Apartment death is a very real thing, and having unsecured windows means that AVA and HDB have every right to ask you to remove your pet cats from your flat if your windows are unsecured. Apartment death is the no. 1 reason why there was the archaic ruling of HDB no cat policy in the first place, something our mother cat advocate group Cat Welfare Society is lobbying to change, but it takes time and requires every cat owner and potential adopter to cooperate.
Why do cats ever want to climb out of a window? Do they not realise the depth below?
The most common reason is because they spot a bird or insect, and want to approach it. Cats are hunter-predators, which means that by nature’s design, when they have focused on a target, they lose perception of everything else in order to lock their senses onto their prey. This is why when your cat is about to get into a fight with somebody else, you should not raise your voice too loudly or approach them from behind: they will assume their target is the source of the noise or contact and be propelled further into the fight or flight mode.
Another reason is because cats are naturally inclined to heights. If you do not have a secure window perch or height designed for cats to use, they will turn to other things, like windows. If your cat really likes to climb but doesn’t use his cat condo, it might be because the position of the cat condo is not where they can get a good view of their surroundings.
One more reason why cats may turn to windows even if they ordinarily don’t do it: in times of stress be it because of illness or changes in the household. When cats are stressed, their alert senses go up, which means that to feel secure they need to elevate themselves to be able to pounce on their source of stress (even if there is no visible target), as well as see things better and thus feel more secure. This is especially true for sedentary older cats that have no outlet to exercise like interactive toys or kitty companions. You will note these cats tend to do crazy things like dashing about the house suddenly for no reason (a behaviour known as streaking) even though they are usually very relaxed. This is also because of their natural hunter-predator biological makeup. Because illness can cause this type of behaviour, or even something as simple as you working longer hours than usual, by the time your cat gets stressed and suddenly starts streaking and climbing windows, it will be too late to get those windows secured.
What is an unsecured window? Open windows that have grilles only are considered unsecured. Top hung windows that cats can climb to via the grilles below are considered unsecured. Windows with faulty locks that can be opened by cats are considered unsecured. Unless you have windows that are permanently closed because of aircon, or grilles that have been specially designed to be tightly criss-crossed such that a kitten cannot go through, or you have special invisible cat grilles installed onto your existing grilles, your windows are unsecured and you cannot adopt a cat from any rescue group.
This problem is easily fixed by one of two ways: 1) mesh your windows with pvc covered wire mesh from hardware stores, or chicken wire, or wire racks available from Daiso using cable ties, twist ties or string, or 2) windows must be closed at all times even when there are people at home or your cat has never tried to go out. If you have the time and money, get a contractor to either install invisible cat grilles (an add on fitting) or change the grilles to ones with smaller holes.
This is even more important if you live on a lower floor. Contrary to popular opinion, the lower the floor, the higher the chance the cat cannot correct and turn onto its feet before landing, leading to injury and death, as well as being disqualified from ever adopting a rescue again. Rescuers who do rehoming have a blacklist of all people who have been inspected and flouted this important guideline so no one will allow you to adopt, and this list is shared with other rescuers. If you are spotted as an HDB cat owner with unsecured windows, neighbours can complain against you and you can be asked to remove your cats, and no one can help you fight such a case unless you mesh your windows. Some rescuers will even resort to removing your cats from your home if you are not willing to start securing your windows, even if the cats you have were not adopted from them. SPCA can also be called in to resolve the issue as unsecured windows are considered a sign or irresponsible pet ownership.
While we need to find new homes for cats all the time, this is an important requirement we need you to follow, because if any single one of the hundreds of adopters we have rehomed to over the years has an apartment death casualty, it will hurt our chances of rehoming rescue kittens and eventually these cats will forever be homeless. Your cat will get injured or die because of unsecured windows AND you will ruin the work of rescuers everywhere because we have to be more stringent about the screening: more work, longer process, extra expenses, fewer adopters because of the hassle.
So please understand when in our Adopters Questionnaire on our blog asks about window safety, normal grilles or supervision/training is not enough. Please help us help the cats find good homes, there are already more homeless cats in need of adopters than there are people who want them as it is.