Rescue Procedure

When I arrive, I would like to meet you and then have you lead me to the site.  I will ask you to talk to your cat in a calm manner and let him see us together.  After I evaluate the site and determine how I will rescue the cat, I will ask you to stay away from the area and be responsible for keeping any children and dogs away as well.  I want to keep the noise and activity level to a minimum so that the cat will be as calm as possible.  Fast activity, such as running children, and loud noises, such as yelling back and forth, can especially make a cat nervous.

To climb the tree, I will first determine the best place to set my rope.  To get my rope in the tree, I will first use a very large slingshot to launch a small, soft, weighted bag that is attached to a long string.  Once that is in place, I will use that string to pull up my larger climbing rope.  I will then put on the gear I need to attach myself to the rope and begin climbing.  I will climb slowly and as quietly as possible so as not to make the cat nervous.  I will not look directly at the cat so that he won’t regard me as a predator, and I will give him some calm sweet talk along the way to let him know I am harmless.  His reaction to me will determine my options.

Usually, the first thing I will do is open a can of smelly cat food and watch the cat’s response.  If I can lure him to me with the food, then the best rescue options are available to me.  After I give him a taste of the food, I will put the food in the far back of a cat carrier and hold it next to him so that he can walk inside.  If he walks in, all I need to do is close the door and come on down.  If he is afraid of the carrier, then I can pull the food back out and set it on the tree where he can eat it within my reach.  I will let him eat some and get comfortable, and then I will scruff him and put him in the cat bag.  The cat bag is just a laundry bag with a glove sewn into the bottom.  I simply insert my hand in the glove with the bag over my arm, scruff the cat and then invert the bag over the cat and tie it closed.

Image of rescue net
If the cat is so cautious that I am unable to get within arm’s reach, I can usually use a long-handle net or rescue-pole.  The net has a drawstring around it that allows me to cinch it closed once the cat is in the net.  I can also attach extension poles to the handle to reach even farther.  The rescue-pole has a noose that I can tighten around the cat's chest just behind his front legs.  The noose locks in place so that I can securely lift the cat and transfer him quickly to a net.  Once I place him inside the net, I release the noose and withdraw the pole.

Image of catch-poleIf those fail, then the next option is to tie a cat trap on a branch that the cat can reach and leave the area.  I will check back on the trap frequently or watch from a distance with binoculars and climb back up the tree when he is caught to retrieve him.  If all those options fail, then we may need to get creative.  Sometimes, the only option left is to saw off the branch the cat is on and pull it toward me or lower him down slowly by rope.

Sometimes the cat is so afraid of me that he will voluntarily jump out of the tree or go so far out on a limb that he falls.  This is especially common with feral cats.  Incredibly, cats are commonly able to survive high falls with no injury, but, of course, there are no guarantees.  If your cat jumps or falls and runs off, do not chase after him.  Otherwise, he may feel like he is being hunted.  He will probably hide for a while and emerge when he feels safe.  Watch him for any signs of injury and be prepared to take him to the vet, but often he will be just fine.

After the Rescue
Once I bring the cat down, he should be taken inside the house or other enclosure and released there.  First, he will need a few minutes to get reoriented and figure out where he is and determine if he is safe.  He will likely be dehydrated and very hungry, so I recommend that you feed him only canned food and add water to it so that it makes a thick soup.  He will be tempted to eat more than he can handle, so it is best to regulate his feedings so he does not overdo it and throw it all up.  I recommend routinely feeding wet food with added water anyway, but you should give them these wet feedings at least a couple of days to help them get fully re-hydrated.  Of course, clean, fresh water should also be available to them at all times.  It is highly unlikely that they will drink too much, so let them drink as much as they want.

You should watch the cat to make sure he eventually pees and poops and does so without straining or pain.  Male cats in particular are susceptible to blockages in the urethra when crystals collect in the bladder after being dehydrated for a long time.  This is a serious condition and will require vet care.

You can check your cat to see if he is dehydrated simply by pulling up the skin on his back between his shoulders, letting it go and watching how long it takes to fall back into position.  If it falls back into position in less than a second, he is fine.  If it takes more than a second, he is dehydrated, and the longer it takes, the more dehydrated he is.

I am not a vet, so please do not take the information I give as qualified veterinary advice.  I always recommend taking your cat to the vet to be checked after a rescue, but I also acknowledge that few people do so, and the cat does appear to do well afterward.  Still, there may be hidden conditions that a vet can address if the cat is seen in time.  Of course, I would insist that you consult with your vet if there is a sign of injury, unusual behavior, lethargy, if the cat is hiding or refuses to eat, or the cat is straining to pee or poop.