I've been letting her out on the balcony a little more often in the past couple of weeks, because I thought she was big enough now that she wouldn't be likely to fit under the balcony railing anymore. She could certainly jump up on the top of the balcony and fall off it, so I was still always following her out there to stand guard over her - but I figured that since I'd probably hear her scrambling onto the balcony railing before she actually fell off it, I didn't have to be actually looking right at her absolutely every second. And today I received a notice that my apartment complex, which has been gradually repainting the balcony trim of all the buildings from dark red to white, is going to start painting mine on Friday, and that I need to remove everything from the balcony before then. So I went out to bring the potted plants in (or maybe I should say "the potted non-plants," since with the help of Stardust knocking them over sixteen times a day when they were inside, and then me forgetting to water them often enough when they were outside, I seem to have managed to kill off every single plant I own and I now own nothing but empty pots and potted corpses). I let Stardust follow me out, since she always wants to follow me everywhere.
As I was moving the pots, a few pebbles spilled over the top of one. Not a lot, maybe ten or twelve, really tiny pebbles, only a few millimeters in diameter. But they made a small clatter, about the same volume of the clatter that might happen if you spilled a handful of toothpicks or plastic drinking straws on a linoleum floor. In other words, pretty quiet. Somehow, though, it apparently terrified Stardust - she scrambled around behind me, and when I turned around, her head and shoulders and entire body had all squeezed under the balcony railing - there was nothing visible left of her but her back feet and her tail. In other words, she had basically already fallen off the edge of the balcony; there was nothing for her front feet to hold onto anymore, and without my intervention, it was really unlikely that from that position, she was going to be able to go any direction but down.
I put the pots down, as quickly but quietly as I possibly could (noise might easily have induced her to finish the leap), and grabbed her back feet, and successfully pulled her back under the railing and onto solid cement. And that was when she demonstrated for me, for the very first time ever, that she knows how to hiss. Yes, that's right - she hissed at me for saving her! Apparently it was a little uncomfortable or something. A whole lot less uncomfortable than going splat on the ground about ten feet below, I'm thinking - even for a cat. Falling that far, I'm pretty sure she'd have at least had some nasty bruises. She has lousy judgment about when to hiss. And even lousier judgment about which is more dangerous to her: a dozen two- to four-millimeter-wide pebbles rolling toward her, or going splat on the ground about ten feet below.
So now she's grounded. No more balcony privileges for her anytime soon. Maybe that way she'll actually manage to live to adulthood.