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



Starbuck's Second Rescue

Starbuck is not a mischievous or troublesome kitty, but this is the second time that those neighboring dogs startled and scared her up a tree.  The first time was eight months ago when they scared her up the next-door neighbor's live oak tree.  Now it has happened again, but this time she escaped to the sweet gum tree just a few feet away.  Starbuck climbed up about 40 feet where she found a sizable junction to rest, but she still didn't know how to come down and was stuck there.  Keenan discovered her there when he returned home from work that evening and called me.  Since I could not go that evening, I arranged to be there first thing in the morning.

When I arrived, I met Malory and she pointed to Starbuck in the next-door neighbor's back yard.  Fortunately, the next door neighbors are an extremely gracious and welcoming couple who happily allowed us in their backyard.  It is such a relief to me when the neighbors are so understanding and cooperative, because, otherwise, the rescue would not even be possible.

Starbuck was crying to us below, and I remembered how I misinterpreted her cry at the first rescue.  When her cry became intense at that first rescue, I thought she was getting scared of me, and I was expecting her to move as far away from me as possible.  But, as it turned out, she was just getting impatient and couldn't wait for me to get up there to help her.  She turned out to be cooperative and happy to see me.  I was hoping for the same response this time.

I set my rope about 10 feet above her and began climbing up to her.  She peered over the branch down to me and continued to cry.  She appeared to remain comfortable as I climbed closer and closer to her.  Once I was close enough, I reached out to her, and she let me pet her.  Yes, this sweet little calico girl was happy to see me and ready to go down.  At her first rescue, she walked into the carrier without any food inside, so I wanted to try that again.  I visited with her just a minute and then held the open carrier up to her.  With no hesitation, she poked her head and front paws inside but then backed out and rubbed her face over the front of the carrier.  I petted her some more to reassure her, and, again, she poked her head inside and then backed out.  I reassured her some more, and this time she slowly walked all the way inside the carrier.  I closed the door and brought her down.  Another easy rescue for Starbuck.

I brought her down and gave her to Malory, who took her home and released her inside.  The neighbors were very pleased that it all worked out so well, and they helped me carry my gear back to my truck.  The next morning, Malory sent these pictures and reported that Starbuck was doing just fine and back to her usual self.


At the insistence of her four-year old children, Mary Jo adopted a cute, orange-tabby kitten and brought him into their home.  They named him Francis, and this sweet, playful fur-ball settled in very nicely.  Five years later, the family moved from their home in Texas to Baton Rouge, and, of course, Francis came too.  Unfortunately, Francis escaped out of his new house and got lost in this strange, new land.  The family searched for him for a very long time but could not find him.  Three months later, while taking a walk in the neighborhood, Mary Jo saw him in the driveway of a home a half mile away.  She couldn't believe her eyes.  She talked to the woman who lived there and learned that Francis just appeared there some three months ago, and the woman kindly took care of him and gave him a place to call his own.  Mary Jo took him back home with her and reunited him with the family, and Francis settled in and gave them no more trouble.  Until today.

Francis is now 13 years old, and he is a big boy.  We don't know what happened, but somehow, Francis was now stuck about 30 feet high in a tree inside the woods behind his home, and he has already spent one night there.  The only way he could be found was by following the sound of his cry.  When Mary Jo led me to the tree that held him and pointed to him, even then, I could not see him.  I could hear him, but he was hidden inside a dense mass of vines and foliage at the top of an otherwise bare stem.  The stem rose vertically from a tree whose trunk was leaning about 45 degrees.

This was not a typical tree.  If there were any branches in that mass of vines where Francis was hiding, I could not see them.  Even if I could, they would be too close to Francis to risk shooting my weighted bag to install a rope up there.  There were no suitable branches below him either.  If a taller tree had been nearby, I could have used it to rescue Francis, but there were no other suitable trees close enough for that.  The only option I saw was to use a tree-climbing technique called stem-climbing or pole-climbing.  It is a slow, tedious and strenuous technique for climbing a bare stem, and I have done that only a few times.  It's not fun, and progress is measured in inches.  It takes more energy and more time, especially since I have not practiced it in a long time.

Mary Jo's son had already taken a ladder out to the tree, so I used it to get started.  At the top of the ladder, I tied myself to the tree and  began my slow ascent.  I asked Mary Jo to remove the ladder since it would be a hazard to Francis if he fell.  Progress is slow in the best of situations, but this tree had numerous vines growing along the stem that complicated the process.  It was a hot day too, so my clothes were soaked with sweat very quickly.

As I inched my way up to Francis, I talked to him, and he talked back.  He looked so pitiful poking his head through the bars of his vine prison.  It appeared that he would be receptive, and, indeed, when I finally reached him and held out my hand to him, he sniffed it and appeared satisfied that I was a friendly guy.  He remained calm and watched me as I struggled through the vines to get closer to him.  I got a little closer and petted him, and he pushed his head into my hand.  He was perfectly comfortable with my touch, so I felt confident now that I could get him in the cat bag.

Before trying to bag him, I needed to cut some of the vines out of our way.  As I was cutting them, he surprised me as he started to go down the stem head-first.  He was now in a precarious position, and it was only the support of the vines around him that kept him from falling.  I don't know if something spooked him, or if he was suddenly afraid of me or if he was trying to come down to my lap.  Regardless, I needed to act fast before he fell.  I did not have the cat bag on my arm yet, so I just reached over and picked him up and struggled to get him through the vines and onto my lap.  He seemed okay with that at first, and I spent a little time just petting him to calm him down.  As I reached for my cat bag, he unexpectedly stepped down on the stem again as if he was afraid of me and trying to get away.  Again, he was in a precarious position, so I quickly put the cat bag on my arm, and then I picked him up again to put him on my lap.

I tried to grab his scruff, but I could not get a secure grip.  I used both hands to part the curtain of vines and grab him any way I could to pull him back up toward me.  It was difficult to get his four legs and my arms through the vines, but I eventually managed to get him back up on my lap.  Again, I spent a minute just calming him down and petting him.  When I felt the time was right, I tried to grab his scruff so that I could lift him and pull the bag over him.  For some reason, however, I could not get a grip on his scruff.  It was slippery, and I could not hold him for more than a few seconds at a time as his scruff slowly slipped out of my grasp.  I was not going to be able to lift him, so I worked to pull the bag under him from the rear instead.  He was complaining and making some moves to get away from me, but he did not fight very hard, and I was able to get the bag completely around him.  We were both out of breath, but he was now securely in the bag.

I brought him down to the ground and handed him to Mary Jo.  She took him home and released him there.  He seemed a bit surprised to find himself suddenly at home, but relieved nonetheless.  She fed him some canned food and added water to it to help him get hydrated.

As I brought him down to the ground, I could hear the rumble of thunder in the distance.  That surprised me, since no rain had been forecast.  But I could see the clouds forming, and I felt relieved not only to get Francis in the bag, but also to finish the rescue before a thunderstorm arrived.  Indeed, on my way home, I drove through a heavy downpour just one mile away.  Fortunately, Francis was safely inside now and recovering from his night of misery.  A little while later, as Francis was sleeping, Mary Jo took this picture of him and sent it to me.  He will be fine now.