Caturday felid: The unfortunate fall of Jack the Cat

September 18, 2021 • 8:15 am

The friends I’m visiting in Cambridge have two daughters, and we visited one of them yesterday. This daughter, a nurse, has a special love for animals. So does her husband, and they have two cats and a dog.

This is the story of how one of the cats, Jack, accidentally fell from his third-floor apartment, sustained serious injuries, and is laid up for a long time with broken bones. But Jack will eventually be all right thanks to the expert help he got at the U.S.’s best veterinary hospital, Angell Animal Medical Center.

Jack is eleven years old, and is a sweet kitty. I met him in his better days, before last weekend’s accident. Here he is with his sister Bella (jack is the tuxedo cat). (The d*g, not shown, is named Bronson.)

Jack’s most notable peculiarity is his fondness for Venus Williams. His male staff is a tennis maven, but Jack ignores the television matches—except when Venus Williams is playing. When that happens, he’s glued to the set and watches the ball go back and forth. He will not watch any match in which Venus isn’t playing. Go figure.

Jack is an indoor cat, but is allowed on the porch, on the third floor of a Jamaica Plain triple-decker. Last Sunday he went missing, and a neighbor informed the male of Jack’s staff that there was a cat lying on the cement parking space below the porch.  Jack was immediately found and scooped up; he’d clearly fallen from the porch, though we don’t and won’t know how that happened.

He was immediately driven to Angell Medical Center, which fortunately was very close. They were taking only emergency cases, and accepted Jack immediately. They quickly determined that one front paw was broken very badly, and at first the ER vet doct thought the paw would have to be amputated. But Angell, having enormously competent vets, decided they could save the paw.

It was only later that a CAT scan (!) determined that jack had also shattered both joints that joined his lower mandible to his skull, so that had to be taken care of as well.

Of course I wanted to visit Jack, and I did and photographed the poor moggie. Here’s how I first saw him: confined to a bathroom so the other animals wouldn’t disturb him:

Poor Jack! He can move and even walk a bit to his litter box on his injured paw, but most of the time, senses dulled by painkillers, he lies on his blanket. His paw is all bandaged and pinned, and the three buttons around his mouth are to keep it stitched shut until his shattered mandible heals (he can open his mouth 1 cm to eat). He’s also wearing the Cone of Shame:

Below: Jack’s poor wounded paw. He had a fracture of the second and third metacarpal bones, a fourth and fifth left carpometacarpal joint luxation, as well as the mandibular fractures, a collapsed lung, and contusions on the lung (those have largely healed). He’ll be laid up for six weeks, minimum, but in the end he should be all right, although perhaps without the mobility he used to have.

Note the many pins holding his wrist bones together; there’s a cushion on the end so the bits that stick out won’t injure him.

Here’s a photo of the first page of Jack’s medical report, discharge certificate, and instructions for care, which in total runs 3.5 pages. These people are thorough! Fortunately, Jack had medical pet insurance, as this kind of treatment isn’t cheap.

Jack is well loved, and can be picked up gently:

His wounded face is even brushed with a human eye makeup brush:

Here’s the porch from which Jack fell, landing on the cement parking area below. Perhaps he was interested in a squirrel or bird, and fell off in his enthusiasm, or perhaps he was walking on the railing and lost his balance.

It’s well known that cats falling from heights show an unusual phenomenon: they are more likely to be injured when falling from lower stories, as they don’t get a chance to right themselves and land on their feet, as well as increasing air resistance. This turns out to be a statistical artifact, see Greg’s comment below.

Jack will eventually heal, but send him your good wishes for a speedy recovery.

31 thoughts on “Caturday felid: The unfortunate fall of Jack the Cat

  1. Please keep us updated on his recovery. And off topic, d*g topic — is Bronson named for Charles or for Frank? I ask because I used to work for Frank.

  2. Poor Jack! I have never seen a cat that has suffered such a catastrophic (no pun intended) fall. It’s fortunate that he has such excellent care and medical insurance. For me, one of the most pathetic things is the shaved fur — so sad. Wishing Jack a speedy recovery!

  3. Very best wishes to Jack – fingers crossed for a full recovery. Seeing those buttons sewn around his mouth put me in mind of the “Yes, sir, in my opinion you have excellent legal grounds for a medical malpractice suit” cartoon by Leigh Rubin in Thursday’s Hili dialogue. But given the skill and care of the Angell Medical Center staff I think it’s more a case of the “We can rebuild him; we have the technology” cat photo from yesterday’s Hili.

  4. Awww! I’m so glad he will be OK. I often wonder if cats understand why they’re in, say, a cone. Do they understand that they’re injured, and that they’re not being tortured, but helped in their recovery?

    Anyway, I thought from the headline that the cat must have made an “offensive” tweet or something, and thus got cancelled. At least he can recover from these injuries.

    Best wishes to Jack and his loving servants!

  5. Oh my heart! Dear Jack, best wishes for a speedy recovery. I am so sorry you have to go through this. How wonderful to have such a loving staff, and such amazing medical care. Jack is a sweetheart. Seeing our animals in pain is so heart-breaking…love to his staff too! Thank you for his excellent care. Please keep us posted.

  6. Yes, a very fortunate cat I am told. My wife knows about that medical facility which caused me to wonder how. Apparently she donates to that place, one of the best in the country.

  7. Best of luck to Jack and please keep us posted. A very unfortunate accident and I’m so sorry to hear he fell.
    Please keep us posted.

  8. Here’s to Jack — and to his discerning tennis
    viewing! I had a cat who loved hearing
    Beethoven and ran up his ladder whenever
    he heard Beethoven. I tried to trick him once
    by playing some late Mozart. No response.
    I exclaimed, “It’s Beethoven,” in a duplicitous
    attempt to test him. Of course, it was in vain.

  9. What a shock for your friends. I imagine their hearts were in their stomachs when they realized it was Jack. We just had a small upset in that one of the indoor only got lost for 2days and a night. Would have been terrified had it been worse.
    We wish all the best for Jack, staff and companions.

  10. It is a myth that cats tend to survive falls from greater heights. See survivor bias. Your source even acknowledges this albeit in a single sentence buried in the article. I am shocked and disappointed this blog of all blogs fell for that myth. Does a thinking person really believe that a cat has a better chance of surviving a crash at 60mph vs. 30mph? Come ON.

    1. You know, Matt, I’m not perfect; I do make mistakes and I will correct this one. But what shocks me is your arrogance and rudeness, which of course, as a Roolz violation of the first water, replete with many insults toward the host, means you’ll never post on this site again. You could have made your correction politely but no, you chose to be a jackass, a species we don’t harbor on this site.

      Grow up and act like a human being, not an enraged bully.

      1. Good work & Amen! No to jackasses everywhere!

        As a relative to Jack’s staff, I had heard about Jack but not to such detail, so many thanks for this!

  11. Jack could not have been in better hands than Angell. I lived in the Boston area for five years and the doctors at Angell saved the lives of my cat and my dog. As someone who has had pets for 55 years and, alas but inevitably, has had a great deal of experience with fancy and expensive veterinary hospitals in NY, LA, and three Vet School hospitals in the east, midwest, and west, I can say that Angell is in a class of its own. An amazingly competent and gifted collection of vets.

  12. 1. The “high rise” cat story is a famous artifact of biased sampling, which I just covered in my statistics class. Cats are not less injured by falls from high rises (the supposed occurrence of which led to various speculations as to why it was so). The study claiming so was based on cats brought to veterinary hospitals. But the only cats brought to hospitals are ones that were visibly injured and survived; the true distribution of injury among cats falling from buildings is not known, because the ones that are killed by the fall (or have no visible injuries) never get brought in for diagnosis. It’s kind of like the famous case of bullet holes in bombers returning to base during WW II– the most dangerous bullets hit the cockpit, but planes so hit didn’t often return.

    2. Angell Hospital is well known. When I was a grad student, we had a student volunteer in the reptile department of the museum who also volunteered at Angell.

    3. Jack is triply blessed– by his staff, his neighbor, and his being close to such a good hospital!


  13. Wow, what a horrible event. I’m relieved to know that Jack will pull through and I hope we get an update here and there.

  14. I also wish Jack a speedy recovery, and hope that we will receive updates on his progress. I’m glad we live in a single story house!

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