"Let me warn you: this cat is mean." That is how Sarah first described her cat, Si, when she called me to see if I could rescue it out of a tree. She went on to explain that Si is very skittish, runs from strangers, does not like to be touched, hates carriers and sometimes bites or scratches. After hearing all that, I found myself looking for excuses to avoid this rescue, but I somehow found the courage to say that I would be there first thing in the morning.

Si's story is a painful and bittersweet one. She was just four weeks old when a law enforcement officer brought her to a local veterinarian who happens to be Sarah's father. The officer happened to notice some kids swinging a large sack against a brick wall, and he stopped to ask them what they were doing. He was shocked to see that they had several kittens in the sack they were apparently trying to kill. The officer took all the kittens to Sarah's father, but only one of the kittens survived. Sarah took the surviving kitten with the intention of fostering her until she was old enough and healthy enough to be adopted. Sarah nurtured, loved and cared for the kitten, and somehow, five years later, she is still there.

I know what to expect from cats like this, and I knew that there was no way that the cat would allow me to get close to her. I knew my rescue options were limited, but I thought that she would be a good candidate to scare down. The rope installation process I go through on every rescue often scares cats into climbing down, especially for skittish cats, so I thought there was a good chance Si would do so too. If so, then this could be a quick and easy rescue.

When I arrived the next morning, I met Sarah, and she pointed to Si in the tree just beyond her backyard fence. The tree was a sweet gum tree in an overgrown vacant lot, and Si was 30 feet high and very close to the top of the tree where the trunk had broken off long ago leaving an open wound that has been rotting steadily downward. After talking with Sarah about Si, we decided to first try to scare her down by shooting my weighted bag into the tree above her and creating a commotion in the foliage to frighten her. I shot my bag above her and jiggled it around, but Si had no reaction to it at all. Just to be sure, I did it again and got the same result. I am going to have to climb up there to get her.

I installed my rope on a limb just below Si, and, again, she did not react to it other than to step up just slightly higher. As I climbed up to her, I expected her to go up a little higher or walk out to the end of a limb to get away from me. She did neither. She stayed in place and remained quiet. Even when I was within arm's reach, she stayed put. I was not expecting this.

Si was not comfortable with my presence there, so I decided to be quiet for a while to give her some time to get used to me. She was on the opposite side of the tree trunk with her rear end on my left side and her head on the right side. After a few minutes, I opened a can of food and held it up to her. I could see she was interested, but she would not lower her head close enough to take a bite. I pulled the food back, quietly waited another minute and held it up to her again. I don't remember how many times I repeated this process, but to my surprise and delight, she eventually tasted the food and apparently liked it. I let her have a few bites and then pulled the food away again. Now, I wanted to work on getting her to let me touch her. I held my hand out to her to sniff, and I gently brushed her cheek with one finger. She fussed at me for that transgression, but at least it appeared to be a forgivable sin. I wanted to keep building on gentle touches until she learned to tolerate them. Next, I approached her from her back side with my left hand and gently touched her back while I fed her again with the other hand. She fussed about that too, but with repetition, I hoped she would eventually learn to allow it. I kept repeating this process until she stopped fussing at me. With the cat bag prepared on my left arm, I was eventually able to massage her neck while she ate, so I firmly grabbed her scruff and lifted her off the limb.

While every sin I had committed up this point had been forgivable, this lifting her by the scruff most certainly was not. Now, she was fighting mad, and her fussing instantly elevated to the point of extreme cussing and spitting. She grabbed onto the tree, but I pulled her away and quickly pulled the bag over her. It was not easy as her extended claws on extended legs snagged the bag at every movement, but with some luck and sweating, I was able to safely contain her in the bag. She continued her cussing and spitting fits in the bag, but I didn't mind. I was just relieved to have rescued her this way.

I brought Si down and handed her to Sarah. Sarah placed the bag on the floor just inside the front door and loosened the bag so Si could come out. I closed the door and stayed outside while watching through the glass partly because I didn't want to be in there when the little Tasmanian devil emerged and unleashed her revenge on me. With a little encouragement, Si found her way out of the bag and seemed surprised and relieved to be at home. Instead of emerging in a fury, she relaxed and seemed quite pleased. She trotted off to get away from the bag and to check out her territory. All is well again, and, to prove the point, Sarah sent to me this picture of Si reigning over her territory again from her countertop.

I sure hope Si does not get stuck in a tree again. Maybe I better get prepared with some good excuses.