Be careful what you wish for. I had not had a cat rescue to do in over five weeks, so I was wishing for one to do. I don't wish for cats to get stuck in trees, but for those that do, I do wish to be able to rescue them. When I got the call to rescue Phoenix, a sweet 6 month old kitten, I was happy to have a rescue to do, and I was glad that my five week long rescue drought was finally over.
Phoenix sounded like a model rescue kitty. She is a sweet, tame, brown tabby kitten that happily greeted strangers, so I expected her to be cooperative for the rescue. Though she had been born feral, she spent almost all of her kitten-hood in foster care inside with Jenny who had tamed and sweetened her up very well with the help of Loki, an adult male cat. Phoenix regarded Loki as her mother, and they both bonded as if that were indeed the case. But Phoenix escaped out the door, and she ran up a tree where she had been stuck for three days before Jenny found me.
The tree she was in was a nightmare. It was a volunteer tallow tree that was growing on the fence line along with several other trees and numerous poison ivy vines. These vines were very old and were growing through the trees in a dense, tangled mess all the way to the top. Phoenix was on a fork of the top-most branch, and the only place I could tie my rope was on her branch. The junction of her branch at the trunk was very tangled with vines and foliage, and I felt extremely lucky that I got my line set up there on my first attempt without getting the line stuck.
As I climbed up the tree, I stopped along the way to cut some vines and dead, fallen branches that were blocking my path upward. By the time I reached her branch, I had created quite a bit of noise and commotion in getting there. All this activity frightened her a bit, so she viewed me with suspicion and fear. She was perched about eight feet out on the branch, but she had earlier demonstrated that she could walk the branch all the way to the trunk. I gave her some calm sweet talk and some time to calm down, and then I opened a can of food to lure her to me. Since she was not a skittish kitty, I fully expected her to come to me and walk into a carrier. But she didn't budge. She was still too suspicious of me to care about the food I was holding. I put the food on the end of a telescopic pole and placed it closer to her. Still, she had no interest. Hmmm. This cooperative kitty was not being cooperative at all.
I was in no position to get any closer to her, and she was not coming any closer to me, so the only option I had was the rescue pole. I did not even have the rescue pole with me because I was not expecting to need it. So I gave her some more time to get used to me, and then I tried to get her interested in food again. Again, she refused.
I climbed back down and went to my truck to get the rescue pole. I connected it to my rope and climbed back up. Before committing to using the rescue pole, I wanted to try the easy way one more time. Again I offered her food, and again she showed no interest in it. I pulled the rescue pole up to me and set up for it. This was not going to be easy, because she was eight feet up and away, and I was in an uncomfortable position where I could stand on only one foot.
Phoenix was the first cat I ever saw who reacted with fear at the approach of the rescue pole toward her. I have always been impressed with how nonchalant all the other cats were to the pole in the past. It just didn't concern them, or they even showed curious interest in it. But Phoenix was afraid of it, and it took me several strenuous and straining attempts before I managed to get the noose around her just behind her front legs. She began to fight against it, and I found it very difficult to pull the noose tightly around her chest. She started pulling along the branch to get away, and with the traction she had with her claws on the branch, she managed to pull the noose down around her belly just as I was trying to lift her. At that point, I wanted to just let her go and start over. But then she started falling, so I tried to place her quickly on the branch below us instead. Before I could get her there, she slipped out of the noose and fell to the ground. She ran back home with Jenny following her.
Phoenix survived the fall just fine. She was only 20 feet high at that point, and within a few minutes, Jenny returned with Phoenix relaxing contentedly in her arms while I was working my way back down the tree.
Unfortunately, I have no video of the rescue because my helmet-mounted camera was, unknown to me at the time, pulled well out of position by the tangle of vines as I climbed through them. But later that day, Jenny sent me this picture and a short video of Phoenix and her surrogate "mother," Loki, enjoying being back together again. The video showed them taking turns as one would affectionately lick the head of the other. These pictures are still frames from that video.