Si's Second Rescue

Trust in people does not come easy for Si, and that is easy to understand when you learn about her rough start in life. Si was just a four-week-old kitten when some children put her in a sack with the rest of her siblings and beat them hard against a wall. A sheriff deputy happened to be nearby and noticed what they were doing. He stopped them just in time to save Si's life, but it was too late for all the other kittens. He took them to a local veterinarian who nursed Si back to health, and it was the veterinarian's daughter, Sarah, who took Si home with her to foster. That was six years ago, and Si is still living with Sarah because Si had a very feisty disposition that made it impossible to bond with any potential adopters. Fortunately, Sarah is patient and understanding, and Si learned to trust and love her.

I first met Si a year ago when she got stuck in a tree and Sarah called me to rescue her at her home in Ponchatoula. That first rescue was very memorable, because Si screamed so loud and threw a fit when I put her in the cat bag. If I had known then what I know now, I never would have rescued her that way, but at that time, I thought that was my best, if not only, option. I felt very lucky afterward that Si did not bite me, because she was certainly mad enough to do so.

For Si's second rescue, I needed a better rescue method. Normally, cats like that will not let a person get close to them, so the only options are to use the rescue pole, net or trap. Since I knew that Si would likely struggle if I pulled the noose of the rescue pole around her, I was very concerned that she could injure herself or wiggle out of the noose and fall. The net would be better in that regard, but getting a cat into a net is difficult and also very risky. Setting a trap for her was sounding like the best option as long as the tree was suitable for it. If Si surprised me like she did the first time and allowed me to get close to her, then I will try to lure her into a carrier. After all, she responded well to food at her first rescue, so maybe she will do so again.

Si was about 25 feet high in a sweet gum tree in a neighbor's back yard, and she had been stuck there for two nights. She was resting about eight feet away from the trunk on a large limb, and I was glad to see her there. I was concerned that she would climb up to the top of the tree to get away from me as I climbed up to her, but, since she was far away from the trunk, I might be able to prevent that if I can get between her and the trunk in time to block her escape route. That would limit her movement to just that one limb and make the rescue much easier and safer. However, if I climb up to her too fast, that will just give her more reason to fear me and possibly cause her to bolt up the tree ahead of me. I will just have to watch her carefully and gauge her level of stress.

By the time I climbed up to her, she was only four or five feet from the trunk but was not showing any sign of escaping upward. When I was just within reach of her limb, I placed my hand on the side of the limb in front of her, and I was pleased to see that she seemed comfortable with that. She leaned over to sniff my hand but then began to growl softly. She was not happy with my approach. I tried to keep one hand on her limb by the trunk to discourage her from making a run for it, but she was beginning to feel trapped and uncomfortable with my presence, and I could see her looking at the trunk and upward for an escape path. I very slowly eased my way higher in order to present a larger and more effective barrier to the trunk, but, at the same time, I was also acting very relaxed and calm. When I placed my hand on the limb far in front of her again, this time she reacted by screaming and swatting at my hand with her claws extended. She intended to strike me but missed. Still, her message came through very clearly. She backed up the limb a little, and when I inched up just a little higher, she came back toward me and struck out at my hand again. Again, she missed me, but she was looking more agitated than before, and I was afraid of her. To help her calm down, I remained very calm and relaxed, and I spent some time just being quiet and still while appearing uninterested in her. When I spoke to her, it was always in a soft and calm voice.

After giving her some time to settle down, I opened a can of food for her. This peace offering did more to mend our relationship than anything else I could have done. Now, I was no longer a threat to her, and she really wanted that food. I reached out as far as I could to hold it beneath her. She sniffed it and then took a few bites. I pulled the food closer to me, and she readily followed. I placed the food in the back of the carrier and placed the open carrier on the limb facing her. She came up to it and considered going inside to get the food, but could not summon the courage to do so. She turned around and walked back out the limb and sat with her back to me. It took me almost five more minutes before I could get her attention again, but she did eventually turn around and come to get some more of the food which I was holding as close to her as I could. I let her have another bite and then pulled the food closer to me. She kept following the food as I brought it all the way to the entrance of the carrier. I placed the food about halfway into the carrier, and, after looking around and sniffing everything, she stepped inside to get another bite. She left one back leg still on the limb outside the carrier, so I could not close the door on her yet. She backed out the carrier again, and, while she was out, I pushed the food all the way to the back of the carrier. Again, she thought about going inside for a minute and then stepped inside. This time, all four feet were inside the carrier, so I closed the door quickly. As soon as I did so, Si had a hissy fit. She growled and hissed and generally let out a bunch of nasty cat language. She felt betrayed and mad, but I was just relieved that I was able to get her so easily.

I brought her down to the ground and handed her to Sarah who was waiting with her dachshund, Weenie. While Sarah consoled Si, Weenie came to me as if to say thanks. Though Sarah's house was very close, fences prevented us from walking there, so I drove her, Si and Weenie back home. Once inside, Si was very relieved to find herself back home after narrowly escaping that mean man in the tree. Later that evening, Sarah sent this picture of Si to me to show that all is well again.