I have to admit that I was not looking forward to this rescue. After all, it was an unknown cat, it was next to the interstate, and the tree was in a wild, overgrown, wooded area. On the other hand, at least the weather was mild, and the cat was crying loudly and almost constantly to people which suggests it was likely a tame cat.
I drove to the sheriff officer's home so he could show me where the cat was, but he was unavailable at that time. I could hear the cat crying over the noise of the interstate traffic, but locating it was difficult. The swath of trees separating the interstate highway from the homes was about 30 feet wide, and there was a barb-wire fence running along the tree line. I found a place where the fence and the undergrowth allowed me to get through the fence and into the woods, and then I was finally able to find a place where I could see through the foliage of the undergrowth and locate the cat. It was a small calico crying her little lungs out, and she was near the top of a Sweet Gum tree which, like all the trees in this swath, was well covered with vines. The tree was right on the edge of the tree line on the interstate side. It was only when I stepped out into the clearing next to the interstate that I was able to see clearly up into the tree and find a good place to install my rope. I would have to approach this tree from the interstate side. There was an old, abandoned, deflated and sun-bleached basketball I found in the woods, so I threw it out into the grass next to the interstate to mark the exact spot, and then I went back to my truck, got on the interstate and pulled my truck far off the pavement at that spot.
I am very sensitive to noise, and the interstate is a noisy place, so I put in some earplugs and went to work on getting my rope in that tree. There was only one limb above the cat, so I installed my rope there and felt very lucky that I managed to do so with very little difficulty considering the trouble the vines could have caused. With this tree on the edge of the woods, the vines had more sunlight to help them grow into a dense, vigorous mass. There were all kinds of vines: poison ivy, of course, as well as muscadine, honeysuckle, Virginia Creeper and some others I did not recognize.
Climbing up to the cat was difficult and slow, because I had to stop often to untangle myself and my gear from the vines and break others out of my way to clear a path upward. The cat had her back to me as I approached her, but once I was there, she turned around and was not alarmed at all. She was happy to see me and placed her front paws on a lower limb closer to me while leaving her hind feet up on the higher limb. She remained relaxed and readily let me pet her. This was a very sweet girl, and I was so happy to see that she would be easy to rescue. All I had to do was hold the carrier in front of her and give her some reassuring pets, and she walked right on inside. The vines made the ride down just as annoying and troublesome as the climb up, but after a few minutes, we were both safely down on the ground again.
Now comes the hard part. This is an unknown cat, so what do I do with it? She is not wearing a collar and her ear is not tipped. Given her small size, she is probably a juvenile and not likely to have been spayed yet. The first thing to do is get off the side of the interstate and go back to her original territory to see if anyone there recognizes her. I packed up my gear and we both got back in the truck for the lengthy ride back to her home territory with her crying loudly the whole time. Once we got there, while we were still inside the closed truck, I let her out of the carrier to check her for a microchip and to feed her. When I let her out, she came to my lap and rubbed her head on my legs. This little girl was working her way into my heart very fast. Not surprisingly, I found no microchip, so I opened a can of food for her and set it inside the carrier. She walked back inside to eat, and I closed the door so I could carry her around the neighborhood to see if she belonged to anyone. No one recognized her.
I love rescuing cats out of trees, but figuring out what to do with these unknown cats is often a problem for me. I can't keep them all, so I called my cat expert friend, Melanie, to see if she had any ideas. Melanie came to my rescue by offering to take responsibility for the cat. She was certain she could find a foster and a good home for this sweet cat. All I had to do was keep her overnight and then take her to Melanie's vet in the morning to get checked out. Melanie made the arrangements with her vet, and I took the cat home with me.
At home with the cat released from the carrier, I began to learn what a gem I had here. This little girl was not only sweet, she was super-sweet. She had no trouble at all adapting to this new environment and was soon confidently taking ownership of the room with her tail up. When new people walked into the room, she happily greeted them. She frequently would jump on my lap or come to me for some loving. She was very comfortable being picked up and held. She liked being close to my face, so if I reclined, she would rest on my chest or next to my head. She rubbed against me and gave me head-butts. She was a dream cat, and I was already thinking about keeping her, but I knew my other cats would not tolerate her.
The next morning, I reluctantly left her with Melanie's vet. Later that day, I learned the vet estimated her age to be seven months due to her adult teeth, even though she weighed only three pounds. Still, except for fleas, she checked out very good and tested negative for both FIV and FeLV. Melanie needed to name this sweet kitty, so she asked her friends on Facebook for suggestions. Since she was rescued from a tree, someone suggested a tree name, and "Willow" was eventually selected.
The following day, I asked Melanie for an update on the cat, and she told me that the foster mom was unable to take her after all, so Melanie was looking for another foster. That was all I needed to hear. I offered to foster her myself, so I went back to the vet to get her and bring her home, and she is sleeping beside me on my desk now as I type this. Melanie still has some good ideas about finding a good home for this sweet girl, and I am certain that will happen.
We are checking the Lost Pets pages frequently for any reports of a missing cat like her, but, so far, no one is reporting her. She clearly has belonged to someone, but we don't know who it could be. Until then, she will be spayed and well cared for until a new home is found, and whoever adopts her will be getting a gem.