Whenever I see news about an approaching hurricane or tropical storm, I automatically expect to get a call for a rescue just before the storm arrives. That seems to be the way it works, and that trend continued with the approach of hurricane Laura. The weather was already getting ominous when Andrea called me to rescue her cat, and there were only a few hours left before the violent outer band of storms was due to arrive. Cats just seem to have a knack for getting themselves in trouble at bad times. Fortunately, Andrea found him just in time and called me right away.

When I arrived, I could hear the cat crying, but I had trouble finding him in the tree.  He was about 30 feet high on the lowest limb of a Pine tree in his own front yard, but only a portion of his head was poking around the trunk. His name is Ham, and he is seven years old and the last surviving kitty of his litter, all of which were named after deli meats. They were born to a feral mother at Andrea's house, but Andrea and her family raised them all from birth.

Whenever I climb up to rescue a cat, I always like to talk to him and make sure he sees me coming toward him. The last thing I want to do is just suddenly appear beside him and startle him, since he would likely run away from me in that case.  As I climbed up to Ham, I talked to him and he continued to cry repeatedly, but I could not get him to look. He had his back to me, and his head was on the opposite side of the trunk where he could not see me. I kept calling to him, but I could not get him to look. I kept climbing a little closer while calling him, but it was not clear to me if he could hear me over the noise of the wind. By the time I finally got his attention, I was closer than I like to be, but he just stared at me and kept crying. He did not seem particularly distressed about me, but he wasn't happy either. He simply turned around and kept crying.

I climbed a little closer and gave him several opportunities to sniff my hand while being careful not to stare at him or appear focused on him. He refused every chance to sniff my hand and continued to cry. I was within reach of him, and I debated about petting his back end to show that I was friendly, but since he continued to face away from me, I feared that my touch would startle and frighten him. I have calmed other cats that way before, but they could see me as I touched them. Ham was not looking, so decided not to take that chance.

My closeness was making Ham more nervous, and he soon started looking up to climb higher to get away from me. As soon as he began to climb higher, I climbed higher on the opposite side of the trunk as fast as I could to get above him. As it turned out, he climbed only high enough to get on the next limb, and he got on it and walked all the way out to the end. This rescue which I had hoped would be quick and easy just turned into a long and difficult one.

I got on his limb and walked out as far as I easily could, but he was still very far away from me. Even though I knew it would not work, I opened a can of food and put it on the end of an long extendable pole to see if I could entice him back to me. That failed and seemed to distress him even more. The only options I had left were setting a trap for him on the limb or trying to reach him with the rescue pole. The trap would have worked well in this situation, but there was no time for that with a hurricane approaching. So I went back down to the ground, retrieved my rescue pole and net from the truck and climbed back up again.

I went out the limb as far as I could, but I could just barely reach Ham with my 12-foot rescue pole. It was a very difficult task to loop the noose around him just behind his front legs, because the small limbs got in the way of the noose and made it impossible for me to see if I had it in place or not. On top of that, the winds were getting very strong and tossing us both around quite a bit. I struggled with it for a long time before finally getting him securely snared in the noose. Now the problem was lifting this hefty boy upward over a limb to bring him to me. The weight of a 12-15 pound cat at the end of a 12-foot pole is very significant, and I was unable to budge him. We were stuck. Then it occurred to me that I could drag him sideways out to the end of the limb and bring him around it instead of over it. That, too, was difficult but much more manageable. I pulled him closer to me, placed him inside the net and released the noose. This big boy was finally secured and ready to go down.

After tuning Ham over to Andrea, I had to climb the tree again to free some gear that had become stuck. I packed up and left. By this time, the weather was getting much worse, and I drove through some heavy rains on the way home. Then I learned that there were multiple tornado warnings and watches in effect, and I watched outside as the wind picked up and the sky darkened and unleashed some very heavy rains. We got Ham inside just in time, and I am so glad that we were able to do so. I can't imagine how miserable it would have been for him to be stuck in the tree during all that bad weather. But Ham is safe and comfortable inside again, and Andrea sent this picture of him afterward to prove it.