Catfish's Second Rescue

When I rescued Catfish the first time about a year ago, I succeeded in reaching him only because he was trapped between two scary things: me and a steep, downward-sloping limb. He was too afraid to get close to me, and he was too afraid to go down that limb toward the trunk. Fortunately, I was close enough then to reach him and earn enough of his trust to bag him and bring him down. This time, however, we were not so fortunate.

Catfish is a much-loved, three-year-old Russian Blue boy who is kept strictly indoors, but he escaped unnoticed one evening, and, despite intense searching, was not found until ten days later in the next-door neighbor's tree. We don't know for certain that Catfish was stuck in the tree the entire ten days, but it seems likely. He had found a stable spot in a large bird nest about 20 feet high in a leaning Tallow tree, and it was very difficult to see him from the ground. If he didn't cry, you would not know he was there. Even though his family had passed by there several times searching and calling for him, he did not respond to them until that tenth night. One of the biggest mistakes people make when searching for their lost cat is assuming the cat will always respond to them when they call. The cat may or may not respond depending on how safe it feels to him at that moment.

Catfish is a very sweet boy, but he is not fond of strangers, so I really got lucky the first time I rescued him. He had no choice that first time to let me get close, but, this time, he had more freedom of movement, and he exploited that freedom. Before I could get close to him, he walked down that sloping stem of his tree and jumped into the next tree. I went down, installed another rope in a different location and climbed up toward him again. This time, he walked out toward the end of the limb to get away from me.

I could follow Catfish only so far without overloading the weak limb of the Tallow tree. Directly beneath us was a very large barbeque pit on wheels for towing, and that was a dangerous hazard if Catfish should fall. I tried my best to befriend Catfish, but he would not have anything to do with me, and I could not lure him closer to me even for food. The only thing that worked to move him closer to me was shaking the limb gently just to make him feel unstable, but this stubborn boy was still well out of my reach.

I didn't want to use the rescue-pole on him, but that was the only option I had left. There were several small stems shooting off the limb, and the foliage blocked my view of him. I broke many of them out of my way, but I still had trouble seeing the snare well enough to know exactly where it was as I tried to slip it over his body just behind his front legs. He was lying on the limb facing me with both front legs on opposite sides of the limb, so it was difficult to work the snare into position, and he eventually got annoyed with it and turned around to walk farther out the limb. The farther out the limb he went, the farther away he was from the barbeque pit hazard on the ground, so, after talking about it with Kendall and her mother, they agreed to hold a tarp underneath Catfish while I shook the limb to make him fall. He was only fifteen feet high at this point, so it was almost certain that they would catch him successfully.

One would think that it should be easy to shake a cat out of a tree when they are at the end of a long limb, but I have learned that it is actually quite difficult. Cats are very good at hanging on, and the effort to shake the limb violently enough to dislodge them is significant. Catfish was hanging on even when I was huffing and puffing and so exhausted that I had to rest, but he eventually fell softly into the center of the tarp they were holding and quickly ran toward home. He hid near the house until he was sure I was gone and it was safe to emerge, and then Kendall took him inside for a happy reunion and recovery.