El Gato

I have been dreading getting a call like this one, but I knew that sooner or later it was bound to happen.  This day it did.  The caller, Eve, told me that her dog had chased an unknown cat up a tree in her back yard.  The tree was little more than a dead post, and there were no other trees nearby that were suitable for climbing.  To myself, I refer to this scenario as "Mission Impossible," because I must somehow rescue a cat when I can't climb the tree, and I can't climb any other tree close by.  In cases like this, I have only one option:  the elevator.

The elevator is simply a box, basket or some kind of container that can be raised up to the cat where he can step into it and then be lowered to the ground.  I have seen similar cases like this used successfully before, but I have never done one myself.  The success of the rescue depends solely on the cat, because he must be willing to step into the elevator.  I always put a bowl of food in the box to entice him in it, but not all cats are willing to do it.

I arrived at the site to find the situation just as Eve had described.  The cat was on a short stub of a broken branch near the top of a dead tree.  I was hoping the tree would still be sound enough to climb, but it was not.  It had clearly been dead for a long time and much of the bark had fallen off exposing rotted wood below.  I installed a climbing line to haul the elevator up, but I also tested it to see if it would hold my weight.  The branch the rope was on felt secure enough, but the whole tree swayed back and forth when I put my weight on it.  This tree was definitely not safe to climb.

If there were other suitable trees on either side of the dead tree, I could install a climbing line in both of them and use them to position myself over the dead tree.  The lack of other nearby trees, however, ruled out that option.  There was one tree in a next door neighbor's yard that may have worked, but only if I could use the dead tree to pull myself over to it.  But I was afraid that the force of pulling myself over to the dead tree could be enough to pull it down.  I could not find any way to climb up to the cat, so the only option I had was to use the elevator.

As she watched me consider all my limited options, Eve began to refer to the cat as "El Gato" in an allusion to "The Girl" of Sherlock Holmes, the one case that he could not solve.  This case could be The cat that I would not be able to rescue.  Since we did not know if the cat had any other name, I will call this one El Gato as Eve suggested.

I set up the elevator, put a bowl of food in it, and pulled it up to the cat.  He showed absolutely no interest in it.  He did not look at it, and he did not even acknowledge that it existed.  He stared down at us below as if to say, "You're crazy; I'm not falling for that."  I waited for a while to give him time to think about it, but his stubbornness was more enduring than my patience.  I pulled it slightly closer to him, and he continued to ignore it.  He never made the slightest move that showed any interest in the food or the elevator.  I decided that at that point I needed to force the issue, so I pulled it up slowly and gently into his face to force him to move, and move he did.  He climbed right on up to the top of the tree and perched there on the tip of the broken top.

Now I had no other options.  The elevator requires that I suspend it from a branch that is about two feet higher than the cat.  With the cat on the tip top of the tree, there was now nothing higher than the cat.  I again reconsidered every other option I could imagine, but there simply were no other options.  This was "The Cat," El Gato, the cat I would not be able to rescue.  I gave up and left.

I went home and began thinking about how to pull up another elevator to him without the aid of a branch above him.  I worked out a solution at home that night using a more inviting and secure-looking box with different rigging and planned to return in the morning to try it out.  I was not going to give up on that cat yet.

The next morning, I got a call from Eve.  She said the cat was gone.  He had apparently fallen out of the tree during the night or he suddenly discovered how to climb down on his own.  However it happened, he was gone and not to be found anywhere in her yard.

Well, I am certainly glad the cat is down and his misery is over, but I am a bit disappointed that I could not test my new elevator rig and bring him down in a safe and controlled manner.  I am especially disappointed that I could not get him down that first day so his misery would have ended even sooner.  We will never know if I could have rescued him with the new elevator or not.  We will never know if he could have been rescued the second day or if he would have indeed been "El Gato."

Since I did not actually rescue the cat, I did not plan to even include him on this website.  I added a post about him on my Cat Rescue Guy Facebook page but did not consider him an official rescue.  But then I remembered about two other recent rescue cases where the cat rescued itself just because I showed up and scared them out of the tree.  If I am including those, then, to be consistent, I might as well include this one too.  So consider this website a diary of my rescues cases, whether I actually rescued them or not.

A few days afterward, I received some pictures in the mail from Eve which her son had taken.  Eve added her own captions, and, with their permission, I want to share them here.