We have been having persistent rainy weather for the past several days, so I was actually a bit relieved to be in a rescue slump. Sometimes, it is difficult to time a rescue between storms, especially when the rescue is a long drive away, and the weather can change so much during that time. So when I got the call from Judi about her cat in a tree north of Covington, which is an hour and a half away, the weather was on my mind. I checked the radar picture, and it looked like I had a chance, but it would be risky. I told her I would be there as soon as I could.
As I drove over there, I ran into some light rain interspersed with several heavy showers. Even when I arrived in Covington, it was raining very hard. On the outskirts of town, however, the weather cleared, so I continued my drive hoping for good luck. When I arrived at the site, the weather was calm, and it appeared I might have enough time to pull this off.
Judi led me to the tree that her one-year old, gray tabby, Cutie, had chosen. It was a pine tree near the edge of a wooded area, and Cutie was perched just about as high as he could go and had been there for three days. Usually, I plan a rescue strategy that prevents the cat from climbing higher or at least minimizes the chance that it will do so. This time, however, I didn't have to worry about that, because Cutie could not go any higher.
I was wrong.
Cutie did go higher -- not much higher, but as high as he, or any cat, could possibly go in that tree. He made it clear that he did not want to be anywhere close to me, and he was willing to trust his weight to the smallest of twigs to keep his distance. He was in a precarious and dangerous position about 70 feet high, and it was only a matter of time before he would lose his footing. A light rain had begun falling as I climbed up the tree, and I was losing my footing on the slippery bark as well.
I climbed as high as I dared to go, but he was out of my reach to save him quickly. I offered food to him in hopes that we could make friends and make this rescue quick and easy. If we had had more time, I think this would have worked. But he began to slip and was forced to jump down to the end of a lower branch, a very risky and difficult maneuver which he actually performed beautifully. From there he jumped down to the end of another lower and longer branch. Again, he nailed it. If this were an Olympic event, he would be getting very high scores.
Now he was in a relatively safer place and felt comfortable enough to settle down there. It was a better position for me too, since now he was in a place where I could rescue him with the net. It would be a risky maneuver, however, since I would have to place the net over him and then flip him over into the net. I told the people below to be prepared with a blanket or tarp below to catch him if he should fall, and I pulled up my net and got into position to net him.
One reason I don't use the net very often is because it scares the cats. When they see that big thing coming their way, they get nervous and try to get away from it. Cutie was no different. I did not get the net even close to him before he took action.
Cutie caught me surprised and unprepared as he walked up that branch toward the trunk and directly toward me. He came in front of my face, only inches away, but I was not prepared for that. The only thing I could do was put my hand in front of him, hoping we could now make friends. As expected, that failed.
He quickly worked his way around me and kept going, so I tried to position the net above us to keep him from going back up to the top. Cutie was determined, and he never stopped while he walked to a branch on the opposite side of the tree, walked all the way out to the end, and jumped to a branch on an adjacent tree. From there he successfully jumped down to a lower branch and, again, from there to yet another lower branch. He was masterfully accomplishing a very difficult feat that most cats would not be able to do, but on the next jump, his luck ran out. This time, he lost his footing. He tried to pull himself back up but was unable to do so and fell about 35 feet to the ground. We all watched helplessly as he landed in the proper belly-flop position on the wet, soft ground with a loud thud. He immediately ran off into the woods.
About this time, I began to hear thunder in the distance. Fortunately, my job was done, and it was time to get out of the tree. The sooner I leave there, the sooner Cutie will come out of hiding, so I came down and packed up as quickly as I could.
As I drove home through more light rain and intermittent thunder storms, I worried about Cutie. I hate for a rescue to end with a fall like that. No matter how uncooperative the kitty is, I feel like it is my duty to bring them down in a safe and secure way. And I worried about Cutie: what if he was injured by his fall; what if he gets lost in the woods; what if he climbs another tree in the woods; what if he runs into a coyote. The rescue is not over until Cutie comes home.
It was three hours later when I got the text message from Judi saying that Cutie was home and looked fine. I was so relieved. She sent along this picture of him licking his paws after eating while one of his siblings carefully checked him out.
I had my camera with me and turned on, but I ran into one very rude branch that grabbed the camera and pulled it off my helmet. Fortunately, I got it back from him, but I stowed it away for the remainder of the rescue and missed all the action. As it turned out, the raindrops on the lens distorted the image anyway.