Cat stuck in a tree?

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.

Cost
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.

Please consider watching this slideshow of my favorite images from my first 100 rescues, and I think you will understand just how meaningful and important this is both to the people and their cats.




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.

Rescue Highlights of the Year

2018
https://youtu.be/DFUabWnwg2o

2017

2016

Booger

Booger is a four-year-old orange tabby boy who, for reasons unknown, climbed up a small tree in his yard and got stuck there. He was not high -- less than 20 feet -- but it was the location of the tree that made this rescue so unusual and difficult.

The tree was growing in the middle of some large and dense shrubs that were almost as high as Booger was. From my view as I stood on the ground and looked at the site, the lower part of the tree was completely hidden by the shrubs, and the shrubs appeared impenetrable. But as Dana showed me, some limbs could be pushed aside at one place to make room for entry to the base of the tree. There was not much room inside there, of course, and there were numerous small limbs from both the shrubs and the tree which poked my body and head from every direction.

I did not see a way to install a rope in the tree in the usual manner. Booger was in the top junction of the tree, there were power lines just beyond the tree, and the shrubs would make it impossible to install the rope anyway. So I pushed my way to the base of the tree and threw the end of my rope as best I could over the lowest usable branch and started climbing from there. It was difficult climbing as I pushed and broke limbs out of the way to make room for my body. With every move I made, limbs snagged on my clothing and got stuck in my harness, so I had to stop frequently to untangle them. The scratching and slapping of the limbs on my helmet made for a noisy climb, so I did not even notice when one limb managed to snare my helmet-mounted camera and fling it to the ground. By the time I discovered it, there was no way I was going to go through that gauntlet of limbs to retrieve it, so I left it there and continued the rescue without video.

Since I was struggling and making quite a bit of commotion, Booger understandably appeared a bit wary of me. When I got my head above the top of the shrubs, I talked to him in a calm and gentle way to let him know I was friendly. Of course, he was not convinced, but he stayed in place and reserved judgement for later. Once I managed to get close enough, I reached my hand up to him, and he seemed eager to sniff it. The scent was not conclusive to him either way, but at least it was a non-threatening introduction. As I inched closer and closer to him, we repeated this greeting several times until he decided to let me touch him. I petted him, and he finally felt certain that I was a good guy. Dana had told me he was a friendly boy, and as he relaxed more, he proved it by letting me pet him all over. Now that I was close, I could see what a big boy he was. I was especially impressed with the size of his feet. The toes of his back foot in particular were spread wide apart to get a good grip, and it looked so huge that I had to look at him again to be sure he was not a lion.

I wished I had my carrier with me, but I did not even bring it along because it would have been troublesome to haul it up through the obstacle course of poking limbs. After first inching my way as high as I could in order to be able to reach him comfortably, I prepared my cat bag on my arm. I broke several limbs in front of me to clear an area where I could hold him in the air while I bagged him. After those preparations, I petted him some more and waited for a good moment to grab him by the scruff. He let me pull him out of his perch without complaint, and I pulled the bag over him. Once he was in the bag, however, he felt betrayed and started complaining.

I brought him down and back out of the shrubs and gave him to Dana. She took him inside and released him there. As he emerged from the bag, he looked surprised as he surveyed his surroundings and discovered he was inside his own house, but then relief settled in and he made himself at home again. After a while, he settled down to finish that nap he was starting in the tree when I first arrived and interrupted him. Dana took this picture of him and sent it to me along with the picture above of us in the tree. I am grateful for these pictures, because, otherwise, I would have had no pictures of him to share.

Murray

Kelly walked out into her backyard in Ocean Springs, Mississippi one morning and saw something unusual. There were two cats sitting in a tree at the back edge of her yard. She did not recognize either cat, and she did not have a cat of her own. She wondered if they would be able to get down on their own, and when she checked on them a little later, sure enough, one of the cats was gone. She gave the second cat more time to come down and kept checking on it, but he did not seem to be making any progress. More time passed, and still the cat was there. Kelly and her husband, Casey, tried to coax it down, and when that failed, they tried to think of other ideas. A friend of theirs climbed the tree without ropes or any safety equipment and tried to shake the cat out, but that, too, failed. Each morning, Kelly checked the tree and hoped that the cat would be gone, but he continued to cling to his place for six days. The only cat rescuer she could find anywhere close was Bob Reese in Starkville, Mississippi, but even though she knew that was too far away, she contacted him anyway just to see if he had any ideas. Bob referred her to me, since the drive would be much shorter for me.

When I first talked to Kelly on the phone, I was not feeling very optimistic about this rescue. She told me how the first cat in the tree talked to her quite a bit, but she had never heard the other remaining cat make a single sound. That is usually a sign of a feral, or at least neglected, cat. Then she sent me a picture of the tree, and I was disheartened to see that the cat was in the top junction of a thin tree. This was not going to be a pretty rescue. Given the circumstances, I thought the best outcome we could expect would be for the cat to jump out of the tree to get away from me.

When I arrived at the site and met Kelly, I found the site looked just as I had imagined from the picture. Access to the tree was limited by the other surrounding trees and vines. I had only one place to install my rope, and that was on a limb about 10 feet below the cat. I would have to climb up as high as my rope would allow and then switch to another slow, tedious and strenuous climbing technique in order to climb up the stem beyond that point to the cat.

As I approached the cat, I was watching him to see his reaction. I was expecting a feral cat and a feral cat reaction. While he was not happy to see me and gave me some verbal warnings, overall, his reaction seemed rather muted. He had no other place to go except small limbs, so he remained in place, even though I would expect a feral cat to go out on a limb anyway. I climbed up just as high as I could until I was just barely within reach of him. He sat there with his face behind the stem and just ignored me. He looked sleepy and exhausted, so perhaps he didn't have the energy to react strongly. He was a large black and white cat, and with my view of him from below, I could see that he was an intact male.

I tried to make friends with him, but I had a hard time just getting his attention. He would not look at me or my hand so close to him. I gently tapped his dangling foot and got no reaction. I reached a little higher and touched his shoulder, and, again, I got no reaction. I opened a can of food, and he had no reaction to the sound and would not even look at it. I eventually got him to look at the food by putting it directly under his nose, and he did sniff it, but that was all.

I did not bring my carrier up the tree with me, because I did not expect him to allow me to get this close. I asked Kelly down below to attach it to my rope, and then I pulled it up. I knew the chance was slim that he would go in it, but it was a chance I had to try. He has been in an uncomfortable position for six days now, so I hoped the sight of a flat place where he could stretch out comfortably would appeal to him. It didn't.

I was in no position to bag him, because I could not reach up high enough to touch his back or neck. I tried petting his shoulder to get him to bend down toward me a bit, but he just continued to sit still and ignore me. I needed to get higher, so I attached two more ropes to some small limbs just above us so that I could come a little higher and move a little more to my left to better reach him. Once I did that, I could finally reach his back. I touched his back for the first time, and, again, he did not react. I scratched his back and rubbed his neck, and he seemed to like that. When I rubbed the top of his head, he closed his eyes and really relaxed. This kitty is not feral, and now I felt I could bag him.

I massaged his scruff and slowly collected it in my grip and pulled him out of his perch. He grabbed onto the tree with the claws of his front legs, and I had to use my other hand to pull them loose. I was very pleased to see that he was not fighting me. He did not struggle or make a sound. I bagged him easily and brought him down.

Now that we had this unknown cat in the bag, we had to figure out what to do with him. Even though I knew it was highly unlikely that an intact cat would have a microchip, I scanned him anyway just to be sure, and, indeed, he did not. Kelly had been holding him in the bag, and he continued to stay calm. Kelly was planning to keep him contained at her house until she could get him to a vet and was making arrangements to borrow a large crate from a friend. In the meantime, she handed the cat to her son, Caden, who gently held the cat in his lap while waiting for her to return. When she returned, Caden reported that the cat was purring. He was still in the bag, but felt so safe and relaxed there in Caden's lap, that he started purring. We transferred the cat from the bag into an old, soft carrier that I brought along to leave with them. The cat remained calm in the carrier.

I packed up and left after reminding Kelly to check with the neighbors and the local Lost Pets Facebook page as well as the neighborhood website. When I was about an hour down the road toward home, Kelly sent me a text message saying she found the cat's owner who lived nearby. Unfortunately, the owner did not know his cat had been missing, even after six days. He took the cat out of the carrier and took it home with him without so much as a "thank you," and it appears that the cat will still be allowed to roam freely and remain unaltered. That is irresponsible pet ownership, of course, and it is the cat and the neighbors who will suffer as a result. Unfortunately, I have seen this much too often.