Cat stuck in a tree?

Image of cat in tree crying
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.  They will stay in the tree until they find the courage to jump, fall, or are rescued.

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.

Randall descending cedar tree
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?
First, 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.

Several years ago when I first saw videos of people rescuing cats in trees, I was deeply touched.  To see a helpless cat suffering and in desperate need, and then to see someone not only notice, but also care about this small, conscious creature and do something to end his suffering....  That is a beautiful thing.

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



We are not sure why Louisa climbed up the tree, but whatever the reason, she sure picked a cold day for it.  Four inches of snow had just fallen -- a rare event for this area -- and the low temperature was expected to be in the mid-20s that night.  Paula, who cares for Louisa along with several other cats, dogs and horses, tried her best to get Paula down, but all her attempts failed.  Sleep did not come easily for Paula that night as she worried about Louisa stuck high in the tree in the cold.  She asked for help and ideas via Facebook, and the next morning a friend put her in contact with me.

I drove out to the site in rural Maurepas early that afternoon.  It was a pretty and clear day, though still cold, and the ground was very sloppy from all the melting snow.  Paula thoughtfully met me at the gate to her property to let me in so that I did not have to get out on the wet and muddy ground to open and close the gate myself.  She made sure she closed the gate securely to keep the horses contained.  She led me to the tree at the fence line where Louisa was stuck.  It was was skinny tree with few branches, and Louisa was uncomfortably perched 30 feet high near the top.  Several other similar sized trees were close by, and there was a barb wire fence running close to the base of the tree.

It is always a pitiful sight for me to see.  I think how it would feel for me to have to stand on a branch about the width of my foot for a long time.  I could squat, or I could stand; I could move my feet to a different spot on the branch; I could drape my body across the branch.  I can imagine how miserable and tiring it would be to have to stay in these limited positions for just one hour, but to be stuck there for several hours or days is torture, even in the best of conditions.  Add the cold, lack of sleep, fear of sleeping and falling, and a full bladder that can't be emptied here, and it gets even worse.  That is what these cats are suffering through, and it makes me sad every time I see it.

Normally, I like to set my rope above the cat, but that did not appear to be a viable option this time.  The next best choice was a branch just under the cat, but it would be risky to use my very large sling-shot to shoot my line over that branch.  If I hit the cat with the weighted bag, it would hurt her and possibly knock her out of the tree.  Since the branch sloped upward, however, I decided to aim very carefully away from the cat, and then I got the rope to fall down the slope of the branch into the crotch where I wanted it.

Paula explained to me that Louisa is a semi-feral cat.  She comes to Paula for feeding but never wants to be touched.  With that information, I felt doubtful that Louisa would even allow me to get close to her.  I approached her slowly and calmly in hopes that I could get close to her, but I expected her to climb higher.  As I climbed closer to her, she stayed in place but gave me several warning growls.  Now that I was close enough to see her well, she appeared weak to me, and I think that weakness contributed to her reluctance to climb higher.  I could see her looking up for escape routes, and at one point she put herself in position to climb up and out the branch she was on, but she continued to stay in place, and she continued to growl at me.

I hung out there below her and just out of reach for a while to give her time to calm down and see that I was not threatening her.  I inched my way higher over time and calmly talked to her.  I even offered her some food, even though I knew it was highly unlikely that she would have an interest in that now.  She showed no interest in the food, but I hoped it would help her see me in a friendlier light.

Since she was in such an uncomfortable position, I thought that there might be a chance that she would go into a carrier for comfort, if not food.  I held the carrier over my head and placed it in front of her, but she showed no interest in it.  If I got a little higher, I could reach her to scruff her into a bag, but since she does not like to be touched, I thought that would be too risky.  At this point, I felt that the net or rescue pole were my only options, but those would be very risky too.

I climbed up a little higher so that I could touch her back just to see how much touching she would allow.  She reacted vocally to my first touch, but she didn't move or act like she wanted to bite me.  I kept talking to her calmly and touched her again.  After a few touches, she complained less and less.  I gave her some more time and touched her some more.  I even scratched her back, and she didn't react.  I was beginning to feel like I could get away with scruffing her into the bag, but I needed to get her comfortable with being touched on her neck more.  I got the gloved bag ready and touched and then massaged her neck.  She was taking this pretty well, so I decided to go for the scruff.  I was still prepared for her to panic and react with aggression toward me, but if I was quick enough, I could still contain her in the bag and maybe not get bit.

I massaged her neck one more time and slowly began to feel for her scruff.  I slowly but firmly pulled up enough skin to grab while watching her reaction.  I gently picked her up off the branch, and to my relief, she did not protest.  I quickly pulled the bag over her and secured her in the bag.  I was very relieved.  I was prepared to get bit, but she took it like a dream.

I brought her down and gave her to Paula who took her inside and released her.  Paula fed her well and came back outside to thank me while I was packing up.  This rescue took me a long time, and I was grateful for her patience while I tried to figure out what to do and to give Louisa plenty of time to adjust to me.

The next day, Paula reported that Louisa is doing just fine.  She sent me these pictures of her shortly after the rescue.  Louisa looks much better now, and I am so glad she is not suffering in that tree anymore.


It was late in the afternoon when I got a call from Bertha asking me if I could rescue her cat.  She had called Animal Control, and they gave her my number.  Her cat had been stuck in a tree for three or four days, and she didn't know what else to do.  Since it was too late to get there before dark, I told her I would be there in the morning.

The next morning, I arrived to meet Bertha who led me to the tree on the fence line.  When I say "on the fence line," I really mean it.  This large tree had grown around a chain-link fence over a very long time and had completely internalized it.  This was an impressive sight.

I could hear the cat crying above us in this tree and looked up to see him peering over at us below.  While Bertha feeds the cat along with a few other cats, she did not claim ownership of it, and, consequently, had not named it.  She also was not sure if it was a male or female.  What was clear, however, was how much she cared about them.  She had been very worried about him since he got stuck in the tree, and was very relieved that I was there to get him down.

As I prepared to climb the tree, the cat continued to cry down toward me, so I was expecting him to be a friendly and cooperative cat.  When I climbed up to him, however, I could see that he was feeling very cautious about me.  He put as much distance between us as he could without climbing higher.  He was stuck on the short stub of a large branch that had fallen off long ago.  Now that I was getting my first good look at him, I could see that he was a pretty black-and-white cat with a big smudge of black on his nose.  Since he didn't already have a name, I am calling him Smudge.

Since Smudge was not comfortable with me there, I opened a can of food.  He perked up at the sound the can opening, and when I held the food out toward him, he slowly came toward me.  His hunger was stronger than his fear, and he cautiously approached.  I held the food for him while he first got a small taste and then took a big bite.  He liked this and wanted more.  Hoping for an easy carrier rescue, I pulled up the carrier, but before I could even get it close to position, I could see him back away in fear.  He clearly did not like the carrier, so I put it away and prepared the gloved bag instead.

I had to entice him back close to me again with the food.  It took a little longer this time, but he eventually came back toward me and felt comfortable again.  I let him eat and relax, and he let me touch him and pet him.  I massaged his scruff, and when the time was right, I grabbed him by the scruff and picked him up.  I pulled the bag over him, and he did not complain or fight.

I brought him down, and, since he was an outdoor-only cat, I released him there.  He ran out of the bag a short distance and then slowed down when he realized he was not being chased.  He jumped over the fence and went under his house to hide until he was sure he was safe.

After I packed up, I fed him the rest of the food.  As he ate, the other cats in the family joined in too.  Once they had cleaned the bowl, I emptied another can of food into their bowl, added some water to it to help him get hydrated, and stepped back to let him eat.  He looked good, and he will be fine now.