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.

Cost
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


2016

Lone Star

Lone Star is a sweet kitty with an interesting story.  Melanie first learned about him when she saw him on a leash being used by a homeless man and woman to solicit donations from people as they parked at a local Wal-Mart.  Melanie was concerned about the kitten, so she gave it some food and water and gave the people her phone number so that she could make arrangements to get the kitten spayed or neutered.  Shortly after that, the homeless woman called her and said that they are being arrested and the kitten is being left there in the parking lot all alone.  Melanie went over there to look for the kitten, and he walked right up to her in the parking lot of a Lone Star restaurant.  She took him home to care for him and referred to him as her Lone Star kitty.

According to the homeless couple, they found a beat-up carrier on the side of the road shortly after the devastating flood of August 2016.  Inside the carrier they found this kitten.  The story can't be verified, but, it is possible that the carrier fell off a vehicle unnoticed as the driver was escaping the flood.

Melanie discovered that Lone Star had a microchip, but there was never a response to numerous attempts by both Melanie and the microchip company to contact the original owner.  Lone Star was just one or two months old when the flood disrupted his life.  It is not clear how long he was with the homeless couple, but he has lived with Melanie for eight months now, and she has given him the love and stability he has needed.  But Melanie already has more cats than she wants, so she has been looking for someone to give him a good home.

When Lone Star went missing on Melanie's property recently, she looked for him but was unable to find him.  It was not until the next evening that she found him, and that was only because this time he was crying for her.  She searched for him and found him stuck about 20 feet high in a tree.  She contacted me for ideas about how to get him down herself, but all efforts failed.  I told her I would be out there early the next morning, after his second night in the tree.

The next morning, Melanie led me to the tree, and there we found Lone Star in the same place where she had left him the night before.  Lone Star is a friendly and sociable kitty, so I was expecting this to be a quick and easy rescue.  When I climbed up to him, however, he became scared and went farther out on his branch away from me.  Still, I thought that all I needed to do was give him some time to calm down, and then he would come to me.  After several minutes, he did calm down a good bit, but he did not come any closer to me.  I offered him some food, and, while he showed some interest in it, he would not eat any.  While that helped to show him that I was friendly, it still was not enough for him to fully trust me and come any closer.

I had other tricks up my sleeve to rescue him, but the night before I had read about someone who had successfully rescued an uncooperative cat from a tree by using his cellphone on speaker-phone to let the cat owner talk to it.  I am a very skeptical guy, and I scoffed at this idea.  Yet, if it actually helped, then this is a tool I might want to use sometime, and this was a good time to test this theory.

I told Melanie what I wanted to do, and she was agreeable.  I called her, put the phone on speaker-phone and pointed the phone toward Lone Star.  His reaction was very clear to me.  He began to speak and fidget, and then he stood up and slowly began to walk toward me.  When he got within reach, I held out my hand for him to sniff.  My stinky glove smells nothing like the scent he was expecting, so he started backing away.  I also could not refrain from speaking to him myself, which I think just confused him.

After a short rest period, we tried it again.  Melanie began calling him, and I tried to remain quiet.  Again, Lone Star responded by standing up and slowly walking down the branch toward me.  It was as if he thought I was Melanie.  He came closer this time and allowed me to pet him for the first time.  I had my gloved cat bag on my hand ready to scruff him into the bag, and I could have picked him up then, but I wanted to lead him farther down the branch into a carrier instead.  That was a mistake, because he retreated at the sight of the carrier, and I missed my chance to bag him.

Once again, after a pause, we tried to lure him down a third time, and, again, he responded.  This time, he came down more readily, and I was ready for him.  I grabbed his scruff, lifted him off the branch and pulled the bag down over him.  He was safe and secure at last.

I brought him down and turned him over to Melanie.  I was so pleased to learn that this new idea of luring a cat via the owner's voice actually seems to have merit.  It is always good to have a new tool in the tool belt, as cats seem always to be challenging me in different ways.  The more options I have, the better.




Starbuck

Starbuck is a sweet, six-year old calico that belongs to Ryan.  Starbuck is an inside cat, but she slipped out and got on top of the wood fence bordering the yard.  The dog that lives next door saw her and started barking at her and chasing her.  Starbuck jumped into a live oak tree and climbed up into it.  She succeeded in getting away from danger, but now she was stuck.

Ryan and his roommates, Malory and Keenan, tried to coax her down but were unsuccessful.  They called the fire department which referred them to another fire department which referred them to 911 which referred them to Animal Control which referred them to me.  By this time, Starbuck had been in the tree one night.  Malory told me that Starbuck is a very friendly and sociable girl, so I was expecting an easy rescue, but that, of course, always depends on where she is in the tree.

When I arrived, I found Starbuck about 20 feet high resting on an arching branch of a live oak tree.  She was near the end of the branch where it was horizontal and, therefore, more comfortable, but the branch arched down to vertical where it met the trunk of the tree.  It appeared that she would be able to walk down the branch part of the way, so I decided to install my rope on her branch between her and the trunk and entice her to come to me.  There were no branches above her that I could use to get myself on her branch, but as long as she was cooperative, then I should be able to get her into a carrier while holding it above my head.

Even cats that I expect to be friendly and cooperative may get spooked when I shoot my throw-line into the tree near them, and if that happens, they can be just as uncooperative as skittish cats.  So I was watching Starbuck carefully as I shot my line into the tree.  I hit exactly the spot I wanted and was happy to see that Starbuck had no reaction to it at all.  That was a good sign, but, unfortunately, my throw-line got hopelessly stuck in the tree in such a way that I could not use it or even pull it back out. That happens in this business sometimes, so I always have other throw-lines I can use to shoot into other parts of the tree.  In this case, however, the only part of the tree that I could use was very small, and there was a high likelihood that another line would get tangled with the one that was already there and stuck.  I didn't see any other way around this problem:  I would first have to install a rope in another part of the tree, climb up to rescue the stuck throw-line, climb back down and then set up the rope in the original location to climb again to rescue the cat.

As I installed the rope in a different part of the tree which was close to where Starbuck's branch met the trunk of the tree, Starbuck began crying in a way that sounded fearful and distressed.  Her cries sounded so bad, in fact, that I knew now that this easy rescue was not going to be easy at all.  I knew she would try to get as far away from me as she could.  As I climbed up the rope, I began pondering how I was going to handle it if she walked out to the extreme end of her branch.

Since I was climbing only to free the stuck throw-line, I brought only the minimum gear with me that I needed.  As I climbed up the rope, Starbuck began coming down the branch toward me.  This surprised me, since her cries sounded fearful.  But as she came closer and closer, I realized that I had been misinterpreting her cries.  She was crying more out of desperation and impatience than fear.

When I climbed as high as I could go, I was almost within reach of Starbuck.  She came down as far as she could, and she was just able to reach my outstretched hand for a sniff.  Maybe I could rescue her from right here after all.  I would not be able to reach her well enough to scruff her into a bag, but I could hold a carrier up above my head close enough to her that she could easily walk inside.

I freed my stuck throw-line and then went back down to the ground to retrieve the carrier.  I went right back up the rope with the carrier and again greeted Starbuck with my outstretched hand.  I opened the carrier and held it up to her where she could go inside.  Even without any food enticement inside the carrier, she readily walked all the way inside.  All I had to do was close the door and bring her down.  This rescue turned out to be easy after all.


Since I was not expecting to rescue Starbuck when I climbed up, I did not have my camera with me.  I even failed to get a picture of her in the tree beforehand, as is my usual custom.  I took a picture of the tree afterward so I could at least show where she had been, but I was never able to get a single picture of her.  Thankfully, Malory sent this picture of Starbuck to me afterward, and it shows just what a beauty she is.