High-Rise Kitty Bounces Back After Injuries

May 3, 2017


It was an unseasonably warm Monday in late February, after weekend temperatures had climbed into the 60s, when a Good Samaritan found an injured male cat outside his Manhattan apartment and brought him to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH).

Dr. Danielle Delfino, an ASPCA veterinarian, admitted and examined the cat, who was bleeding from the nose. He had suffered head trauma, as well as a broken lower jaw and split palate. And his left hind leg was fractured in two places.

Shea's x ray

The 10-month-old domestic shorthair’s injuries were consistent with falling from a window of a high-rise building, known as “high-rise syndrome.” He was soon dubbed “Shea.”

Dr. Delfino set about treating Shea’s head trauma with fluids, and inserted an esophageal feeding tube.

“He really improved by the next day, so I was optimistic,” said Dr. Delfino, who oversaw Shea’s care at AAH with veterinary intern Dr. Christopher Celentano. “Despite his injuries, he purred and seemed happy.”

Three days later, Dr. Melanie Glass, another ASPCA veterinarian, made the difficult decision to amputate Shea’s left hind leg, and he was also neutered.

“After the amputation it was obvious that Shea was much more comfortable,” said Dr. Delfino. “He bounced back, used the litter box and ate well. It didn’t take him long to adjust to three legs.”

Shea in recovery

Shea had also suffered a hemorrhage of the white part of his right eye and exhibited a shortness of breath, a symptom of a mild pneumothorax, or abnormal collection of air in the pleural space of the lung. Thankfully, both of these issues resolved on their own.

One week after being admitted to the hospital, Shea was moved to the ASPCA Adoption Center, where he became a staff favorite.

“He had the most docile personality, which was amazing considering what he’d been through,” says Dr. Felicia Magnaterra, who oversaw Shea’s recovery in adoptions.

Not all cats are as lucky as Shea. But high-rise syndrome is completely preventable. Pet owners can fully safeguard their animals by installing snug and sturdy screens in all their windows, even those with childproof window guards, because cats and small dogs can easily slip through those.

Last year, veterinarians at the AAH saw 97 cases of high-rise syndrome. The most common injuries associated with these incidents are shattered jaws, bruised or punctured lungs and broken limbs and pelvises. 

On March 12, Miranda Jackson, a dancer who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, visited the ASPCA for the second time in a week. “I had been thinking about adopting a cat for a while and was ready,” says Miranda, who had cats growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Miranda and Ichiro

Miranda, who is one-quarter Japanese, changed Shea’s name to Ichiro, which means “first son.”  The few concerns she had about adopting an amputee soon evaporated.

“At first I was nervous that he would hurt himself; he stumbled and fell a few times and cried for help,” Miranda says. “He couldn't jump on my bed, but he worked hard and now jumps as high as the kitchen counter. He runs like he has four legs and is completely unbothered by his affliction.”

Ichiro playing

Miranda also reports that Ichiro follows her everywhere and loves everyone he meets—and vice versa—whether in person or not.  “My parents think he’s cute,” says Miranda. “We Skype, and I send them videos. They love him back and send toys.”

Ichiro’s “ultimate” favorite toy is the laser pointer. “Every night he runs up and down the hallway chasing it,” says Miranda.

And it just so happens that Ichiro’s favorite perch is a fourth-floor windowsill, where he likes to watch birds and take in the outdoors.

Ichiro resting

But Miranda assures her window screens are tightly secured.

“I’m so happy he survived,” she says. “He really is a treasure!”