To my amazement, Honey actually did manage to come down that limb about 10 feet, which made the rescue much more feasible. She had been motivated by the appearance and calling of Victoria to see how much lower she could go. Maybe she sensed that I was there to help too. Whatever it was, she came down a little lower before I even had a chance to take a picture of her in her extreme perch, and, as I hauled my gear to the back yard, she continued to make as much progress as she could. She ended her descent about 60 feet high as circled in this picture, but she was now in a much more manageable spot for me to reach her. The poor girl had been stuck up there for four nights already, some of them close to freezing, and it was easy to see that she had had more than enough and wanted to go home.
Unfortunately, the tree was surrounded by overgrown shrubs, privet, briers and small trees, and it was not possible to get close to the trunk without first clearing a path to it. I got out my loppers and hand saw and began to cut the growth out of the way, while Victoria helped by hauling it out and stacking it. With that done, I went through a difficult and troublesome process of installing my rope in the topmost crotch of the tree. By the time I had finished, I had already been there an hour. Now it was time to climb.
While installing the rope, I talked to Victoria to learn as much as I could about Honey. They had adopted her as a small kitten when they found her hanging around an apartment complex that was not in very good shape due to a severe flood three years earlier. Honey adapted to the indoor life very well and turned out to be a sweet cat. Victoria told me that Honey should easily be able to make friends with a stranger as long as she is approached carefully. I was hanging onto those words and counting on them to be true.
I climbed up to Honey and approached her slowly and gently, while she stayed out on a limb a safe distance away from me. I had created a big commotion in the tree up there with her when I installed the rope, and I'm sure that must have scared her, so I knew she might need some time to calm down and warm up to me. I spoke to her sweetly and tried to appear as friendly and trustworthy as I could, but she remained unconvinced. Victoria had told me that Honey is highly food motivated, so I opened a can of food to see if that would break the ice. It seemed to help as she showed some interest, but she remained in place and would not come any closer to me. It took several minutes of tempting her with the food before she finally decided that it might be worth a closer look. After a few attempts, she actually did come forward enough to get a few bites of the food. However, when I moved the food slightly closer to me in an attempt to get her to follow, she refused each time and, instead, retreated back to her safe distance.
I was not expecting Honey to be this difficult to befriend. I wanted her to come a little closer to me so that she would be within reach and free of the small limbs that were between us which might interfere with my attempt to grab her by the scruff and bag her. If I had known in advance how this rescue would play out, I would have taken advantage of the good, but not perfect, opportunities I had to bag her. Instead, now she had retreated and appeared no longer interested in coming forward. Nothing I did seemed to get her attention, much less interest. I could be more aggressive and get up a little higher where I could reach her, but I worried that she would go even farther out that dying limb and fall. I decided it was time to just play it safe and ignore her for a while. So, I did.
After I ignored her for a while, she did not appear at first to be any more ready to trust me. I decided to reach my hand as far as I could toward her to see if I could get her to sniff it. Thankfully, now she was receptive and came forward a bit to sniff. I let her sniff, and then I reached one finger out to stroke her gently on the cheek. She not only tolerated it, she seemed to like it. She let me touch her other cheek and then her head, and I now felt like we had finally had a breakthrough. She was more relaxed now, so I lured her out of her safe place to come closer to me. She came slowly, but we got better and better acquainted with each minute. She relaxed so much that she began to make movements as if she wanted to roll over. There was no room for that on a limb, of course, but she went through the motions anyway. At one point, she made a trill meow sound which she repeated each time as she rubbed her face on the limb. She rubbed her face on everything in sight and did so frequently, and I enjoyed watching her very much. I thought we had the rescue all but completed now, so I continued to watch and pet her without concern about how this would end. But to my surprise, something happened to cause her to turn around and go back out to her safe distance again. She was out of my reach again, and I did not want to take the time to lure her back to me again.
I climbed up a couple of feet so that I could stand on the crotch of her limb and be in a position where I could barely reach her. With the cat bag on my arm and ready, I reached out there to pet her back and then her neck. She was still okay with my touch, so I massaged her scruff and then pulled it up. I lifted her off the limb and pulled the bag over her. This little girl was finally secured in the bag and ready to go home.
I brought her down to Victoria who had been waiting and watching patiently below the entire time. She was so very relieved when she saw me bag Honey, and now that I was handing Honey to her in the bag, she began to talk to her to reassure her. She took her inside the house and released her there. Honey was delighted to be back home. She sniffed around and ate, and when all was back to normal for her again, she showed her contentment by rolling over and back again a few times while making her unique trill meow. That says it all. I don't need to hear any more. Thank you, Victoria, for sending that post-rescue video and picture to me.