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.

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




I was in the middle of an extremely long and exhausting rescue of Fulvia when I got a call from Sabrina.  Her one-year old cat, Prince, had been stuck in a tree for four days, and she and her family were desperate to get him down.  I could hear the frustration and distress of the past four days in her voice, and it was not until she called Animal Control that she learned about me and felt hopeful for the first time.  I told her I would be happy to rescue her kitty, but I could not specify an exact time since I was still in the middle of a rescue.  I said I would call her back when I finished, but added that I would need an hour or two to recover before I would be in strong enough condition to rescue her kitty.  As it turned out, I needed another two hours to complete Fulvia's rescue, but after a quick lunch, I called her back and promised to be there in 30 minutes.

When I arrived at the site, I met Sabrina, her husband, Yaman, and their children.  The cat, Prince, was in a tree in the next door neighbor's backyard, but to get to it, we would need to drive around the block to access it from the back.  Yaman rode with me to show me how to get there.  There I found Prince perched about 25 feet high in a large crotch of a sickly pecan tree.  He was difficult to see because his gray tabby coat blended in well with the pecan bark.

The tree was a little unhealthy, one-sided and leaning slightly to the heavy side, but appeared to be strong enough to climb.  As I installed my climbing rope on a large branch about 10 feet above Prince, rain began to fall.  While the family looked for cover, I continued to set up since there was no lightning, and I had not heard any thunder even far off in the distance.  It was just a short, passing shower and was not serious enough to delay the rescue.  By the time I was ready to climb, the rain had stopped.

As I climbed up to Prince, I talked to him calmly since I wanted him to know I was there.  He was positioned with his back to me, and his view of me was blocked by the large trunk of the tree.  I did not want to startle him and cause him to climb higher, so I kept calling out to him, but I could not tell if he knew I was there or not.  I tried to swing around the trunk so that I could see his face, but I could not go around far enough to see him, and he was not turning around to face me.  Once I reached level with him, I continued to call out to him and put my hand in his field of view.  He finally turned his head around and saw me with one eye, and I saw at least half of his face for the first time.  He was concerned and a little wary of me, but he did not attempt to get away.  I tried to reassure him by holding my hand close to him to sniff, and I eventually was able to touch him on his upper back.  He cringed when I first touched him, but he settled down and allowed me to continue petting him.

I didn't want to waste any time rescuing him, because I was afraid he was skittish enough that he could get away from me at any moment.  So, I prepared the cat bag on my arm, petted him a little, and then grabbed his scruff and pulled him away from the tree.  I inverted the bag over him and secured him in the bag.  He complained a little, but he did not struggle.

I came back down to the ground and handed him to Sabrina.  She and the rest of the family took him home and released him there.  I was very grateful for an easy rescue after the extremely long and exhausting rescue earlier.  I packed up and was very happy that this one went so quickly and well.

The next day, Sabrina reported that Prince is doing just fine.

Fulvia's Third Rescue

Some rescues are quick, and some are not.  This one was not.  I was expecting it to be quick.  After all, I rescued Fulvia twice before, though in a very different way, and they were the quickest of all my rescues.  Fulvia got stuck on the neighbor's roof the first two times, and it took only a few minutes to prop a ramp up to the roof and let her walk down on her own.  I remember putting the ramp in place and watching her happily walk down toward me, though I also remember that I needed to back away a few feet from the ramp before she would go all the way down.  This time, however, she is in a tree, but I still thought I could easily make friends with her.

I was wrong.

Fulvia is a one-year old gray tabby girl that belongs to Bobbie, and this is the third time she has been chased by a neighborhood dog that sometimes runs loose.  The first two times, she ended up on the neighbor's roof.  This time, however, she was up a tree in another neighbor's backyard.  When I first arrived, she was about 20 feet high (red circle in picture) resting at the trunk on a branch that extended far over a concrete patio.  She cried to me below, and I was encouraged by that.

I installed my climbing line about 10 feet above her, and she handled that just fine.  When I climbed up to her, however, she didn't trust me and walked out away from me and then stopped to rest on the branch facing me.  "No problem," I thought.  I will just make friends with her and get her to come to me.  She looked at my attempts to woo her with indifference, and the closer I got to her, the more she backed away.  I opened a can of food for her expecting that to make a difference.  After all, she has been in the tree for three days now, and is certainly very hungry.  While I saw her lick her lips and look at the food longingly, she refused to come closer to me.  At that point, I wanted to use an extension pole to place the food closer to her, but I had forgotten to bring it with me.  Since I was only 20 feet high, I decided to go back down to retrieve it.  I got the pole, climbed back up and placed the food about a foot in front of her.  That just made her more nervous, and she backed away from me some more.

Sometimes it's helpful to just go back down to the ground and give the cat a short break.  Once I am gone, they may go back to the trunk of the tree and be more receptive to me when I approach again.  I went back down again and saw Fulvia walk back toward the trunk.  After a few minutes, I slowly climbed back up again, and, just as before, she walked back out the branch to get away from me and refused to come near me.

Fulvia was not very far out on the branch at this time, but the branch was very long, and I knew she would go farther out if I made any attempt to approach her any closer.  If she walked out to the end of the branch, I would not be able to reach her with any tool I had.  I decided to call Bobbie and let her talk to Fulvia via speakerphone.  This is a trick that sometimes works as the cat recognizes the voice and thinks that I am her owner.  Unfortunately, Bobbie was nearby on the other side of Fulvia from me, and, while Fulvia did respond to her voice, she walked away from me toward the real one instead of me.  Now she was very far out near the end of the branch.

I went back down to the ground again, this time, to retrieve the trap.  That was the only thing I knew to do at this point.  I left some food for her on her branch at the trunk before I went down, and when I returned, Fulvia had come all the way back to the trunk and was eating the food.  I climbed back up to her, and she continued to eat as I reached level with her, not because she now considered me trustworthy, but because she just wanted to eat as much as possible before getting away from me.  I was very close to her for just a second, and then she was gone.

I set up the trap facing her and strapped it to the tree securely.  Once it was all set, I went back down to the ground.  I walked away out of her sight, but checked on her frequently from a far distance.  I saw her approach the trap cautiously, but she stopped in front of it and just looked at it.  Then she jumped to another branch close by that ran alongside the trap.  She went to the back of the trap and tried to get to the food from the back, but, of course, could not do so.  She came back to the front of the trap and examined it again.  Then she went to the back again.  She was trying to find some way to get that food without going inside the trap.  After several minutes, she gave up, walked to the trunk, and then stretched far over to another branch (yellow arrow in first picture) and perched there.  It would have been very difficult for her to get back to her original branch now, and it was pretty clear she was not going in the trap anyway.  So, I climbed back up again.

This time, she did not walk out her new branch to get away from me.  She was resting on the branch and panting.  I think she was just too tired and dehydrated to do much at this point.  She was just beyond my reach now, but I reached my hand out to her to let her sniff.  To my surprise, she did sniff my hand, and I was beginning to think I was making some real progress.  The next time I held my hand out to her, however, she hissed and moved out the branch a little farther.  I kept trying to make friends with her, but the more I did so, the farther she walked out the branch to get away from me.

Silly me.  I decided to move the trap over to her new branch.  This branch did not have another nearby branch she could use to go around the trap, so I thought the chances were better here.  When it comes to rescuing cats in trees, patience is a virtue, but what I was showing was stubborn patience, and that is not a virtue.  I set the trap, climbed back down and watched from a distance for several minutes as Fulvia showed no interest in it at all.

I lost count of the number of times I climbed up and down this tree on this hot, summer day, and I was dehydrated after the first ascent.  I drank all the water I had brought with me and even drank refills from the garden hose.  It's time to get this cat down and get this over.  Fortunately, Fulvia was now on a branch that extended over the house, and the roof was only 10 feet below at the most.  Now I can try the riskier method of scooping her up in my net, and if she falls, she won't fall far.  Plus, I already know I can get her down from the roof with the ramp.

So, I climbed back up the tree for the final time.  I pulled my net and extension pole up to me and got it ready.  Fulvia had her back to me now, so it would be easier to get the net close to her before she noticed it.  I reached out toward her with the net, and just before I reached her, she noticed and started going farther out the branch.  I reached as far as I could, but I could not get her.  Now, she was at the extreme end of the branch out of my reach.  I had only one option left:  shake the branch until she falls to the roof.  I stood up on her branch and started jumping up and down on it to shake her out.  It took several jumps to make that happen, but she eventually lost her grip and fell the short distance to the roof.  She stood there motionless as if trying to figure out what happened and where she was.  Then she walked around the roof looking for a way down.  There was none.

I could easily get her down from the roof with the ramp now, but I did not bring my ramp with me.  I would have to go home to retrieve it and return to set it up for her.  I came back down and packed up all my gear.  Fortunately, I was only 10 minutes away from home, so I drove home, loaded up the ramp, and returned.  I propped one end of the ramp on the edge of the roof and rested the other end on the ground.  I would be an easy walk for her.  She noticed it, but was still afraid of me.  I walked far away out of her sight and waited.  It took her a few minutes to feel safe, but then she walked over to the ramp and already knew just what to do.  With no hesitation, she walked comfortably all the way down the ramp and was finally down on the ground.

I packed up the ramp and left.  I had arrived at 9:00 in the morning, and it was now after 3:00 in the afternoon.  I was dehydrated and very tired, but earlier I received a call for another rescue, so I would not have much time to recover.  I ran home for a quick lunch and a few gallons of water and got ready for the next one.  Oh, I hope this next one is easy.