If you live in a high rise building or condo and suspect or even know for a fact that your cat enjoys sitting on the balcony, you might be wondering whether it’s safe to let a cat on the balcony, or if it’s possible your cat might jump off the balcony and become injured, get lost, or even die.
I’m going to start off by saying that while I personally don’t think it’s safe to let your cat sit on the balcony typically (I’ll get into why in a little bit), I also believe there are ways you can mitigate the risk of your cat falling from a balcony that make it possible for you to allow access to your cat.
But even these tips should be used with extreme caution because there’s always a chance that your precious cat could fall from a balcony.
First I’m going to get into whether or not cats will jump off or fall off of balconies in the first place, then I’ll get into how to mitigate risks so you can potentially allow access to your cat (again, with extreme caution!).
Will Cats Jump off Balconies?
Typically speaking, cats will not jump off balconies – but there’s a lot of exceptions to this rule that make it unsafe for you to have a cat freely on a balcony that I believe make the process not worth the risk.
Cats are comfortable with heights, they don’t typically fear them. They understand instinctually (in my opinion) that they shouldn’t just jump off a balcony.
At the same time, there are a lot of situations where cats may actually jump or fall off a balcony by accident, and these aren’t uncommon situations at all.
Types of Situations Where Cats Can Jump or Accidentally Fall off Balconies
1. Cats who see a bird on the ledge of balcony might jump onto the ledge to catch a bird and lose balance.
While cats are often not going to be interested in the ledge of a balcony, there’s a high chance that if there’s a bird on that balcony ledge, a cat’s going to gain interest pretty darn quick.
One wrong move on that ledge could mean a fall. And while cats typically have top-of-the-line balance, a lot of things could cause them to lose their balance.
Take a slightly wet ledge with no grip, for instance, which could easily cause a cat to lose his or her footing long enough to slip and fall.
2. Cats trying to catch a bird on a balcony, might try to follow that bird down to precarious places where they get stuck, or may jump to catch a bird off a ledge entirely.
Cats are the definition of a man on a mission when they’ve eyeballed something they want to catch to play with or eat.
Whether the prey is or is not in a safe place for them to try to catch may not be an assessment a cat can accurately make all time when instincts have kicked in and a cat’s dead set on catching a bird.
This means if there are dangerous places a bird’s jumped to near the ledge of your balcony, a cat might try to jump there to catch that bird.
Or may even jump down from a ledge if he or she sees a bird and thinks he or she can catch it, if only they could get closer. A recipe for disaster if you ask me.
3. Cats who are playful stop paying so much attention to their surroundings. This can cause cats to fall from ledges.
If you’ve ever played with cats to the point where they’re fully engaged and hardwired to catch a prey, or seen a cat use their crazy predator drive instincts to catch a bird outdoors, you’ve probably noticed that, while most of the time, they’ll be balanced and avoid a lot of accidents, they’re also way more likely in this play mode to get into some dangerous situations that they wouldn’t otherwise if they weren’t playing.
If you’ve seen a cat around a stair banister – this is a good example. If your cat can weave in between the posts of your stairs, you’re likely pretty confident that he or she won’t fall from the steps.
But if you’ve ever tried playing with a cat, you probably instinctually know not to do this at the top of the stairs, because cats will typically lose track of their surroundings, putting all their focus into the act of catching their toy, so they definitely have a lot higher chance of falling through the posts of your stairs from the top of the stairwell if they’re playing.
4. Being startled can cause agile cats to lose balance and fall.
Not all cats are scardy cats, but even the most fearless of cats can be startled here and there – whether it’s by loud noises, an object not being where they thought it was going to be, the sound of construction, the clash of lightening, a car abruptly honking, a human yelling beneath them, the list goes on forever.
And it doesn’t take much for a startled cat to lose balance and fall, or back up through the poles of a balcony, falling straight through completely by accident.
Not a nice way to go.
5. Hunting + fear from being started is a terrible combination.
If cats lose track of almost everything when they’re concentrating on hunting a prey, focusing almost exclusively on something like a pigeon that’s landed on a ledge and then while in the throws of this hunt, is startled, heaven knows what could happen.
It’s really not worth the risk, not at all, in my opinion, even if the likelihood that this happens is very small. All it takes is for the odds to line up and a really bad accident could happen.
But Isn’t It Okay if Cats Fall From High Places?
Honestly, no it’s not okay if cats fall from high places.
Have they survived falls before because of their kickass biology and their ability to basically right their bodies while falling in the air so that they usually land on their feet? Yes, they have, and if you’d like to learn more about how far cats can fall, which makes for a pretty interesting read, and you can learn about it here.
But do all these cats survive? No. Only around 90% do.
And the fall has to be high enough and low enough for this “trick” of nature to work – essentially they have to fall from the second story to the seventh story or their chances of death are much, much higher, a chance of death that was already at 10% to begin with if they fell from any one of these stories.
And that’s not even counting the fact that so many of the cats that survived were injured.
If you have a cat fall from your balcony, take him or her to the vet immediately, even if they look fine because they still need to be checked out for broken bones and a heck of a lot of other things that could kill a cat after a fall even if they look fine initially.
So if a cat falls from a high place he or she’s incredibly likely to be injured, has a minimum of a 10% chance of dying, and oh yeah that one last thing that could suck if it happens – he or she could try to hide away, terrified, and could get lost.
Still a chance you want to take?
How Can I Make My Balcony Safer for My Cat?
If you really want to allow your cat on the balcony every so often, here are some tips I have for making your cat less likely to fall:
1. Fence in your balcony
If it’s at all a possibility for you to fence in your balcony somehow, please do.
You can try to do this with chicken wire or metal bars, even with glass if you like the idea of turning your balcony into some type of sunroom and this is permitted by the building you live in.
If you’re a tenant, a lot of options, like fencing in your balcony with chicken wire, are better options since they are temporary structures that can easily be taken down when you move, and thus you shouldn’t have trouble getting permission to do them from your landlord.
2. Keep your cat on a harness when you take him or her on your balcony.
I used to love the idea of taking my cat on walks, but when I tried taking my first cat, Avery, outside in our back garden on a regular cat harness made up of strips of fabric, like these, even though it was labelled “escape proof,” I quickly found out how easy it actually was to escape from.
Two seconds flat and he was out of that thing, terrified, and ready to bolt out of the garden. We almost lost him that day!
We tried again with a full body vest style harness, and this worked better since he didn’t immediately get loose, but he pulled on it so hard and was so terrified of being outside, I figured he’d probably get loose eventually and didn’t risk it.
Still I think these vests, while not perfectly inescapable, are a lot better than the standard kind which I feel are much too easy to break loose from.
If you have a cat on a balcony and have a harness on him and keep your hand on the leash, if he or she starts to make his or her way onto the ledge to go catch a bird, you can quickly pull him or her back, assuring safety to some extent, so I feel this is a better option.
3. Don’t leave your cat unattended on the balcony.
If your cat’s on the balcony, that’s where I believe you should be too.
There’s no way you can help prevent a fall from happening if you’re not on the balcony with your cat, and if the worst does happen and your cat falls, at least you’ll know immediately and can take action.
Final Thoughts on Cats on Balconies
Unless there’s a fool proof way of preventing a cat from falling off a balcony, such as fencing that prevents a cat from being able to fall off the balcony, I don’t personally it’s safe for cats to be on balconies.
There are ways that you can minimize risks, but I don’t think any of these are worth the potential downside, since it could mean death, getting lost, or a terrible injury – for a little bit of enjoyment. At least that’s my perspective.
Your Thoughts on Cats on Balconies?
Now it’s your turn to share what you think: Do you feel like it’s safe for cats to be on balconies?
Do you think cats would be likely to jump off a balcony or fall off by accident some other way? Have you any stories related to cats and balconies to share?
Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments below!
I am reading this too late. My 2-year old cat fell yesterday from our balcony. He didnt survive the 12-story fall. We had fenced it but I think he found the way to chase a bird and jump high enough to fall to the other side. He was found down right where he fell, apparently he died immediately.
Just writing this to ensure people do realize how dangerous balconies are, even when your cats seem already familiar with the balcony and have been ok so far (for us it had been a year of thinking the fence around the balcony was enough).
Take care of your furry one please.
My dad’s best friend told me a story a little while ago about him and his wife when they moved into their first apartment back in the 80’s. She really wanted a cat, so he brought home a kitten for her. He said that the moment he put the kitten down on their living room floor, it dashed right past his wife and made a bee line straight towards the balcony(unfortunately with the sliding door open). It ran off the ledge and fell to its death. He said she was crying for 2 weeks non-stop. They had their first cat for under a minute. As sad as this story is, the way he had told it to me, I couldn’t help but laugh while imagining this happening. Personally, I would never let the cat on the balcony if I lived any higher than the 3rd floor. Heck, I wouldn’t even have a cat if I lived in an apartment, it’s too cooped up there.
And I just want to clarify that when I say this story made me laugh, in no way do I find a cat falling off a balcony funny or amusing. It’s the way my dad’s friend tells stories, he’s the type of person that can make anything sound funny, so I just wanted to make sure that nobody reads my comment and thinks that I find it funny when a cat or kitten gets hurt. I love my kitties so much I would probably jump off after them and die trying to save them.
Good tips. I say if your cat(s) might be thinking of jumping off stop them.