Living the high-rise lifestyle? There are probably many safety and comfort precautions you have taken to make sure that your pet is able to enjoy it with you, like taking them outside multiples times a day, being sure they get lots of exercise, and perhaps setting up an inside potty pad for when you're gone a long time.
But, when it comes to your balcony, there are some extra steps you need to take to make sure your fuzzy friend stays in good spirits and good health.
At first glance, your balcony may look like a fantastic hangout spot to take your dog or cat. After all, it's a great way for you to get some fresh air, enjoy the breeze, and take in the view. Why wouldn't your pet want to be out there with you?
The truth is, as much as your four-legged buddy may want to be by your side when you're hanging out on the balcony, it may not always be the wisest decision to let them go out with you, especially when they are not being carefully attended. The reality of it is that a balcony can be a very dangerous place for your cat or dog. Not only do they risk falling down, they might also ingest toxic house plants or get burned by a hot grill.
Does that mean your balcony should be off limits? Let's take a closer look so you can decide for yourself.
#1 Falling Hazards
Obviously, your dog or cat's biggest threat on the balcony is the risk of them falling. For dogs, the main thing you have to look for is the height of your handrail (it should be a minimum of 3-feet in height) and then the spacing of the bannisters around the balcony.
If your dog can fit their head through, they can get stuck. If they can fit their entire body through, you have a serious falling hazard! Hopefully your banisters will be spaced close enough together that your dog cannot fit through them, whether on purpose or on accident. Then the next thing to look to is the height of your balcony. Can your dog put his front feet up? If not, your balcony has a low falling risk for them.
However, if your dog can put their feet up, it's up to you to judge the sturdiness of the railings and how likely or capable your dog may be of jumping up. A big, energetic dog and a short railing won't mix well and it can pose a big threat to your pet's safety.
On the other hand, a cat is much more likely to do so, even with proper boundaries and fixing, since they can jump up and sit on the railing. In fact, you practically can't prevent your cat from making the hand rail into their favorite hangout.
No matter how graceful your cat may be, you should definitely keep them away from your balcony considering the falling hazard. It only takes a gust of wind, a small misstep, or something to startle them and it can cause serious injury, or worse.
It has actually become such a common problem that vets have named it "high rise syndrome". Over a four-year period, one study looked at 119 cats that had fallen from high rises. Of those, 97% survived but 46% were faced with fractured limbs and many more sustained serious injuries. Even if you live on the second floor, your balcony may not be a good place for your cat to hang out.
#2 Escape Hazards
Maybe your pet can get out of and away from your balcony safely, but many vets agree that this is the real threat behind a balcony and one of the major reasons why your pet should not be allowed to hang out on it, especially unattended.
If your pet gets out of it (whether on purpose or on accident), they will face injuries like broken bones, skin abrasions, and damage to their internal organs. They might also experience facial trauma to their nose and teeth, broken jaws, split palates, and soft-tissue sprains. Regardless of whether or not they are injured, however, they face another big threat: being outside unattended.
Your pet is likely to run away and get lost, which puts them at an even bigger risk of being hurt or injured, especially if you live near a busy area. Your pet's ability to get away from your balcony is what makes it so dangerous. Once they get away from the balcony, you have no control over what might come into contact with them or what they may ingest.
#3 Burns & Injuries
Everyone likes to hangout on the balcony and have a good time. Maybe you want to invite your pet to hang out with you during your nighttime barbecue or cookout, which seems innocent enough, but it's really just asking for trouble. While you might be able to get away with this in a large backyard, even on a larger balcony, your pet is going to end up somewhere near the grill.
If the grill were to tip, or maybe if your pet causes it to tip, they are likely to be injured or burned as a result. Hot food, glasses, dishes, and even furniture can also be a threat to your pet's safety, especially considering that everyone will be moving around and your pet can quickly become a tripping hazard that causes the accident to begin with.
#4 Plants & Insect Threats
Do you keep house plants on your balcony? If you do, those can be pose a choking or toxicity hazard. The best thing to do is make sure that you aren't keeping any plants that may be dangerous to your pet if ingested, just in case they get to them by accident.
Even if you have checked that your plants are pet safe, there is another aspect that few high rise residents consider: insects. There are all sorts of poisonous and biting insects every where in the world, and there is no doubt that some exist around your balcony. If you do let your pet onto your balcony, where insects are likely to be attracted to (especially if you have plants), be certain that your pet is immunized.
Should Your Pet Be On The Balcony?
With all of this information in mind, it's really up to you to decide whether or not your pet should be allowed outside onto the balcony. In general, you should only ever do so with constant supervision and, of course, take all of the safety precautions you can before letting them out.
By taking these extra steps, you can keep your pet safe.