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.

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.

Rescue Highlights of the Year




Little Girl

Emily was going back to her car in the parking lot of the bank when she heard a faint meow. She looked around but did not see anything. Thinking she was mistaken, she was about to continue on her way when she heard it again. Now, she knew she was hearing a kitten, and she began to search for it. Fortunately, the kitten continued to cry for her, and Emily located it in the wheel well of the truck next to her. She pulled the crying gray tabby kitten out of the truck and cradled it in her arms, and she knew right away that she was going to take it home with her. She already had a three-month-old gray tabby girl at home, so now these two were going to be sisters. Emily called the three-month-old Big Girl, so she named this new kitten Little Girl.

The two kittens got along very well with each other, and now, two years later, they are still very happy together living their indoor life with Emily. Once in a while, Emily will let them go out on the patio for some supervised outdoor time, but because neither one is particularly adventurous, they never ventured any farther than the patio. This time, however, something went wrong, and her dog spooked Little Girl and chased her out into the yard and up the pecan tree. Little Girl did not go very high. She found a perch about 15 feet high on a leaning stem of the tree and settled in there. When I say she settled in, I mean she really settled in like she intended to stay there forever. She curled up and ignored all of Emily and Charlie's attempts to coax her down. She was not very high, and it appeared that the angle of the stem would allow her to negotiate her way down easily enough on her own, but Little Girl had no thought of moving.

After two hours of trying, without luck, to get Little Girl down, Emily called me. A cold front was moving through the area and was expected to drop the recent mild temperatures close to freezing overnight, and we did not want Little Girl to suffer through that. So, an hour later, I was there meeting Emily and Charlie, and they lead me into the back yard to see Little Girl who was still curled up in her perch and oblivious to the world below.

The stem of the pecan tree where Little Girl was resting leaned out over the yard at roughly a 45 degree angle, and I think most cats would have been able to come down that rough-bark stem head-first on their own. If we gave Little Girl more time, maybe she would too, but climbing down a tree at any angle requires more for a cat than just claws and physical ability. It also requires the mental components of motivation and boldness to energize them into action, and that is where Little Girl appeared to be lacking. I love low-energy cats, but that trait is working against Little Girl's favor in this situation, and she seems to have no interest in going down at all.

Since Little Girl can be skittish, I climbed up to her very carefully and slowly. Once I was close enough, I reached my hand out to her to sniff. She sniffed it and continued to remain in place. I stroked her cheek with one finger, and she seemed to relax a bit with this friendly gesture. She seemed comfortable with my presence, so I moved in a little closer. Everything was fine between us until I began to pull up the carrier. When she saw that, she got nervous and began to look for an escape path. She turned around and took one step farther out the limb, but she didn't really want to go out there. She stopped where she was but was still in position to escape if she needed. I put the carrier back down and hurriedly prepared my cat bag while trying to keep her calm and reassure her with some friendly petting. Once I had the bag ready, I petted her some more while massaging her scruff. Before she could change her mind and get out of my reach, I pulled her off the limb and pulled the bag over her.

Back on the ground, I handed the bag to Emily, and she and Charlie took Little Girl inside to release her. It was not long before she settled in to finish the nap that I interrupted in the tree, and Emily took this picture of her and sent it to me. Later that evening, she sent this sweet picture of both Little Girl and Big Girl resting together on the cat tree, so all is well in the Little Girl household again.

Triple Play

"Excuse me. Did you say that there are three cats stuck in a tree?" The idea seemed so incredible and unlikely to me that I had to verify that I understood him correctly. "Yes," Jerry said. "There are two cats stuck in one tree, and a third cat is stuck in a separate tree about 20 feet away."

I was dumbfounded. I have heard of cases where two cats were stuck in a tree at the same time, but that is rare. Usually, they are sibling kittens or mama and kitten sticking together, but here was a case with three cats and all are unrelated. This must be a special record of some kind, and I could not wait to see it for myself.

Jerry lives next door to Donnie, and their houses are separated by a small ditch lined on both sides with trees. The cats were in trees that were on Donnie's side of the ditch, so when I arrived, they were both waiting for me in Donnie's driveway and motioned for me to park there. After introductions, they pointed out the cats to me. Closest to us was a black and white older juvenile about 30 feet high in the top fork of a sketchy-looking tree. This cat just showed up at Donnie's house a few weeks ago and made himself at home. Donnie and his wife do not want another pet, but they have been feeding him since he was such a friendly boy. They have not named him, but they sometimes referred to him as Mittens. Mittens' left ear is tipped which indicates that he was trapped, neutered, vaccinated and returned to where he was originally trapped, though we did not know where that might be. Mittens was the first to get stuck in the tree and has been there for three nights already.

Jerry and Donnie then pointed to another nearby pine tree where I saw two kittens perched close together about 30 feet high. They were both sitting in the middle of their limbs all exposed like ornaments on a Christmas tree. The larger of the kittens was an orange tabby that appeared to be about four or five months old. Donnie said that he first saw it about two weeks ago, and it has been hanging around since. It's left ear is also tipped, so it may have come from the same colony as Mittens. They did not have a name for it, so I will just call it Butterscotch.

The third kitten, a dilute torbie, was the smallest of the three and appeared to be about three months old. She had first appeared there the day before while Donnie was out looking at Mittens high in the tree and wondering what to do. She and Butterscotch were on the ground under a trailer when a neighbor's friendly, over-exuberant dog ran over to play. While the dog was not a threat to the cats, the cats did not know that, and they quickly ran up the same tree together for safety. In an instant, Donnie's already-perplexing problem of getting Mittens out of the tree became compounded and overwhelming. It was time to find some help, and, fortunately, Jerry found me through a trail of connections with other people on Facebook.

My first problem was deciding which cat to rescue first. Mittens had been in the tree the longest, and I would normally like to get him down first, but the tree he was in gave me some concerns. The limbless stem of the tree rose 30 feet where it forked into a "Y," and Mittens was in the crotch of that "Y." One side of that Y was dead, and the other side was not useful either. The only safe place to tie my rope in the tree was the same crotch that Mittens was in. I did not want to do that if at all possible, but that meant I would have to climb his tree using a very slow and strenuous method that would likely tire me out. With that in mind, I looked at the other two kittens and saw them both chattering away to us below. They looked like they would be cooperative and easy to rescue, so I decided to get them down first.

As I climbed up the pine tree to rescue the two kittens, the torbie went to the opposite side of the tree and walked all the way out to the end of a limb while Butterscotch climbed all the way up to the top of the tree. I sure was wrong about their willingness to be rescued. I climbed up to the torbie's limb, and she stayed as far back as she could while hoping I would not bother her. I talked to her and tried to coax her to me, but she was not having any of that. The limb she was on was not very long, but it was too small for me to go out to get her. I opened a can of food hoping to get her to come to me, but she did not show any interest. I put the food on an extendable pole so that I could reach it out closer to her, and when I did so, she seemed uncomfortable and would not look at it. I gently nudged it closer to her so she could smell it, and then she began to show some signs of interest. After a minute or so, she sniffed it and then took a bite. I pulled the food back a few inches to get her to come toward me, and after a little while, she did so and took another bite. We spent the next several minutes there playing this game as I tried to lure her closer to me. I could get her to come within my reach, but when my hand got too close, she would go back out to the end of the limb again. Normally, I like to pet the cat before I scruff and bag it, but she was not allowing that. So, on her fourth trip up the limb to me, I decided to do a quick grab. She seemed resigned to being captured and did not complain as I pulled the bag over her.

Since I was expecting these two cats to be easy to rescue, I did not have my rescue pole or long-handle net available. It appeared that Butterscotch was going to be even less cooperative than the torbie, so I decided to take the torbie down to the ground first, get the pole and net ready and then go back up for Butterscotch. Once on the ground, I released the torbie in a carrier and went to the truck to get my rescue pole and net. As I did so, I noticed how exhausted Mittens was looking, and I felt regret about not getting him down first. It also occurred to me that, if I was careful, I could probably install my rope in the same crotch of the "Y" where Mittens was without disturbing him very badly. With Butterscotch now at the top of the pine tree with closely spaced limbs that made climbing more difficult, suddenly my priorities changed, and I decided to go after Mittens next.

I installed another rope in the same crotch where Mittens was and did so without upsetting him very much. Since that worked out so well, I now wished I had chosen to rescue him first. While the structural integrity of the tree gave me some concerns, I climbed straight up to Mittens quickly and with no trouble. Mittens walked up the dead fork of the "Y" and watched me. He was not sure about me and wanted to keep some safe distance between us. I talked sweetly to him, but he was not impressed. By the time I showed some food to him, however, he began to feel more comfortable. He slowly stepped down the fork to the crotch where he sniffed both my hand and the food. While he did not appear to care for the food, it at least showed him that I was friendly. I put the food in the far back of the carrier and held it up to him. He slowly walked inside, and I closed the door and brought him down. Donnie took Mittens to the back yard where he is most comfortable and released him there.

Now, it was time to get the scaredy cat, Butterscotch.  I climbed back up the pine tree, squeezing myself and my gear between the limbs, until I could not go much higher. At that height, the trunk of the tree was smaller and began to sway in response to my weight. Butterscotch was still above me and slightly out of reach. Making friends with her appeared unlikely, so I could not get her to come to me, and the limbs between us would be very problematic obstacles for the rescue-pole or net. Though I knew she would not be interested in tasting any food, I offered her some just as a friendship gesture to calm her down. When I placed the food too close to her, she tried to climb even higher, and that is when I got a break. She lost her footing and slipped down the trunk to a point right in front of my face. While she was still holding tightly onto the trunk, I calmly petted her for a few seconds to reassure her, and then I grabbed her by the scruff, pried her claws off the tree and put her in the bag. I was unable to get any pictures of her, but she looked very much like the kitty pictured here.

After a few minutes on the ground and feeling safe again, Butterscotch and Mittens were enjoying milling about and sniffing things on the ground. Mittens especially seemed to enjoy rolling around in the dead leaves, and I enjoyed watching him. The torbie, however, was still stuck in a carrier and getting impatient. Since she was not ear-tipped, I wanted to take her to the vet to get spayed and vaccinated. I took her to the vet clinic where they boarded her for the night and spayed her the next day. When I was checking the kitten in, I was asked for the cat's name, but I had not yet thought about that. I asked the girl checking me in to name it, and she said "Alexis." So, Alexis it is.

I was extremely fortunate that Andrea Bryant-Young with Pets and Wildlife Sanctuary (PAWS) in Denham Springs offered to foster Alexis until she is ready for adoption. Lexie, as Andrea calls her, is now in her care recovering from her surgery and doing well. Lexie is a cautious girl, but in Andrea's care, she will learn very fast to get comfortable with people. I know she is in good hands and should be ready for adoption in a few weeks. Andrea does great work, and I would encourage you to visit the PAWS website to learn about all the good work they do. I would also encourage you to make a donation, as I have, to help them cover all the many expenses they accumulate.

Every cat rescue is unique, but this case was especially unusual. So, you would think that I would have lots of good video and pictures to show. Unfortunately, I don't. Due to an incompetent videographer and technical problems with the camera, I managed to record only the first rescue of Lexie, very little of Mittens and nothing of Butterscotch or their playful antics after the rescue. I know I should fire the videographer, but he's such a nice guy, and I really can't do without him.