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, and I hate suffering.  I don’t want the cat to suffer just because someone can’t or won’t pay.  Besides, I am retired, so I have the time.  I am in a fortunate position.  This is one way in which I am uniquely suited to reduce suffering, and it gives me great joy to do so.

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.

Rescue Stories
In the next section below are the stories of my two most recent rescues.  For these and all the other rescue stories, see the Rescue Stories page.  As for the question about why I do this, this slideshow summary of my first 100 rescues will hopefully answer in a more expressive and artistic way.

Rescue Highlights of the Year



Benji is a sweet, 1-year old, gray and white cat who lives with Naomi and her family in Covington.  When Benji got stuck in a small tree at the edge of a wild and wooded area across the street from their rural home, Naomi and her family were at a loss about what to do until it occurred to them that they could simply cut this small tree down.  So cut it down they did.  Unfortunately, to their surprise and disappointment, their faces fell as they watched Benji simply run up another tree.  Now Benji was about 40 feet high in a tall pine tree, and this tree was much too large to cut down.

Naomi called the fire department, and, to their credit, they actually came out to see what they could do.  Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do.  Benji continued to languish in the tree day after day while crying to Naomi for help.  Naomi felt miserable and helpless, but she and her family could not figure out what to do.  The month was August, and the heat was oppressive.  Fortunately for Benji, however, each afternoon brought new thunderstorms and life-saving rain which she could lick off her fur.  This misery continued for eight nights and days when Naomi's older brother finally found me and called.  Benji ran up the tree on a Friday, and it was on Saturday, eight days later, that I got the call.  If it had not been for the daily rain, Benji would not have survived the heat that long.

I went out there as quickly as I could.  When I arrived, I met the nice family, and they took me to the site across and down the street from their house.  Along the road there was a construction project in progress as all the ground had been torn up and a long line of pipe was lying immediately next to the pavement, presumably ready to be buried beside the roadway.  The ground next to that was all mud and standing water.  On the other side of the mud was a large wild and wooded area, and right on the edge was the large pine tree that held Benji.  I could hear her crying and found her about 40 feet high looking down at us.  She pleaded relentlessly for someone to come save her.

The tree, like all trees down here in the wild, had its share of vines and privet growing around it, but it was manageable, and there were several large branches well above Benji that I could use to install my rope.  All I had to do was shoot a weighted bag with my large sling-shot over the branch I wanted.  The bag is attached to a string which I use to pull up my rope.  It is inevitable that sometimes the shot will not go exactly where I want it to go.  If I don't get the branch I want on the first shot, then I will get it on the second.  This was one of those times, except I was unsuccessful on the second shot as well.  And the third.  And fourth.  Sometimes I got the bag where I wanted, but it would get tangled in the vines and have to be pulled back out.  I changed my target branch to make it easier, but I failed at that one too.  After eight tries and changing my target branch to yet another one that was much lower, I finally got a branch I could use to install my rope, but I had spent a lot of time and energy in the process.  Benji and I were both suffering in the heat.

I could not stand the thought of Benji suffering any longer up there, so I prepared to climb as quickly as I could.  After all the commotion I had created by shooting my weighted bag into the tree eight times, Benji had become frightened and walked out to the feathery end of her branch and rested there.  Had I not frightened her, I think she would have been an easy and cooperative cat to rescue.  Now, however, I would have to either charm her back to me or do a more difficult and risky rescue at the end of her branch.

I climbed up to her and positioned myself on her branch while securing myself with additional ropes above me.  She was still afraid and stayed where she was at the end of the branch.  When I walked closer to her a few feet, she became more concerned.  While I knew she was too stressed right now to eat anything, I wanted to offer her some food just to let her know I was friendly.  As expected, she had no reaction to the food except for an occasional lick of her lips.  I held the food as close as I could get to her, but she never moved toward it.

I decided to use the net, first to prod her to come closer to me, and, failing that, to scoop her up.  I pulled up my net and got into position.  She was facing me, so I reached as far as I could to place the net just behind her.  The approach of the net frightened her, and when it came immediately next to her, she stood up.  I gently touched her rear with the net, and she began walking toward me.  That was just what I wanted.  When she got close to me, I reached out my hand for her to sniff.  She sniffed it and decided I was alright.  She let me touch her face and she pushed her face into my hand.  We both relaxed as we made friends up there in the tree, knowing that rescue was now imminent.

Since the food was already out, I presented it to her again to lure her into the carrier.  But she was not ready to show any interest in the food, and, consequently, the carrier had no appeal to her either.  I put both away and prepared the bag.  Again I touched her and petted her, and, when the time was right, I scruffed her and pulled the bag over her.  She offered no protest at all.  It was as if she knew this was a good thing.  She was perfectly quiet as I bagged her, and she remained quiet for the entire, lengthy ride down to the ground.

Back on the ground, I handed her to Naomi's father who took her home to release her inside.  I packed up all the gear and went back to the house to check on Benji.  There I found her eating her food and clearly comfortably at home again.  She greeted me and rubbed her head on my hand as if to thank me.  She is a sweet and cute little girl, and I am so happy I was able to reach her and bring her down safely.

I have very little video of the rescue because, after all the trouble I had, I was so focused on getting up to her and getting her down, I simply forgot to turn the camera on at the critical times.  Fortunately, I was able to grab these few frames from the little video I did have.

Flo's Second Rescue

When I fist rescued Flo, I wondered how long it would be before I would need to rescue her again.  The answer is six days.  When I learned that Flo just showed up a few weeks ago to join Patricia's other cats and that Flo had already been stuck in a tree before I rescued her the first time, I knew the chances were good that I would need to rescue her again.  Fortunately, Flo is the kind of cat I want to rescue more than once.  She is friendly, affectionate and super sweet, and when she climbs a tree, she settles on one of the lowest branches instead of climbing up to the top.  The first time I rescued her, she was only 15 feet high.  This time, she is in a different tree but only 20 feet high.

It is not very often that I rescue a cat that is friendly but unwilling to go into a carrier.  Even though Flo was interested in the food I gave her and had placed inside the carrier, she would not go inside.  She rubbed her head all over the entrance, and she would put her front feet inside, but that was as far as she would go.  She didn't seem particularly afraid of it; she just didn't want to go in even with the food incentive.

Since the carrier rescue option was out, I resorted to scruffing her into a bag.  She did not take kindly to that on our first rescue.  Even though she was very friendly to me in the tree, once I bagged her and released her, she was afraid of me after that.  So as I drove to rescue her the second time, I wondered how she would react to me this time.  She now had reason to avoid me, so I was not sure if she would be friendly in the tree this time.

When I arrived, she let me know where she was by calling out to me.  She continued to speak to me while I prepared to climb.  She was not troubled by the commotion I created in the tree above her as I installed my rope.  It was only as I began to climb that I began to hear some distress in her voice, but even that disappeared very quickly and she turned out to be very happy to see me.

I wanted to give her another chance to go inside the carrier.  I gave her some food, and she readily began to eat it.  When I placed the food in the carrier, however, she didn't seem to care about the food anymore.  She behaved exactly as she did the first time by rubbing her head around the carrier entrance and stepping one or two feet inside, but she would go no farther.  I gave her a few chances to change her mind, but her mind never wavered.  Again, I would simply have to scruff her into a bag.

I scruffed her and bagged her with little trouble.  She did not fuss much or struggle, and once she was settled inside the bag, she was quiet.  She seemed to know that this was the routine for going down.

Once on the ground, I released her, and she walked out in a relaxed manner.  She wasn't afraid of me this time, so I followed her to her regular feeding place and let her finish the food I had given her in the tree.  She was fine, and after eating and getting settled again, she felt great and was ready to resume her regular routine, a routine that I hope does not include tree-climbing.