When a cat owner tells me that her cat is very skittish, I know to expect a difficult rescue. Skittish cats are sure to want to move away from me as I approach them in the tree, so I usually have to follow them until they have no more tree to climb. That is what I was expecting when Keneshia called me and told me about Buttons, her four-year old Siamese.

I drove to the rescue with a small bit of dread, because I knew it would not be enjoyable until after it was over. When I arrived and saw the tree that Buttons was in, I felt even worse. The tree was alive but slowly dying as it was rotting from the inside. Buttons was about 40 feet high just under the point where the trunk split outward into two forks in opposite directions. The fork to the right had broken off long ago leaving an open bowl at the top of the trunk that collected water leading to more rot. The fork to the left was pretty large, and its substantial weight was supported only by this rotting trunk. If Buttons climbed this fork to get away from me, I would not be able to follow her, because I could not trust that fork to hold me. To make matters worse, most of the limbs on the entire tree developed after the right fork broke off. These limbs were, therefore, weakly attached and also could not be trusted to support my weight. I was having some serious doubts that I would be able to successfully rescue Buttons.

I needed to install my rope above Buttons so that she would go down if she got scared by the commotion. Buttons, however, was already near the top of the tree, and the only place I had to install my rope was on the left fork. I installed it there as close to the trunk as possible to minimize the effect of my weight. This also allowed me to climb up the tree on the opposite side of the trunk from Buttons. Hopefully, she would not see me until I was above her where I could block her upward escape routes. If she became too frightened of me to stay, she would have to go down.

I climbed up the tree above Buttons and then called out to her while leaning out from behind the trunk. She had exceptionally beautiful eyes and was settled into a nice, natural nest where she could securely rest without fear of falling. When she saw me, she was clearly afraid and let me know it with her vocalizations. The downside to approaching a cat from above is that it is more intimidating and frightening to the cat, but since I knew she would be afraid of me anyway, I felt there was little to lose. As I dropped down slightly toward her, she hissed and spit but stayed in her nest.

I wanted to do all that I could to let her know I was friendly, so I gave her as much time as she needed to settle down. I talked sweetly to her, avoided looking at her for long, appeared uninterested in her and moved downward only in small increments while waiting a long time before moving again. I saw her looking for an escape path up the trunk as well as up the limb she was on. I made sure that I had a hand on both paths to discourage an escape. Slowly, I inched my way down until I was almost level with her, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that she continued to stay in her nest.

Buttons was still scared of me, but she was trapped. She continued with vocalizations to let me know she was not pleased. I opened a can of food hoping that would convince her I was friendly. Of course, she was too scared to have any interest in eating any food, but I repeatedly presented it to her and then pulled it back. Eventually, I held my hand out to her, and she actually stretched forward slightly to sniff it. I pulled my hand back, and I noticed that she was trembling. The poor dear was terrified and just sitting there waiting to be killed by this horrible monster. It breaks my heart to see that. I so wish I had more effective ways to communicate my friendly intentions to a cat.

I decided to be quiet and do nothing for a while to give her some more time to settle down. I reached my hand out to her several times later, but she never sniffed it again. I also offered the food to her several more times, but, as expected, she always ignored it. But after 30 minutes of being patient with her, she finally made a slight move toward me in a more relaxed manner. I held my hand out to her, and she lowered her head. I gently touched the top of her head, and she was reassured by that. I touched her some more and was soon petting her head and back freely. I was so relieved and knew now that I could rescue her.

I spent some more time with her to solidify our new friendship. Since she was more relaxed now, I thought I should be polite and offer some food to her again. Again, however, she refused it. As I set the food aside, to my utter surprise, Buttons stepped down onto my lap. This was not what I was expecting. I never would have thought this was even possible, but there she was in my lap. I was overjoyed and struggled contain my excitement lest I scare her away. I felt like I had just won the lottery or hit a grand slam, but I had to remain calm so that I didn't ruin it.

I spent some time with her there in my lap, and I enjoyed every second of it. On one hand, I felt that I should bag her quickly while I am sure I have a chance. On the other hand, I wanted to savor the moment with this sweet kitty in my lap. I hated to grab her by the scruff and cover her with the bag, but I made sure I did so as gently as possible. She handled it just fine without a single complaint.

I brought her down and handed her to Kyla, Keneshia's daughter, who took her inside and released her there. Boots, Buttons' twin Siamese sister, was waiting inside, and they were both happy to be reunited. I drove home practically giddy with joy over the way this rescue ended. This rescue I had approached with a bit of dread had turned out to be one of my most memorable ones. I was so happy to be able to bring this sweet suffering kitty back down to the comfort of her family, and it pleases me to see this picture of her resting afterward.