Coax a Cat Down

Some cats can be coaxed down from a tree, but first realize that you will be putting the cat at a higher risk of falling as it moves around in the tree and tries to climb down. Don’t try to coax the cat down until you have made all the preparations on the ground to remove or cover all the hard objects that would be hazardous to the cat if it falls. You should also consider stretching out a tarp and suspending it above the ground to catch the cat if it falls. Also, to improve your chance of success, it is best if the cat’s favorite person is the only one coaxing it down. Everyone else should be out of sight. If the cat is unknown to everyone there, then try one person at a time to see who elicits the best response from the cat.

When coaxing a cat down, it is important that you pay close attention to the cat to see just what it is that motivates him to start moving. Some cats are more motivated when they see you and everyone else go inside or out of sight. They appear to feel abandoned and don’t want to be left alone, so they sometimes get the courage to come down so they can catch up with you. Some cats are more motivated when they are alone for a while and then see you come out to talk to them, and they may get so excited to see you that they begin to come down toward you. This is especially likely first thing in the morning after being left alone all night. Watch and listen to the cat carefully when you leave and return to see if either, or both, seem to have a strong effect. Sometimes, when I arrive to rescue a cat, the cat is so excited to see someone that it comes down on its own at that moment.

It is also worth noticing just what kind of voice provokes the most response. Talking normally may have no effect, but talking in an excited or high-pitched, emotional tone may cause them to respond. This came in handy for me in a difficult rescue for Kiki (video below) when the cat was up in the highest part of the tree where I could not safely go. The owner tried to coax Kiki down to the part of the tree where I could reach her, but Kiki did not respond until the owner started using a high-pitched, emotional tone. I was watching the cat and noticed the difference, so I instructed the owner to keep that up. With her help, Kiki did come down closer to me, and I was able to rescue her. It was exhausting for the owner, and it probably irritated the neighbors, but it worked. Get excited. Experiment with different voice styles to see what has an effect on the cat.

For some cats, the sound of shaking a bag or jar of treats or opening a can of food will motivate them to come down. If the cat responds to those sounds, use them in conjunction with your talking. Use the sounds sparingly, however, because the sound quickly loses its effectiveness when overdone.

If the cat is out on a limb, and you want him to come toward the trunk to come down, then put yourself in a position that draws the cat toward you and the trunk. That is, get on the opposite side of the trunk, and, when the cat starts moving toward you, move closer to the trunk and pace it so that you both arrive at the trunk at the same time. Now you are closer together than ever, and the cat will feel that excitement and, hopefully, with more excited encouragement from you, continue downward.

When trying to coax a cat down, do not overdo it. If the cat stops responding to you, stop coaxing. The more you try to coax him down when he is not responding, the more you are teaching him to ignore you. Do not expect to coax a cat down on your first attempt. If the cat can be coaxed down at all, it usually takes several attempts over two or more days. It can feel like a totally wasted effort one moment, and a surprising, miraculous success the next. It’s unpredictable when the cat will respond, and it takes some luck, but good luck won’t happen if you don’t set the stage for it.

As the cat climbs down, he will probably try to come down head-first and then begin to lose control and swing his body around. He may come to rest hanging sideways or with his head up and then try again. Sometimes, they get the idea that they can go down backward, and, sometimes, they don’t. They can swing around wildly as they desperately try to cling to the tree. They may eventually fall, or they may manage to keep control all the way to the ground. If the cat falls, do not react to it. He will likely run off to the nearest safe place he can find, but do not chase him. Just stay in place, remain calm, and watch to see where he goes and if he appears to be limping. If he is hiding, leave him alone, calm the environment, and give him some quiet time to recover. He will emerge when he feels it is safe to do so.