Cat stuck in a tree?

Randall Kolb

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.



After the tragic death of her infant son, Melinda suffered through devastating grief. She eventually found herself in need of something that would help her crawl out of the deep hole of grief and focus on something other than herself and her painful loss. Melinda decided she wanted a cat, and when she learned about a one-year-old cat that needed a new home because its owner had died, she decided that was the cat for her. The cat needed her, and she needed it, and that is how Smokey, the gray tabby boy, became Melinda's therapy cat. Leaning on each other, they both learned to adapt to the new realities that life had forced upon them, and they both developed a very strong bond with each other.

Smokey is four years old now and has been with Melinda for three years. Smokey is an inside cat, but Melinda does allow him some supervised outdoor time on pretty days. This time, however, Smokey somehow slipped off and got himself stuck in the next-door neighbor's tree. Melinda and her neighbor, Ashley, both tried to coax him down, but Smokey did not have a clue about how to climb down the tree. They called the Fire Department, and they actually came out but were unable to help, because Smokey was beyond the reach of their ladder.

Melinda's friend, Natasha, put out a plea for help on Facebook, and through that post, Melinda learned about me. By that time, however, Smokey had spent the night in the tree, and Melinda had spent the entire, sleepless night worried about him. When I arrived that morning, I could see the strain on Melinda's face, and I could tell this was more than "just a cat" to her.

Smokey was a little over 30 feet high in the tree, and if I could have simply climbed up to him without any preparation, he probably would have happily greeted me. My rope installation process, however, scared him, so when I climbed up to him, he was very reluctant to trust me. He stayed in his spot on the limb about six feet away from me and would not come any closer.

Knowing that Smokey was highly food-motivated, I opened a can of food and offered it to him. He seemed somewhat interested, but would not make a move toward it. I put the food on the end of an extendable pole to place it closer to him, and this time he seemed more interested, but he would not take a bite. This boy who I thought would be an easy rescue is turning into a challenge.

At this point, I should have remembered the lesson I have often learned about how cats will respond to food in these situations. There are some cats that will run straight to me when I show them the food, and they don't care who I am, but most cats won't come toward me until they have learned to trust me first. Trust overrules hunger. At that point, I should have worked more to earn Smokey's trust by getting closer in a non-threatening way so that he could eventually get a sniff of my hand. Instead, I wasted more time by trying to entice him with food. Eventually, I caught on, and I noticed the small gestures he made, such as rubbing his head along the branch, that told me that I could easily make friends with this boy.

I reached my hand out to him as far as I could, and now he was ready to stretch down a bit to sniff it. He sniffed a long time, and when he was done, I pulled my hand back again. He thought about this new information he now had about me, and stretched down to me to sniff it again. This time I gently touched his cheek with one finger. This small, close contact is what made the difference. After that, he came closer and let me pet him. Now that he trusted me, he was ready for that food, so he walked all the way down the limb to me and began to eat.

I let him eat a while, and I petted and scratched his back while he did so. I had already prepared the cat bag on my arm, so I was ready to bag him. Melinda had told me that he did not like carriers, so I did not want to put the carrier in front of him now and risk scaring him away. While he continued eating, I massaged his neck and gently pulled him off the limb while enclosing him in the bag. I secured him in the bag and brought him down.

When I handed the bag with Smokey inside to Melinda, she thanked me, and as the relief of the stress from this ordeal began to melt away with Smokey now safely in her arms, she began to cry. Smokey is not "just a cat." He means more to her than that. She continued to thank me as she walked toward home to release Smokey. I don't enjoy seeing someone cry, but I do like knowing that the cat means enough to them to make them cry. It is that much more meaningful and rewarding to me to know that I have restored a very important relationship and bond, and I feel good about that.

Sebastian's Second Rescue

It happened again. Sebastian, the sweet Ragdoll kitty of St. Francisville, got stuck in a tree again. Unlike the first time when he got stuck in a tree in his own front yard, this time, he wandered far off before finding a tree to his liking. Because he was so far away, his owners, Devin and Kaitlin, could not find him. While they searched, the people who lived across the street from the tree where Sebastian was trapped eventually heard him cry and tried to find him. Sebastian was not easy to see, because the tree he was in was covered with vines. But they found him and did everything they could to help him down. When all their efforts failed, they published a post on Facebook about him, and that is when Devin and Kaitlin learned where he was. They went over there to check, and, sure enough, there was their Sebastian. By this time, Sebastian had been in the tree for four days.

I was expecting the rescue to be quick and easy, because Sebastian is a sweet, friendly boy with a typical Ragdoll disposition. When I arrived and saw the tree, however, I began to have some serious reservations. I did not like this tree. The trunk rose with a slight lean about 25 feet and then curved sharply to that same side placing the weight of the entire tree all on one side. At the point where the trunk curved there was a large cavity (yellow circle) which weakened the structure at exactly the point where it needed to be its strongest. The upper extremities of the tree hung over the power lines running along the street next to the tree. Someday, this tree will fail at the cavity, and when it does, it could possibly bring the power lines down with it.

Sebastian was 35 feet high (red circle) and well above the cavity. At one point, however, he walked down the sloping trunk to the cavity and stepped inside. He was unable to come down any farther, however, because the trunk was nearly vertical at that point. I was glad when he did this, because that gave me an opportunity to install my rope on the large limb where he had originally been resting.

Once I began to climb up to Sebastian, he began to climb back up as well. He was halfway back up to his original perch when I got level with him and had a chance to re-introduce myself to him. I pulled the foliage of the vines away to see him, and, as expected, he was happy to see me. I climbed all the way up to the top of my rope hoping that he would follow me to that same spot, and I was happy to see that he did. Now were were closer together and both in a more comfortable position to make this rescue happen.

After a brief visit, I pulled the carrier up and placed it in front of him. It was no surprise when he immediately stepped inside. No hesitation. He knew this was his ticket down, and he was not going to miss it. I secured him inside and came down.

Back on the ground, I handed him over to Devin, and Devin drove him back home to release him inside while I packed my gear. I stopped by there on my way out to get the carrier and make sure Sebastian was okay. A little later, I got this picture of a very happy and relieved Kaitlin holding Sebastian, and that is what I like to see. I enjoyed seeing Sebastian again. As long as he is in a reasonable tree, he is always easy to rescue. But I do worry about him. They try to keep him inside, but no matter how good the inside life is, it just does not compete with the exciting stimulation he finds outside. So, every time he sees a chance to sneak out, he goes for it and makes the most of it. He has been lucky so far, and I hope that luck continues. And if he gets himself stuck in a tree again, I will be happy to rescue him.