Cats don't have holidays, so I don't either. I have rescued at least one cat on every holiday except Memorial Day, and I am holding out hope that I will get that one next year. Twice, I have rescued different cats on Christmas day in different years, and, with Christmas approaching, my intuition was telling me that I would have another one this year. But my intuition was off. It came on the afternoon of Christmas Eve instead.

This time, the victim was Lucy, the one-and-a-half-year-old, gray and white cat that belongs to Natalie, Vince and their five children. Lucy had been stuck for one night in a tree in a wild, swamp habitat of cypress and willow trees, but the land was currently dry exposing numerous small cypress knees which, by the way, make excellent tripping hazards. The Swamp Willow tree that Lucy had chosen presented some climbing challenges for me. The tree leaned slightly but appeared to be firmly rooted and reasonably healthy. The trunk rose about 40 feet where it branched into a Y. The right fork of that Y rose about 10 feet and branched into another Y. The right fork of that second Y appeared to show signs of a broken off branch, now missing, which may have left a rotting hollow on the top side where it could not be seen from the ground. The left fork of that second Y rose almost vertically another 10 feet, and split into another Y which is where Lucy was perched. The tree limbs were thin above that point, and, if Lucy climbed any higher, I would not be able to reach her.

The place in the tree closest to Lucy that I could install my rope was the right fork of the second Y, but I could not be certain that that branch was safe. Considering its size, it was probably trustworthy, but I decided it would be best to install my rope at the first Y and, from that point, use an alternate method of climbing the stems that would allow me to avoid the right fork of the second Y entirely. This alternate method is slow, tedious and strenuous, but I did not see any other way to reach Lucy.

Natalie told me that Lucy could be skittish, but if an adult approached her calmly, she would make friends with them. She was skittish primarily around children, which is perfectly understandable, since children often do not know how to approach or handle a cat. But I was still concerned that Lucy would, at least initially, be afraid of me and try to go higher in the tree. Indeed, when I climbed up to the first Y, Lucy did appear to be stressed and ready to climb higher even though I was still 20 feet below her. She got in a vertical position to climb, but I began to talk to her calmly, and, fortunately, she calmed down and settled back into her perch. After that, I made it a point to talk to her more frequently, and by the time I reached her, she appeared perfectly calm and welcomed me. She readily sniffed my hand and let me pet her, and we quickly became friends up there.

I chose not to bring the carrier up the tree with me because it would have been in my way for the type of climbing I did. So, I was forced to put her in the cat bag instead, and I felt badly about betraying her that way after first gaining her trust. She did not like it either, and she let me know. She kicked up a fuss inside the bag, not just for a few seconds as some cats do, but for the entire time it took me to get her back down on the ground. She was hissing and spitting mad, and now I am afraid that if she ever needs to be rescued again, she will remember me and this degrading trauma and not let me get anywhere near her. Oh well. Hopefully, it won't happen again, but, if it does, I will just have to solve that problem when it comes. At least she is down and safe this time.

Vince took Lucy inside and released her there. She ran off to her safe hiding place but was soon settling back into the comforts of home again and acting like nothing ever happened. Natalie sent this picture of her to me later that evening to let me know that all was well again.