No, it wasn't a dark and stormy night. Rather, it was a cold and rainy morning, but still I knew that something ominous lay ahead. A cold front was pushing through and with it came rain, thunderstorms and a plummeting temperature, while a kitten, probably 4 to 6 months old, was stuck 45 feet high in a tree and getting pelted with rain and cold. She had already endured her second night in the tree and would not last long in these harsh conditions. I had to bring her down and get her warm and dry just as soon as possible.
The kitten was a gray tabby and unknown to the property owners, Natasha and Tyler. The kitten had wandered into their yard, and their dog chased it up the tree. They tried every trick they could imagine to help the kitten come down, but all their attempts failed. Then a volunteer firefighter friend of theirs told them about me. Natasha contacted me that evening, and I made plans to go out early the next morning just as the cold front was expected to arrive.
When I arrived at the site, the rain was light. After I spotted the kitten and planned my rescue procedure, the rain became a little heavier. The temperature was 37 degrees at that time and expected to fall slowly throughout the day. As I began to set my rope in the tree, the rain started getting heavy and then the thunder and lightning started. The poor little kitten had no protection from the rain and was getting thoroughly soaked.
It is not safe for me to be in a tree with lightning in the area, so I checked the weather radar picture to see how long the lightning would last. It appeared that it would be over fairly soon, so I continued to set up hoping that it would be finished by the time I was ready to climb. The lightning lasted a little longer than I expected, but due to some difficulties I had while setting my rope, so did my setup time. By the time I was ready to climb, the lightning had passed, and I felt it was safe to climb.
I climbed up to the kitten not knowing what to expect. Fortunately, she cried frequently to all the people below, so that was a good sign that she was a tame girl. Still, that is not a guarantee that she will be cooperative. I climbed slowly and paused frequently while calling calmly to her to be sure she knew I was coming. She continued to stay in her position, and I was very grateful for that. She was in a very tall tree and less than halfway up, so she had a lot of tree above her if she decided to climb higher.
I was very glad that she stayed in her spot when I reached level with her. She continued to cry to me, but occasionally the tone of her voice changed to show some fear. I slowly and gently reached my hand out to her, and she sniffed it. Satisfied with that, she let me touch her. I rubbed her head and back over her cold, soaked fur, and then she relaxed. She looked so pitiful with her fur all soaked and plastered down. I wanted to pick her up and warm her up fast, but she wasn't ready for that. I opened a can of food for her and held it in front of her. She was interested and took a small bite. After tasting it fully, she was ready for another bite. When she was fully interested in eating, I removed the food and put it in the back of the carrier. I held the carrier up to her and let her see and sniff the food inside. She considered it for several seconds and then walked all the way inside.
I brought her down and we released her inside the house. We rubbed her well with a towel to dry her off, and she was very comfortable being handled. She had already eaten the entire bowl of food, so she was not feeling afraid.
I scanned her for a microchip, but, not surprisingly, she did not have one. Natasha and Tyler had already looked for "Lost Cat" flyers in the neighborhood and on the lost pets Facebook page. They posted a notice for a found cat there with pictures, so, hopefully the owners will find this sweet little girl. If not, Natasha and Tyler have already lined up some adopters. I will update this story as it develops.
Because of the rain, I did not even consider using my helmet-mounted video camera or taking any pictures. The result would have been nothing but rain-drop blur. I was also unable to get any decent pictures of the cat afterward, but Natasha saved the day by sending me some pictures that evening. Thanks to her, I know now what the cat looks like when it's dry, and believe me, she looks a lot better dry.