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Cat-tastrophe

By: David Levin Published: Sep 4, 2018
 Bridget back at home looking better than ever.
Bridget back at home looking better than ever.

At only two months old, Bridget the kitten has had a lot of close calls. She was thrown from a stranger’s car off the South Street bridge in Philadelphia—where she landed, miraculously unharmed—and was rescued by her current foster owner, Ariel Smith, who named her after the ordeal. After a few weeks in the relative safety of Smith’s apartment, though, Bridget ran headfirst into yet another death-defying situation.

“She and my two cats had become buddies by then, and liked to chase each other at breakneck speeds back and forth across the room,” said Smith. “They came bolting by and I heard a crash, then looked over and saw a gaping window. My heart just stopped. It was a horrifying moment.”

Bridget had somehow managed to dislodge the open window’s screen, tumbling four stories to the pavement below. Smith and her partner frantically searched for her, and eventually found her panting underneath a parked car, bleeding from her mouth. “We knew we had to get her checked out, and that every second counted,” Smith said.

She rushed her kitten to the Ryan Hospital’s emergency service, where veterinarians stabilized her and searched for broken bones before admitting her to the Intensive Care Unit overnight.

“Bridget suffered from classic ‘high rise disorder’,” said Dr. Lori Waddell, Clinical Professor of Emergency & Critical Care, who monitored Bridget in the ICU. “We see this a lot in the warmer months. Cats fall off of balconies or windowsills, and have a range of injuries to their upper bodies. They come in with cranial and oral fractures, internal bleeding, abrasions, broken ribs, that sort of thing.”

X-rays taken at Ryan Hospital showed that several of Bridget’s ribs were indeed broken. Tiny tears in her lungs had also caused air to leak into her chest cavity, making it difficult for her to breathe. The hospital immediately removed the trapped air with a needle, freeing up space for her lungs to expand, put her on fluids and pain medication, and placed her in an oxygen cage to help slow her rapid breathing. After three days of monitoring, she was eventually released back to Smith’s care.

X-ray of Bridget's chest shows the broken ribs suffered in her fall.
An x-ray of Bridget's chest shows the broken ribs suffered in her fall.
   

“That’s pretty amazing given the amount of trauma she could have had,” said Waddell. “Other cats aren’t as lucky. It’s really important for owners to secure windows and keep cats away from terraces or balconies where we could see them fall. They’re amazingly curious animals, so if they see a bug or bird going by, they’ll jump for it. In a city environment, that can be really dangerous.

Today, Bridget has made a full recovery, and is back to chasing her foster brothers around Smith’s apartment. “At less than a year old, she’s already been through a lot, but she has an unbreakable spirit. She’s a sweet girl with energy and love to spare,” said Smith.

Despite her rough beginnings, Bridget’s story has a happy ending. In early September, Smith and her partner found a “forever” home for Bridget—with a loving family that plans to keep their windows securely closed.

Bridget safe in the arms of her foster.
Bridget safe in the arms of her foster.