The catch-pole is a rescue tool that I usually dread to use, but once the rescue is easily and safely completed, then I wonder why I dreaded it so much. It’s a very useful tool for those situations where you can’t get within arm’s reach of the cat or you don’t want to be within reach of the cat because it’s hostile. With feral or hostile cats, it keeps you a safe distance away from the teeth and claws that so desperately want to find you. With tame and sweet cats, it allows you to remove them safely from a dangerous or precarious position that can’t be safely reached. It’s as close as I have found to my imaginary and perfect remote cat-plucking tool I so often wish was a reality.

The reason I often dread using it is because some rescues, particularly hostile cats, are unpleasant. Even when it works perfectly, a hostile cat can kick up quite a fuss when he is snared. He will struggle mightily reaching for anything within grasp of his claws, he will scream loud enough to attract the attention of all the dogs in the neighborhood, and he will bite anything close including the pole itself. Transferring him to a net or any other container can be quite a battle, and that is a battle which I have sometimes lost. Tame cats, however, usually handle being snared quite nicely. They are quiet, still, limp and docile as you lift them and transfer them into a net. Even so, there is still a risk that they can slip out of the noose or slip the noose around their waist.

The only proper way to snare a cat is around the chest just behind the front legs. Some people will argue that only one leg needs to be through the noose, but that is not the case. You must have both legs through the noose not only to prevent the cat from slipping out of the noose, but also to avoid pain or injury to the cat’s neck. It is very easy for a cat to slip out of the noose with only one leg through the noose, and it doesn’t matter if the cat is standing or suspended.

Catch-poles are best suited for cats who are in a position where their movement is very limited such as at the end of a limb or skinny top. Catch-poles can be used for cats who have the freedom to walk freely along a limb, but it can be very difficult and tricky to get the noose around them and tighten it in the proper place around their chest while they are moving.

In general, the procedure for using a catch-pole begins with extending the pole out to the cat where you work the noose around him until you can place it around his chest just behind his front legs. You then tighten the noose, lift the cat out of his position, bring him toward you, transfer him to a net you have waiting for him, release the noose, withdraw the pole from the net, and then secure the cat inside the net.

Body position is extremely important for a catch-pole rescue. You need to be as comfortable, supported, and stable as possible, and, of course, you need to be tied in securely as well. When using long poles, you should consider your vertical position relative to the cat. If you are level with the cat, it can be very difficult to lift the cat upward from that position, especially when the cat grabs the limb tightly with his claws. If you can get above or below the cat to place the pole in a more vertical position, it will be much easier for you to manage. I tore a muscle in my shoulder trying to lift a cat at the end of an eleven-foot pole in a horizontal position and learned this lesson the hard way.

As you select a position from which to snare the cat, you also need to make sure you have enough room for the net to which you will transfer him as well as for manipulating the pole into position to do so. With the pole in hand, put it in the approximate position to snare the cat and then practice bringing the cat toward you to place into the net. Notice the limbs that are blocking the movement of the pole, and also take note of the limbs that the cat will surely grab as he passes by them. Practice the movement several times to be sure you know what you will do and can actually accomplish it successfully. Also test the mechanism of the pole to be sure it is working properly. Do not snare the cat without a plan and without practicing it.

The net into which you will transfer the cat must be in position and ready to use. It should be attached to your harness or possibly to a nearby sturdy limb within easy reach. You must be able to grab it and hold it at a safe distance away from your body so that a hostile cat cannot grab you. The net must have a rigid hoop to hold the net open and a handle to keep your hand out of reach of the cat. The net must also have a cord to cinch the net closed after the cat is placed inside. I hang the net on my harness by the cinch cord so that, when the cat is in the net, his weight will automatically cinch the net partially closed. A sufficiently motivated cat can and will jump out of the net unless you cinch it closed quickly.

The first time you practice this with a fully extended pole, you quickly identify one important problem: how to reach the release knob at the other end of a 12-foot pole. The solution lies in devising a way to let the bottom of your net hang well below your feet. For example, if you have a reach of seven feet, and your net hangs from your harness at foot level and has a depth of three feet, you will be able to reach the release knob when the pole is extended to ten feet but not more than that. What I do is use an accessory cord which, after all the knots are tied, is about four feet long. One end attaches to a carabiner which attaches to my harness, and the other end attaches to a carabiner which connects loosely to the net cinch cord. The net hangs roughly one foot from that point. Roughly one foot from the end of the cord closest to the net, I tie a butterfly knot with a loop large enough to hang on my harness. I tie one more butterfly knot roughly halfway between that knot and the other end. I always begin by attaching the carabiner and the two butterfly loops to my harness in order so the net is hanging by the first butterfly knot. This puts the bottom of the net three feet below my feet, and it also keeps the net handle within reach and allows me to hold the net far enough away from my body when pushing the cat into the net. Once the cat is inside the net, I can hang the net from the knot, and, if I need to lower the net farther in order to reach the release knob, I can pull that butterfly loop off my harness and lower it until the next butterfly loop holds the net. If I need even more distance, I can take the second butterfly loop off my harness and let the net drop until the carabiner catches it. At that point, the bottom of the net will be six feet below my feet, and that should allow me to reach the release knob easily even if the pole is extended to its maximum length.

When you are confident you can perform the procedure successfully, then extend the pole to the cat and begin to work the noose around him. Getting the noose under the front legs can be difficult and time-consuming, but sometimes, it goes quickly. If the cat is standing, sometimes you can get him to step through the hoop. Sometimes, you can use the noose to gently push or pull on his neck or upper body until he moves slightly to allow you to manipulate the noose better. It can be a frustrating task that suddenly turns into a surprising success. It is often difficult to see well enough to know when you have the noose in place, especially with long-hair cats. You may need to gently lift or lower the noose to see where it is. Make sure that you have not snared a small limb with the cat. Once it is in the proper position just behind the front legs, lift the noose so that it is touching the chest and then begin to tighten it. Do not quickly yank it tight. Feel the tension on the cable as you pull it closed, place the end of the pole over the top center of the cat’s shoulders, and tighten the cable until you see the excess cable go inside the pole and feel the tension suddenly increase with contact around the cat’s body. If the cat slips out of the noose before you can tighten it, don’t panic. Just release the noose and start again.

When the noose is properly positioned and tightened, my advice is to lift the cat up off the limb. He will cling to the limb tightly so it can take considerable effort to lift him at first. Some people prefer to use the pole to force the cat to stand and walk along the limb under his own weight toward you. That can work, but it’s difficult and risky. The cat will resist your effort and cling to the limb, so you will have to force him toward you every step. If the cat is facing you when you pull him toward you, the noose can easily slip off over his head. If the cat is facing away from you when you pull him toward you, the noose can easily slip down to his waist. In both cases, you will have to start over with a cat that is more resistant than before. The only safe directions to force the cat are sideways and up.

If you lift the cat upward off the limb, you will have full control of him until he reaches out and grabs a limb or anything else within reach. If he grabs a limb, you will simply have to pull him free, but be very careful when doing so. If you are pulling him directly toward you, you can accidentally pull him too close to you when he suddenly breaks free. Do that with a hostile cat, and I can guarantee that you will be severely clawed and bitten.

Continue performing the maneuver you practiced to position the pole so that, with one hand, you can hold the cat away from your body and directly over the opening of the net. The other hand should get the net into position directly under the cat. If the cat is struggling, simply hold still in that position, and the cat will usually stop very quickly. Shove the cat down to the bottom of the net, and the hand holding the net handle should now drop it so that the weight is on the cinch cord. If you need to lower the net in order to reach the release knob, then do so now. You should now have two hands available to hold the pole and release the noose. After releasing the noose, you may need to lift and shake the pole gently to free the cat fully from the noose. Use one hand on the pole and the other on the net cinch cord to pull the pole and net up together until the net handle is back within reach, and then you can begin withdrawing the pole from the net. When you hold the net by the cinch cord, the net handle hangs in a vertical orientation. Grab the handle while keeping the handle vertical as you pull the pole out of the net, and then tilt the handle of the net backward so that the hoop closes the opening. Set the pole aside and use two hands to cinch the net tightly closed.

If the cat struggles when you are trying to shove him into the net and succeeds in preventing you from doing so, pull him free and hold still again until he stops and try again. This can be easier said than done. It can take considerable strength and stamina to do this with a hostile cat, especially multiple times, and you may need to become more forceful than you like when shoving him down to the bottom of the net. If you fail and are exhausted, then you need to have a backup plan. Depending on your height, your backup plan may be dropping him onto a tarp below and letting him run free, or you might be able to keep him in the catch-pole while you climb lower and then drop him to the ground. If you do that, make sure any people on the ground move far out of the way.

The following video is an excerpt from a catch-pole rescue I did for a cat I had rescued twice before. I knew before I started that his cat would not allow me to get close to her, and she lived up to my expectations. I used the catch-pole to snare her and transfer her to my homemade "bagnet" (pictured above) which is a short-handle net with ripstop nylon in place of the netting to make it easier to get the cat inside.

Rescue Methods:  Net   >>>