Two Black Cats

Two black cats in two days. First was Black Butt in Walker who got chased up a tree when the neighbor's dogs escaped. Black Butt is four years old and had been stuck in the tree only a few hours, but Ashley could not bear to leave him there any longer. Because of limited access, I had to climb the tree on the opposite side of the trunk where Black Butt was perched on a short, dead stub. We couldn't see each other, and I didn't want to startle him, so I talked to him and frequently pulled myself around the trunk where he could see me climbing up to him. He responded to me by looking at me and speaking with a voice that did not sound distressed, so I continued to climb up to him slowly. Once I was close to him, I pulled myself around the trunk and was surprised to see only his butt. I had misread him. He was so uncomfortable with me so close that he decided to get out of there. He tried to climb down head-first but very quickly lost his footing with the loose bark of the Pine tree and fell 35 feet to the ground. I heard him plop on the soft ground, but I could not see him. A few seconds later, I watched him stroll out of the wooded area, climb over a couple fences, and go back home where he is doing just fine.

The next day, I went to Lafayette to rescue Palm, another black cat, who had been stuck in a tree for two nights. Palm is a sweet, two-and-a-half-year-old boy who was born on Palm Sunday and lives with his mama under the loving care of Shari, Greg and their two daughters. Palm runs and hides from strangers, so I knew I would need to be slow and careful with him, but I wasn't expecting the exceptional challenge I would find here.

Palm was perched less than 30 feet high on the trunk of a large Oak that, while still alive, is in a state of serious decline. Where Palm was perched was once the junction of a large branch which had long ago died and fallen. There were no significant limbs there, and there wasn't much surface area on the remnants of the fallen branch to make a comfortable resting pad, but numerous small shoots on the trunk provided some footholds and a sense of safe containment. I installed my rope very high in the tree far above Palm, but the rope rattled the shoots all around his perch and, not surprisingly, scared him. We were all a bit puzzled when, suddenly, we couldn't see Palm. He wasn't there anymore. He didn't climb higher, and he didn't come down, so where did he go?

When I climbed up to his perch, I verified my suspicion that there was a large cavity in the trunk, and Palm must have certainly gone inside. Trying to see a black cat in a dark tree cavity is a futile effort. Even the flashlight on my phone could not penetrate the heavy darkness inside, and I was getting very concerned about rescuing this little boy. Reaching my hand inside to grab him would be a recipe for getting bit, and, besides, the opening was too small to fit both his body and my hand when pulling him out. Normally, setting a trap near the opening would be advisable here, but I didn't see any reasonable way to install a trap on the side of this trunk without the aid of any limbs to support it. The only option was to lure him out.

Everyone in the family was below calling Palm in their usual way, but it was having no effect. I suggested that we all get quiet for a while, and that appeared to make a difference. I had tossed a dry cat treat inside the cavity, and, now, I could see that Palm was sniffing it. I spoke to him and showed him some more treats in my hand, and then I placed a treat on the edge of the opening. He was hungry enough to sniff and grab it, but he was also cautious enough to dart back inside the safety of the cavity as soon as he could.

I was feeling optimistic now, and all I had to do was work on gaining more and more of his trust while forcing him to come farther out the opening to get his treat. Each time he poked his head out, I gave him a treat and a gentle touch, and, each time, he quickly backed inside. Eventually, we did this enough that I was able to pet him and gain some trust, but he never came completely out of the cavity. If I had continued to work with him, it's possible that he would have eventually trusted me enough to come all the way out and either go into a carrier or on my lap, but there was no guarantee of that, and I didn't know how much longer that might take. Instead, I decided to take advantage of what he was giving me now and become more assertive. When he poked his head out again, I was ready with the cat bag on my arm as I petted him and gave him a treat, and then I grabbed his scruff and started pulling him out. He resisted, and I needed my other hand to grab his back to pull even harder, but I pulled him out and pulled the bag over him. He didn't like it, but he handled it very well. I took him down and returned him to his family waiting below, and they took him inside to release him. After he got settled inside, he took a good nap with his sweet mama.