It is difficult to explain why it took almost five hours from arrival to departure for this marathon rescue. Even I don't understand it. Please just let it suffice to say that it was due to a scared and uncooperative cat, darkness due to nightfall, a missed opportunity, and a couple of times where the brittle wood of the pine tree caused me to slip into very awkward positions that required a long recovery time.
The cat was unknown, but several people at the mobile home park heard and noticed it. Ginny and her husband, Anthony, who manage the park in Gulfport, Mississippi, were very concerned about the cat, and, after trying everything and calling everyone they could, found me and called to see if I could help. I calculated that, after the two-hour drive, I would have almost two hours before dark which should be enough time for the rescue, so I agreed to go right away.
The cat, a large orange tabby, was about 30 feet high in a pine tree which was surrounded by some smaller trees. He was about 10 feet out on the limb, and the reports were that he cried frequently to people when they would pass and talk to him. When I arrived, however, he was quiet, but that could be due to fatigue after spending four nights in the tree.
After some moderate difficulty getting my rope installed in the tree, I began to climb up to the cat, and that is when he started talking. He appeared to be stressed with my approach, but he remained in place. When I reached his level limb, I kept my body below the height of the limb so as not to tower over him and intimidate him. I reached my hand out on the limb and talked sweetly to him, but he continued to appear uncomfortable. I stayed there for a while to give him time to get used to me, but his demeanor improved only slightly, and my hopes of a quick rescue were fading.
I opened a can of food hoping that would make a difference, but, while he seemed to recognize the sound and showed at least some initial interest in it, he would not come any closer to me to get it. I put the food on the end of an extendable pole to place it closer to him, and he sniffed it, but, after that, he ignored it.
I slowly inched my way a little higher so that I could put my feet on the limb and stretch out to him. I was hoping a sniff of my hand might help put him at ease, but I had to step out on the limb several feet to get close to him. With my feet on the limb, I stretched my body almost horizontal in order to reach toward him, and, to my surprise, the cat began to walk toward me. At first, I thought he had a change of heart and was coming to make friends with me, but, instead, he saw this an opportunity to try to sneak past me and go to the trunk where he could climb higher to get away from me. As he came by me, I petted his back, and when I realized he was trying to get away from me, I held on to him and moved my foot out in front of him to stop his progress. He turned around and went back out the limb out of my reach. If I had had the cat bag ready on my arm, I could have bagged him then, but I was not prepared for that, and I missed my opportunity.
I wish I could say that our close contact improved our relationship, but it had the opposite effect, and the cat walked another ten feet out to the end of the limb. My hopes for a quick, friendly rescue were all but over now, so, as both rain and darkness began to fall, I pulled up my rescue pole and nets to prepare for a more aggressive approach. I extended the pole to its maximum length of 12 feet and was just barely able to reach the cat, but at that distance and with limbs that interfered, I could not control it well enough to get it around the cat. Even if I had, I doubt that I would have been able to lift a cat this large at that distance while leaning out with insecure footing. I gave up on that idea and told the people on the ground that the only thing I knew to do now was to shake the cat off the end of the limb. I told them to get my big net out of the truck and hold it beneath him to catch him when he fell. When everyone was ready and knew what to do, I began to jump up and down on the limb to shake the cat loose. The big cat held on extremely well, and I continued to shake the limb. This is strenuous work for an old man like me, and I was soon out of breath and had to stop. When I caught my breath, I tried it again, and, again, the cat held on very well. I was impressed with how strong this cat was to be able to hold on under such violent jerking. The cat was winning this battle, but I continued to work at it thinking I could eventually shake him loose. After several tries and tiring myself to complete exhaustion, the cat was still there, and I was ready to go home.
During our battles, there were two times when I suffered a mishap. The first time, one of the branches of the limb on which I was standing, broke beneath me, and I fell beneath the limb. I was still safely attached to my ropes and in no danger of falling to the ground, but it required that I expend a lot of energy and time to get myself righted again. Shortly after that, it happened again in a different way, and I was again left hanging beneath the limb. As before, I was in no danger of falling, but this time, the broken limb was jammed against the climbing gear that allows me to move up and down the rope, and I was unable to free it. I was unable to move up or down, and, for a few minutes, I thought I might need to be rescued, but I was eventually able to free the broken limb and then expend another significant amount of energy and time to get back up on top of the limb.
Being exhausted and having failed to shake the cat out of the tree, it was time to resort to cutting part of the limb to force the cat to fall. I used a saw to cut the limb slowly hoping it would droop down without breaking off. Unfortunately, the limb snapped completely free and fell to the ground. As I looked where the cat had been, I was shocked to see that he was still there. Just before the limb fell, he had managed to jump into a small, skinny tree nearby. My heart sank as I looked at him over there in a tree that I could climb only by using a very slow, tedious and strenuous climbing technique. I was spent and did not have the energy to climb that tree, and I seriously thought I was just going to have to leave him there.
I came back down to the ground to rest, get reorganized and assess the situation. The cat was now in a more miserable place where he could not rest or go up or go down. I did not want to leave him there, and I did not want to drive two hours home and return the next day. I gathered my courage and strength and prepared to climb up there to get him. This time, since he would not likely be able to go anywhere to get away from me, I should be able to bag him.
It took some time and more energy, but I climbed up to him, and he stayed in place even though I could see him thinking about going higher. I could now touch him and try to make friends with him, and he tolerated it pretty well and eventually relaxed. I massaged his scruff and then lifted him off the limb as I pulled the bag over him. He handled it all very well.
I brought him down and turned him over to Ginny and Anthony. They were happy to take care of him while they tried to find his owner. By the time I got home, she had sent this picture of him to me and reported that they named him Timber and that he was settling in just fine. She made an appointment with the vet a few days later where he checked out just fine. She reported that he is very affectionate and friendly, and they have decided to keep him. I am very impressed with their dedication to this cat, and I am especially grateful that they stayed with me during the entire, lengthy rescue, even during the rain.