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.



Lucy sure picked a bad day to get stuck in a tree. This two-year-old gray tabby girl got stuck in the next-door neighbor's tree in Greenwell Springs on the day that tropical storm Cristobal passed through the area. She was 45 feet high on the lowest limb of this tall tree and suffered all day and night as the frequent, and oftentimes heavy, rains fell. It was fortunate that the area was spared the worst of the storm, but it was still a miserable place to be, and she let everyone know it.

Ashley found Lucy when she was a small kitten under a car in the parking lot of her workplace. Lucy was the only survivor of a litter that was found in the nearby woods close to a busy road, so Ashley took her home and adopted her into her family. Lucy settled in very well and even became friends with her canine sister, Bella. Lucy likes to visit her next-door neighbor, Cheryl, because Cheryl is generous with treats and attention, and it was Cheryl's backyard tree that now held Lucy prisoner.

I suspect that Lucy's misery made her much more receptive to my rescue the following morning than she normally may have been. She greeted me readily and was very cooperative by walking into the carrier without the need for any food enticement. It was just a matter of holding the carrier up to her, letting her walk inside, and bringing her down. She made it very easy and enjoyable for me. I also enjoyed all the resurrection ferns which had been enlivened by the rain. They blanketed most of the tree, making it very pretty and lush.

After a big meal and a long nap with her head pressed against Bella's butt, Lucy is fine now and back to doing all the things she likes best.

Gus the Cockatoo

Cats are not the only pets that get stuck in trees. I have rescued an iguana before (Dino, the iguana), and my Mississippi cat rescuer colleague and friend, Bob Reese, has even rescued a dog in a tree (Bawlie -- The overzealous climbing coon dawg). That is rare, of course, but even more rare is the rescue my North Carolina cat rescuer colleague and friend, Patrick Brandt, did for a coatimundi (Tangled coati rescued from treetop). Yes, I had to look it up, too.

Of course, more commonly, it is the escaped pet bird that gets into a tree, but they don't typically get stuck. I have been called to rescue a few pet birds before, but I typically refer those callers to a bird expert who will tell them exactly what to do to get the bird to come to them. That is the most successful way to rescue a bird, because installing a rope in the tree or climbing up to it usually scares it away. This case, however, was different. This was a case where the bird had a leash attached to his foot, and the leash became tangled around a limb making it impossible for the bird to escape. This bird was trapped.

Gus is a one-year-old Ducorp, or Solomon, Cockatoo, and he is a sweet, cool bird that lives with Jason, Nicole and their three young children. From his first day of life, Gus was raised by a person, so he is very comfortable with people and has lived with his family almost all of his life. Gus is not only funny and entertaining, he is also very loving and affectionate. He is not simply stuck in a corner or room somewhere; he is an active and included member of the family, so they have all become very attached to each other.

Gus has escaped outside twice before, but he always stays very close to home. The first time, he stayed in the tree overnight, but he came down on his own the following morning. The second time, they lured him back down by showing him the powdered coffee creamer can which he loves for whatever unknown reason. This time, however, there was no way to lure him down, and the family stared helplessly at him while trying to figure out some kind of solution. It was their neighbor who finally made a connection with me by calling an arborist he knew. That arborist was my first tree climbing instructor, and he referred him to me.

Gus was 55 feet high in a very large Live Oak tree. Beneath the tree was a ditch lined with bamboo and small trees and shrubs. I picked out the only spot in the tree near Gus where I could install my rope, and I would have to work my way over to him from there. Once I climbed up to within 20 feet of him, Gus looked at me and puffed up the feathers on the top of his head. I am ignorant about birds and their behavior, so I did not know what that meant. I felt at a disadvantage here not knowing how to read him. All I knew was to approach him calmly and hope his general trust of people and sociable nature would be enough.

After I worked my way close to him, he did not appear concerned about me and even, to my untrained eye, seemed to be happy to see me. When I held my hand out to him, he came down to approach it. Though the picture makes it appear that he wanted to bite my hand, that was not the case at all, and he never appeared to me to feel threatened.

I noticed that Gus had a tinge of red on his wing and wondered about it. I didn't know if that was a natural color or a sign of blood or something else. I learned later that it was something else. It seems that one of the children was painting near him days earlier and brushed up against his wing.

Gus's leash was wrapped around a small, short limb. My plan was to break that limb off to free him from the tree while holding onto the limb and leash to make sure he does not get away from me while I put him in the cat bag, now repurposed as a bird bag. I broke the limb off very slowly and carefully to maintain control over it and then prepared to put the bag over him. I have never done this before, and my clumsy attempts failed at each turn. I kept losing sight of the bag opening and tried to feel where both it and Gus were. As I struggled with the bag, I unknowingly pulled Gus downward by the leash until he was hanging upside down on the limb. I placed the bag around him and had him in the opening while I pulled him away from the limb, but I did not get him deep enough into the bag, and he managed to pull himself out. I still had a good hold on the leash stick, so I was not in danger of losing him, but at that point, I moved him onto my lap where I could have more control over him. Fortunately, he never panicked or tried to escape. In fact, he seemed quite docile on my lap while I struggled to find the bag opening again. Once I got the bag straight, I slipped him into it and secured him inside with a big sigh of relief.

I brought him down and handed him to Jason who took him inside the house. Gus checked out just fine and was soon settling back in to his routine. The whole family had feared they would have to watch helplessly as he died in the tree, so having him back home and safe was a huge relief. Gus was pretty happy too. After all, they were so happy to have him back, that they let him have some of his favorite food: spaghetti and meatballs.  Woohoo!

The next day, I got a very nice note from Nicole thanking me and explaining just how much Gus means to them. She also sent these pictures of Gus eating his spaghetti and standing on top of her head. It is rewarding enough just to see how happy they all were to have Gus back home again, but the sweet note made it even more so. On top of that, the youngest daughter drew a picture of the rescue (below), and Nicole sent it to me later. Now, isn't that sweet.

Just like cats and dogs, birds are family too. But if I am going to get any more bird rescues, I better start learning more about them, and, especially, learn better bagging or other rescue techniques.