Whenever I am asked to rescue an unknown cat in a tree, one of the first things I want to know is if the cat talks to people below. Most tame cats will look at the people and talk to them begging for attention and help. A feral cat does not want to be seen or heard, so they will stay perfectly quiet. This unknown, bushy-tailed, brown tabby in Christian's Crepe Myrtle tree was quiet. When I arrived, the cat would look at me briefly, but it stayed perfectly quiet even when I climbed up to it. Up to this point, I could not determine if it was feral or just a scared, tame cat. As I got closer, it remained quiet but did not appear uncomfortable. A feral cat would begin looking for an escape route, but this one stayed still and in place.

I reached my hand out toward the cat but got no response. I opened a can of food and noticed his ears react to the sound, but, when I reached the food out toward him, again, I got no response. I put the food on the end of a pole and was able to place the food much closer to him, and, this time, he began to show some interest in it. He sniffed it and stood for the first time and came forward one step. I let him have a bite or two and then pulled the food a few inches closer to me. As he took two more steps in my direction to reach the food bowl, he uttered his first soft words. I gradually lured him closer to me until he could sniff my outstretched hand, and, eventually, I was able to give him a gentle stroke across his cheek with my finger. I prepared the cat bag on my arm and fed some more to him. He liked the food, and, while he ate, I rubbed his head and back. He did not flinch or react to my first touch. I massaged his scruff and then lifted him off the limb while I pulled the bag around him. He remained quiet and relaxed the entire time. I held him in my lap and petted him some more through the bag to reassure him and then took him down to the ground to put an end to his three-night stay in the tree.

My biggest problem with rescuing unknown cats is deciding what to do with them once we are on the ground. I had already asked Christian to look for Lost Cat posts in the local pages for lost pets, and she did not find a similar one. The cat had no collar, and I scanned it for a microchip but did not find one. In a densely populated residential area like this, it is very possible, if not likely, that the cat lives nearby and will go home as soon as I free it, but I just don't know that for sure. But with all rescue groups and shelters full and overwhelmed, it appeared that letting him go would be the best choice, so that is what I did. As I lowered the bag around him, he looked around, felt the relief of being on the ground again, felt the freedom to move at will, and walked away and then under the house to hide. While he hid, I packed up and left.

The next morning, I decided to check the lost pets pages for that area to see if I could find any notice of this cat, and, to my surprise, I found a Lost Cat post for that area with a single, dark picture of a cat that looked like it could be the same. The picture was very dark, so I downloaded it and enhanced it so I could see more detail in the cat's markings. I still could not be sure, but it certainly looked like a real possibility, so I called that cat owner. He told me his cat had returned home on its own the day before, and I told him of the cat I rescued. I sent some pictures of the cat to him to see if he could recognize it, and, indeed, it was his cat named Tico. It turned out that he lives just around the corner from where I rescued Tico, and Tico did indeed go home shortly after I released him.

I think there are some valuable lessons here for every cat owner to remember when a cat is missing. While a missing cat is usually hiding at ground level, sometimes it will climb a tree for safety, especially when it wanders into the territory other cats or dogs. So when searching for your cat, it's important to look not only under houses and sheds, but also in trees as well. It's also important to recognize that a scared cat will not likely respond to anyone including the owner, because he is instinctively afraid of alerting predators to his location.
 Tico's owner had been searching for him and calling for him while walking by the house where Tico was stuck but got no response. You can't depend on the cat to make it easy for you by responding to your voice and leading you to him. The biggest impediment to finding a lost cat is private property. If Tico's owner could have freely walked into all his neighbor's yards, he may have found him. So to maximize your chances of finding your lost cat, you should hand deliver a flyer to all of your neighbors and ask for permission to search their yard. The flyer should have at least one good picture of your cat, and make sure your picture is properly exposed and shows enough of the cat's body and face so that all distinguishing features and markings are visible. You won't be able to take a good picture of your cat when it's missing, so take it now while you can. This missing-cat case had a happy ending, and I wish all of them could.