Cat stuck in a tree?

Randall Kolb

It happens all the time.  All cats are natural tree climbers, but when it is time to come down, some cats know how and some don’t.  Those that don’t know how to come down are truly stuck.

Don’t let your cat suffer any longer.  If you are in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area, give me a call or e-mail.  I will rescue your cat, and it won’t cost you a penny.

I rescue cats for free because I love cats, I hate suffering, and I don’t want the cat to suffer just because someone can’t pay.  Besides, I am retired, so I have the time, and this does not take me away from a paying job.  This is one way in which I am uniquely suited to reduce suffering, and it gives me great joy to do so.

It is very important to me that people know that I will rescue their cat even if they can't afford it.  For this reason, I refuse any offer of payment even though I am very grateful for the gesture.  If you want to give something, I encourage you instead to make a donation to Cat Haven or any other animal welfare organization of your choice.

Not in My Area?
If you are not in the Baton Rouge area, then be sure to check this Directory of cat rescuers all over the world.  Chances are good that you will find someone there.  If no one is listed for your immediate area, do not be afraid to call the ones closest to you.  You may be surprised to learn how far some of the rescuers will go.  Otherwise, they still might be able to help you find someone in your area.  Failing that, call your local tree service companies.  Many do not want to be bothered with cat rescues, but they still might be able to direct you to someone.

Rescue Philosophy
There are many ways to rescue a cat, and my goal is to do so in the least stressful manner possible.  Every cat is different, and every tree is different.  All rescue options will not be suitable in every case, but I will escalate to the next stress level only when the lower ones have failed or been deemed unsuitable.  In the end, however, even a stressful rescue is much better than none at all.

I like to enlist the cat’s cooperation as much as possible.  Not only is that easier on the cat, it makes my job easier as well.  I will use food to entice the cat to come closer to me or inside a carrier.  Most cats that have been stuck in a tree for a day or more are very food-motivated, and many will readily walk into a carrier to get it.  Some cats are so tired of being in the tree that they readily come to me begging for rescue without my enticing them with anything at all.  But not every cat is so cooperative.  Some will cooperate if I give them enough time to get used to me and see that I am not a threat.  However, some cats, especially feral ones, may not cooperate at all and instead climb higher in the tree.  Even so, I still have ways to rescue them.

I love cats, and I love trees too.  I climb trees using ropes and professional climbing methods that do no harm to the tree.  I never use spikes; I don’t even own them.

Why Do I Do This?
Randall descending cedar treeFirst, there is a need for it.  Cats continually get stuck in trees, and there are very few people who are willing and able to help.  In some areas, there is no one who will rescue the cat, and people and their cats suffer needlessly as a result.  I do it to help fill that void and reduce that suffering.  Also, remember that when I rescue a cat, I am also rescuing at least one person as well.  Sometimes, I rescue a whole family, including the children.  The people who love the cat are often suffering more than the cat is, and it feels very rewarding to me to return that cat to their arms and relieve their suffering.

Consider watching one of these slideshows of my favorite images from my rescues, and I think you will understand just how meaningful and important this is both to the people and their cats.


Rescues 101 - 200

Rescues 1 - 100

Rescue Stories
Below this section are the stories of my two most recent rescues.  For these and all the other individual rescue stories, see the Rescue Stories page.  For a general overview, consider these yearly compilations of the best moments from all my rescues.


Ping Pong

Over these past few weeks, I have been teased with rescue calls that I never got to do because they resolved on their own before I could do anything. Today, however, I finally got my chance 
to "get back in the saddle again" when I was called to rescue an unknown orange and white cat in a Cypress tree in Dana's backyard. From his talkative manner 30 feet high in the tree, he appeared to be a friendly boy, but that doesn't necessarily mean he will be cooperative. As it turned out, he was cooperative but only after I had almost exhausted my patience with him. He got scared while I was installing my rope in the tree, and he went out to the end of the limb. He stayed there for a very long time while I tried to coax him to me. Just as I was about to give up and pull up the rescue pole for him, he decided to come to me based on some mysterious whim that only cats can understand. He walked right up to me, gave me a good sniff and let me pet him all over. He was a sweet boy. While it took him a few more minutes to decide if he wanted to walk into the carrier, he eventually did so, and I brought him down.

Back on the ground, I scanned the cat for a microchip and was very happy to find one. While the microchip company worked to contact the owner, I left the cat with Dana and went home. Only thirty minutes later, the cat was returned home. His name is Ping Pong, and he belongs to a girl who got him from Cat Haven but is now going to school in Texas. While she is away, she left her cat with her grandparents who live about 10 houses down from Dana. The grandparents said Ping Pong escaped and had been "gone a while," but I don't know how long that really is. Regardless, Ping Pong is safe at home now and doing well.


Whenever I see news about an approaching hurricane or tropical storm, I automatically expect to get a call for a rescue just before the storm arrives. That seems to be the way it works, and that trend continued with the approach of hurricane Laura. The weather was already getting ominous when Andrea called me to rescue her cat, and there were only a few hours left before the violent outer band of storms was due to arrive. Cats just seem to have a knack for getting themselves in trouble at bad times. Fortunately, Andrea found him just in time and called me right away.

When I arrived, I could hear the cat crying, but I had trouble finding him in the tree.  He was about 30 feet high on the lowest limb of a Pine tree in his own front yard, but only a portion of his head was poking around the trunk. His name is Ham, and he is seven years old and the last surviving kitty of his litter, all of which were named after deli meats. They were born to a feral mother at Andrea's house, but Andrea and her family raised them all from birth.

Whenever I climb up to rescue a cat, I always like to talk to him and make sure he sees me coming toward him. The last thing I want to do is just suddenly appear beside him and startle him, since he would likely run away from me in that case.  As I climbed up to Ham, I talked to him and he continued to cry repeatedly, but I could not get him to look. He had his back to me, and his head was on the opposite side of the trunk where he could not see me. I kept calling to him, but I could not get him to look. I kept climbing a little closer while calling him, but it was not clear to me if he could hear me over the noise of the wind. By the time I finally got his attention, I was closer than I like to be, but he just stared at me and kept crying. He did not seem particularly distressed about me, but he wasn't happy either. He simply turned around and kept crying.

I climbed a little closer and gave him several opportunities to sniff my hand while being careful not to stare at him or appear focused on him. He refused every chance to sniff my hand and continued to cry. I was within reach of him, and I debated about petting his back end to show that I was friendly, but since he continued to face away from me, I feared that my touch would startle and frighten him. I have calmed other cats that way before, but they could see me as I touched them. Ham was not looking, so decided not to take that chance.

My closeness was making Ham more nervous, and he soon started looking up to climb higher to get away from me. As soon as he began to climb higher, I climbed higher on the opposite side of the trunk as fast as I could to get above him. As it turned out, he climbed only high enough to get on the next limb, and he got on it and walked all the way out to the end. This rescue which I had hoped would be quick and easy just turned into a long and difficult one.

I got on his limb and walked out as far as I easily could, but he was still very far away from me. Even though I knew it would not work, I opened a can of food and put it on the end of an long extendable pole to see if I could entice him back to me. That failed and seemed to distress him even more. The only options I had left were setting a trap for him on the limb or trying to reach him with the rescue pole. The trap would have worked well in this situation, but there was no time for that with a hurricane approaching. So I went back down to the ground, retrieved my rescue pole and net from the truck and climbed back up again.

I went out the limb as far as I could, but I could just barely reach Ham with my 12-foot rescue pole. It was a very difficult task to loop the noose around him just behind his front legs, because the small limbs got in the way of the noose and made it impossible for me to see if I had it in place or not. On top of that, the winds were getting very strong and tossing us both around quite a bit. I struggled with it for a long time before finally getting him securely snared in the noose. Now the problem was lifting this hefty boy upward over a limb to bring him to me. The weight of a 12-15 pound cat at the end of a 12-foot pole is very significant, and I was unable to budge him. We were stuck. Then it occurred to me that I could drag him sideways out to the end of the limb and bring him around it instead of over it. That, too, was difficult but much more manageable. I pulled him closer to me, placed him inside the net and released the noose. This big boy was finally secured and ready to go down.

After tuning Ham over to Andrea, I had to climb the tree again to free some gear that had become stuck. I packed up and left. By this time, the weather was getting much worse, and I drove through some heavy rains on the way home. Then I learned that there were multiple tornado warnings and watches in effect, and I watched outside as the wind picked up and the sky darkened and unleashed some very heavy rains. We got Ham inside just in time, and I am so glad that we were able to do so. I can't imagine how miserable it would have been for him to be stuck in the tree during all that bad weather. But Ham is safe and comfortable inside again, and Andrea sent this picture of him afterward to prove it.