Attracting the Cat

Some cats will not allow you to get close to them at all, and they will move out to extreme positions in the tree to get away from you. If you can safely follow them and get reasonably close to them without driving them farther away into a dangerous position, then it would be to your advantage to do so. Often these cats can be reassured with a sniff of your hand and a gentle touch, and, at that point, they will become more cooperative. However, if the cat is in a place where you cannot get reasonably close, then you should try to entice him to come to you.

First, make sure the position of the cat’s owner is not working against you. Cats in trees will often move toward the owner as best they can as the owner moves around the tree. If the owner moves out to one side of the tree, the cat will often move out a limb on that side as well in an effort to get as close as possible. Direct the owner to move behind you so that you are between the cat and the owner. If the cat moves toward the owner, then he will be moving toward you as well.

Food is the first enticement that most people consider using, but it is usually not effective. When a cat is stressed or fearful, he doesn’t care about food at all no matter how long he has been without it. Fear overrides hunger. You can’t open a can of food or shake a bag of treats and expect a scared cat to come running to you. While that may actually happen with a few cats, for most cats, it won’t. The cat will not come to you until he feels it is safe to do so. Offering food to him may soften his view of you, and that may be worthwhile, but it usually will not be the magic solution we typically envision. However, if the cat is not very stressed or frightened, food can turn the tide in your favor.

When I climb the tree for a rescue, I always carry a can of food, a bag of treats, and a small hard plastic container of dry food. The latter two are used primarily for the sound they make when shaken if the cat recognizes those sounds. When I use food enticement, I almost always use canned food, and I prefer to offer it to the cat in a separate, larger container for the cat’s convenience and so that the cat does not risk cutting his tongue on the sharp edge of the can. I prefer foods that are in more of a liquid state so I can simply pour the food into the container without needing a spoon. Also, I expect that liquid foods are a bit more attractive to cats who are dehydrated. The container I use has a lid, so if I need to put the food away for a while, I can put the lid on the container and store it without making a mess. I also attached a short string to the container so that I can suspend it from the end of an extendable pole and place the food closer to the cat when he is far away from me.

From your interview with the cat’s owner, you should already know if the sound of opening a can of food or shaking a bag of treats is a sound that the cat recognizes and motivates him to come running to you. If the cat responds to the sound, then make sure you make it only when it is reasonably quiet and the cat is not crying. Watch him carefully to see how he responds. While he is watching, pour the food into a container and blow the scent of the food toward him. Cats will often lick their lips in response, but that doesn’t mean they will come toward the food.

If the cat is too far out on a limb to see or smell the food, suspend it from the end of an extendable pole and place it closer to him. Sometimes, cats are interested in the food, but don’t want to get any closer to you, so using the pole to place the food closer to them and farther away from you makes it more attractive. Be sure when reaching the food out to the cat that you approach him from below or level. Never hold the food above him before placing it in front of him. Even when done properly, some cats are frightened by this, so watch them carefully and be prepared to pull it back quickly.

If the cat shows interest in the food and moves toward it, hold it still as best you can and let him have a sniff and a few licks. At that point, slowly pull the food toward you a few inches and watch to see if he follows it. If so, reward him with another bite before moving the food toward you again. If the cat refuses to follow the food, move it back a little until you find the distance he is willing to travel. Often, you can eventually lure him all the way to you in this manner. Once he is close, hold the food with your hand and pet him with the other while he eats.

Very often, using food and being your most charming self are not enough to entice the cat to you, and you will need other techniques in your repertoire. I have found that ignoring the cat can often be effective. In some cases, I will turn my back to the cat, look away, and become quiet for several minutes. While this doesn’t entice the cat to me, it gives the cat a reason to feel safer about doing so. I can remember two particularly striking cases like this, Beerus and Missy, in which I totally ignored the cats and both cats waited a long time and then began coming close to me just to see how I would react to them. They were testing me, and I allowed them both to come close without reacting to them. Since I showed little to no interest in them, they felt safer about coming near me again and again until I was eventually able to befriend them.

It rarely works, but if you are out of ideas, it doesn’t hurt to try tricking the cat into believing it is the owner who is in the tree with him. I instruct the owner to go where she cannot be seen or heard by the cat, and then I call her on my phone, turn on the speaker-phone, and be quiet while she talks to the cat as if she is in the tree. I simply point the speaker toward the cat so he can hear it clearly. The cats always recognize the owner’s voice, but rarely do they come any closer to me. It worked the first time I tried it, but it has not worked since that time. Still, I try it when needed.

Sometimes, the cat needs a little nudge to start moving toward you. If I have reached the point where I am ready to use the catch-pole to rescue the cat, I will first use the pole to reach behind the cat. Sometimes, the mere sight of the pole there is enough to get them to move away from the pole and toward me, but, if not, then I use the pole to touch him gently. Cats don’t like that and they will usually, though not always, move away from it. After a few more nudges like that, the cat will sometimes walk all the way along the limb to you. In place of the catch-pole, sometimes I will use my extendable pole or a long stick I cut from the tree. Be sure you are ready for the cat once he comes within reach. They usually have no intention of stopping to visit with you; they are merely trying to get past you so they can escape. Don’t nudge them toward you until you are prepared to secure them.

When the cat is near the end of a long limb, it does not require much wind or shaking of his limb to make him feel insecure and move closer to the trunk for more stability. In the absence of a strong wind, you can try gently shaking the limb to see if he will move any closer, but be very careful that you do not make him fall. Don’t expect him to move all the way to you, but if even a short distance makes a difference in being able to reach him, then this may be a useful trick to use.

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