Paula first got Garfield along with two other all-black litter-mates from a friend who had a soft heart for stray cats and found herself gradually overwhelmed by too many cats. With help from the local shelter, Paula's friend was able to get all the cats fixed, put some up for adoption at the shelter and keep some for herself. Since the shelter told her that black cats are usually the last to get adopted, Paula compassionately decided to take three black cats for herself. One of these black cats was sable-tipped, and the children named him Garfield. Usually, however, everyone in the family just calls him Kitty. Now, Garfield is one year old and stuck 35 feet high in a tree in the wooded area behind his house.
Usually, rescues in a wooded area are troublesome for me due to the undergrowth preventing easy access to the tree and vines growing in the trees. Also, the trees tend to be more spindly due to competition for sunlight. This time, however, it was not a problem. The tree was large and on the edge of a wide trail, there was no significant undergrowth that was in my way, and there were no significant vines to cause me any grief.
The tree looked easy, but what about the cat? Paula told me that Garfield was the most friendly of the three cats and that he would readily greet strangers. The other two cats were following us closely with curiosity and seemed friendly themselves, so if Garfield is even friendlier, then this was looking like an easy rescue.
I installed my rope well above Garfield, and he seemed to handle it just fine. There was no foliage between us blocking our view of each other, and he watched me intently as I began to climb up to him. I stopped a few times along the way to talk to him and reassure him of my friendly intentions. When I was a few feet below him, he looked at me and spoke when I reached my hand up toward him. He seemed to be cautious but not alarmed, so I continued a little closer, speaking to him sweetly as I approached. When I was just barely within reach of him, I stuck my hand up to him, and he reached down to sniff it. He gave it a long sniff, and then I brushed his cheek gently with one finger. All seemed well, and that was when I made a big mistake. With the memory of the rescue of Gravy the evening before still fresh on my mind, I assumed that Garfield was just as reassured by our greeting as Gravy was. Gravy was supposed to be a skittish cat who runs from strangers, yet I made friends with her just fine. Garfield was supposed to be friendly with strangers, so I assumed our greeting would have been sufficient for him to trust me. I failed to give him more time to get comfortable with me, and then I made the mistake of climbing a little higher where I was now in a more intimidating position above him.
I went back down to the ground to assess the situation and see if I could install another rope closer to him. The tree he was now in was a smaller tree that had grown up in the shadow of the first, larger tree, and to compete for sunlight, the stem curved up high and away from the first tree toward its edge. Its direction of growth and all its limbs and weight were to the side away from the first tree. Garfield came to rest on the highest limb about 45 feet high, and there was nothing above him I could use to install a rope. The best I could do was install a rope on his limb, but that would be just about as close as I would be able to get to him. He is not visible in the picture, but the red circle shows his new position, while the blue circle shows his original position.
I left my rope installed in the first tree in case Garfield decided to go back, and I installed another rope in the second tree. He remained in place while I installed the rope and climbed up to him. He sat out near the end of the limb facing me about 15 feet away, and I could not get any closer to him. I tried to reassure him and coax him to come to me, but he would not budge. I shook his favorite food container -- a sound that usually gets him to come running -- but he did not react. I called Paula and put her on speakerphone to see if we could trick Garfield into thinking she was up there in the tree. Upon hearing her voice, he responded by standing up and meowing once, but that was as much as I could get out of him. I waited for about 10 minutes to see if he needed more time to feel better about me, and then I shook the food container again. Again, no response.
Garfield was out of reach of my rescue pole and not in a suitable place where I could reach him safely with a net. I could possibly set a trap on his limb, but looking at the angle of the limb and the lack of rough bark for secure footing, I was not sure he would be able to come down to it. The only other option I had was to cut the limb slowly and let him fall to the ground. Paula was agreeable to that plan, so I began to cut the limb. I cut it from below first and then began cutting from above hoping to let the limb droop slowly down without breaking free. As the limb began to droop, I cut very slowly and gave it time to droop some more. Eventually, it dropped until it was pointed straight down while still remaining attached, but at the same time, Garfield jumped to another small limb that belonged to the larger tree. That limb broke but also remained attached with Garfield hanging on vertically and struggling to climb up the limb that was too small for him to grab effectively. My range of movement was fairly limited, but I managed to reach out to the bottom portion of that limb and pull it closer to me. Fortunately, the limb remained attached to the tree even while I pulled it to me with Garfield still struggling to get away. Now, Garfield was within reach, and I first tried to calm him down by petting him. He could not resist since he needed all four paws to grab onto something. He was now in a position where I could easily bag him if only I had been prepared for this possibility. I quickly tried to get my bag on my arm, but he just as quickly managed to get his footing and balance well enough that, in one final desperate burst of energy, he climbed up that small limb to a larger limb and walked far out to the extreme end where his weight was just barely supported. He was again out of reach, and again, we were back in the same boat. I would have to cut that limb too.
I began cutting the second limb in the same manner as the first. The limb drooped down slowly until it was vertical and still attached, and Garfield managed to hang on to it. With the limb now closer to me, I tried to pull it to me to see if I could reach Garfield, but before I could do so, he lost his grip and fell. I could not see him, but I heard him as he brushed through the foliage below and landed with a thump on the ground. Paula watched him as he ran off into the woods to hide and reported that he appeared fine. I had told her beforehand not to run after him so he would not feel like he is being chased. He needed to hide for a while until he felt safe, and then he would come out. Knowing he would not come out of hiding as long as I was there, I quickly packed up and left.
Twenty minutes later, I got a text message and picture from Paula saying Garfield was home, eating and looking fine. Later that afternoon, I got these pictures from her showing Garfield getting some rest on the porch and being welcomed back home by his brother, Buster. So, all is well again, but oh, how I wish I had approached him much more carefully in the first tree and hopefully avoided all this trouble and risk. Lesson learned.