their undoing, causing them to
leap out at a passing bird or insect before
considering the consequences. And in a few cases,
cats may fearfully flee out of an open window to
avoid unusual or sudden goings-on in the house or
apartment. More than one cat has escaped out the
opening left by an air conditioner removed for
servicing. All of these scenarios lead to HRS,
which results in medical expenses and a cat's
intense pain and suffering -- or death.
Why take chances?
With a little forethought, calamity can be
avoided. Make sure all windows have been fitted
with snug, sturdy screens before opening them.
Adjustable screens should be tightly wedged into
window frames. Use your air conditioner instead of
taking a chance on flimsy screens that can be
nudged out of the way by a determined cat. Before
allowing your cat out on a balcony or terrace,
check that she cannot fit through ironwork or
lounge on the balustrade. If a cat can fit her
head through an opening, her body usually can be
worked through as well. Use deck netting or wire
mesh to insure safety, and only allow the cat
access when properly supervised. If construction
or service work leaves an open hole in a wall,
keep your cat out of the area.
Let's insure that Serafina's feline acrobatics
will be wowing her appreciative family audience
for years to come.
Article courtesy: The American
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Printed with permission.
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