Gear: Miscellaneous

Extendable Pole

Not every climber or rescuer wants or likes an extendable pole, but I find it very useful especially for three specific tasks. When a cat is far out on a limb and won't come toward me, I can sometimes use food to lure him to me by attaching the food to the end of the pole and extending it out closer to him. In those cases where the cat is interested in the food but does not trust me enough to be close to me, having the food far away from me makes it safer and more attractive for the cat. I can let him have a bite and then move the food a little closer to me, and the cat will often follow the food until he is eventually within reach.

The second task for which the extendable pole is useful is that of gently advancing my rope above me and closer to the cat without frightening him. In those cases where I cannot install the rope above the cat but must instead gradually work my way closer to him from directly below, I would normally throw my rope over a limb above me to advance higher. Once I get close to the cat, however, it can frighten him if he sees me suddenly throw my rope toward him. My intent is not clear to the cat, and all he sees is a sudden, quick movement and a rope hurling in his direction. With an extendable pole, however, I can slowly and gently lift my rope up to the limb and pull it back down without alarming the cat.

The third task is that of advancing my rope in pole-climbing situations. I am often in situations where the tree I must climb has no limb or fork suitable for installing my rope, or I don't have enough clearance to shoot a line into the tree. Instead, I must climb it by alternating between two trunk-cinched ropes. While I am hanging from one rope, I advance the other rope higher up the trunk and then climb it. The fewer times I must switch between the two ropes, the faster and easier the climb will go. Normally, I would be limited to advancing the next rope only as high as I can reach. With an extendable pole, however, I can raise the rope much higher and gain much more height with each rope change. In this situation, the pole can save me both time and energy.

I have struggled over the years to find a pole that is perfectly suited to my likes. I want a pole that can extend to ten or more feet, but I also want it to retract to a very small size to make it easier to carry into the tree. I want the pole to be strong, but I also want it to be very light. I want to be able to extend and retract it quickly and easily, and when extended, it needs to be able to hold the weight of several feet of rope without collapsing. I also want a hook on the end that can either pull a rope to me or lift it above me. I eventually found a pole that comes close to meeting all my requirements, but I hesitate to identify it since availability is likely to be an issue over time, and other poles that are better may become available. I recommend simply searching online vendors for something that meets your needs and don't limit your search to the area of tree climbing gear. I found some useful ones in electrical wire-pulling tools, boat hooks, and the best one I found was in disc golf gear.

Food and Bowl

Some rescuers have no need for a food bowl as they allow the cat to lick the food straight from the can. I prefer to use a bowl to prevent the cat from cutting his tongue on the edge of the can and to make it easier for him to eat it. To make it easy to dump the food from the can into the bowl, I select only those foods that are in a more liquid state. The bowl I use is a common food storage container with a lid that not only allows me to temporarily store the food without making a mess, but also conveniently snaps into place on the underside of the bowl so I don't need to be concerned about dropping it. To suspend the bowl from the end of the extendable pole, I drilled a small hole on opposite sides of the container where I attached a short piece of throw-line with a fixed loop in the center to hook over the end of the pole.

Most cats are tuned in to the sound of opening a can of food, shaking a bag of treats, or shaking a container of dry food, and I often use those sounds to get the cat to come to me. In addition to the can of food, I also keep a small bag of treats and a small container of dry food with me just for the sound they make. The information I gain from the owner beforehand will tell me which sounds, if any, are more likely to elicit a strong reaction. Even though some people feed their cat only dry food, I have found those cats are often more interested in the canned food after I have drawn them to me with the sound of the dry food.

Tarp or Net

In those situations in which there is a high chance that the cat will fall out of the tree, you should set up a tarp or net beneath him to soften the impact and reduce the chance of injury. Tarps and nets are both effective in softening the impact, but, if you need to secure the cat, a net is more effective at preventing the cat from escaping.

In order to be effective, the tarp or net needs to absorb some of the energy of the impact by stretching and slowing the cat's descent over a short distance. When a tarp is stretched out tightly in the air with the corners tied with rope to large trees or other solid anchors, the tarp, ropes, and trees do not stretch or bend enough to absorb very much energy from the cat. I am not certain, but I suspect that the result is not significantly better than letting the cat land on soft, flat ground. Only once have I had a cat fall on a tarp, and that was a tarp that the cat owner had installed before I even arrived. My tarp-setting experience is very limited, but I think it would be more effective to use a thick bungee cord shorter than two feet between the tarp and rope on all four corners. When tying the rope to a tree or other anchor, pull enough tension on the rope to suspend the tarp without fully extending the bungee cord, and suspend the tarp high enough off the ground so the cat does not hit the ground with full force on impact. When people hold the tarp to catch the cat, their arm and body movement will serve as the shock absorbers to soften the impact. When you use netting, the netting itself tends to stretch and may even stretch too much to have a significant shock absorbing effect unless you suspend it very high off the ground.

There usually is not a tree or other suitable anchor nearby to use to anchor all the ropes suspending the tarp, so have plenty of rope available for each corner of the tarp to reach a distant anchor or have a post that can be driven into the ground. There are probably better ways to do this, but I use a six-feet long piece of pointed rebar, place it far enough away from the target area, drive it into the ground an an angle pointing away from the center of the tarp, and then place a six-feet piece of pipe over the portion of the rebar that is above the ground. This way, I always have a pipe that is six feet high to use for an anchor. Since rebar rusts and transfers rust to everything it touches, I spray-painted it to make it cleaner.


A small action camera is certainly useful for making videos and pictures of your rescues, but it's greater value is often that of a learning tool. After the rescue, it is very helpful to review the action to see the signs you missed, the behavior or vocalizations you misinterpreted, and the mistakes you made. There are great lessons to be learned there, and those lessons will make you a better rescuer.

I began using a camera mounted on the top of my helmet, but I found that I was often bumping the camera on a limb and pointing it far away from the action. That is very easy to do in a tree, especially with the camera rising so far above my helmet. I find it works better mounted to the front of my helmet, and that puts the perspective closer to my eyes as well.

Microchip Reader

I have often been called to rescue a cat that is unknown to any of the people in the area. Sometimes, the cat lives nearby and will return home on his own as soon as he is released, but sometimes the cat is lost or displaced. Releasing a cat who is lost or displaced only continues a miserable and dangerous situation for the cat, and it's possible I may soon need to return to rescue him from a tree again very soon. I am very sensitive to the plight of lost cats and their owners who are searching for them, and I do not want to miss this opportunity to reunite the cat with its owner if at all possible. If the cat is not wearing an identifying collar, then I want to scan him for a microchip. I will also look for Lost Cat signs in the neighborhood and search the local Lost Pets pages for posts concerning this cat.

Assuming you have the cat secured, you can usually take him to a shelter or veterinarian where they will scan the cat for a microchip, but it seems that I find myself in need of a scanner when all those places are closed. Having my own scanner is a huge convenience.

Microchip scanners can get complicated and confusing very quickly, but there are four types of microchips in use in the United States: ISO (15 digits), Trovan (15 or 10 digits), FECAVA (10 digit hexadecimal), and AVID (9 digits). A scanner identified as "Universal" should read all four types of microchips, but you should verify that as much as possible before buying one. I have seen some cheap scanners labeled as Universal, but they clearly are not. I have been using the HomeAgain Universal Reader for several years, and it appears to be working very well. I have seen it detect several ISO chips, some AVID chips, and one FECAVA chip, but I don't recall if I have run into any Trovan chips yet. There are several other worthy scanners available, so you may want to talk to veterinarians or shelters about what they use and recommend and also do your own research.

Whenever I rescue an unknown cat, I prefer to secure it in a cat bag so I can scan it through the bag easily and thoroughly. If the cat is hostile, that makes it safer as well. I place the  scanner on the cat and move it slowly over him. I start at the most likely place which is between the shoulders, but some chips have been known to migrate to different parts of the body, so I scan the rest of the body, including the legs, as well.

When I detect a chip, I take a picture of the scanner display showing the chip number, because the number on my scanner will eventually disappear after a few minutes, and I don't want to keep scanning the cat to refresh the number. I enter the chip number on the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) pet microchip lookup page ( ) to find the registry for this particular microchip. This website does not have information on the cat owner; it only queries all the registries to find the one(s) where the chip is actually registered, and then it gives you the contact information for that registry. It takes a call to that registry to locate the owner, and each registry is different. Some will put you on hold while they call the cat owner and give them your phone number so they can call you. Some registries will not give out any information unless you identify yourself as a veterinarian, shelter, or non-profit organization and give them that phone number. That much is understandable, but I have found some who will not even make an effort to contact the owner and give them your contact information. Some make it easier than others to contact the owner, so be prepared. When you can contact the owner and return the cat, it can be a fun and rewarding experience to have a hand in the reunion, especially when the cat has been missing for a long time.

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