It was only two days after I retired when my wife, Judy, came home from a walk and reported that she found a cat stuck in a tree just one block away from our house. No one recognized the cat, and we could not find the owner, so I decided to take responsibility for the poor kitty and find some help for him. I had no idea how difficult that would be. I kept running into one frustrating dead-end after another. Everyone I called either made a joke about it, expressed no concern, or gave me the standard, false lines of glib reassurance about how the cat would come down on its own: “Put some food down at the base of the tree.” “He will come down when he gets hungry.” “He climbed up there; he can climb down.” “I’ve never seen a cat skeleton in a tree.”

That’s when I learned just how difficult it is to find someone who cares about a cat stuck in a tree, much less, someone who will actually rescue it. I discovered that there is an important need here that is not being met, and I began to wonder what could be done about it.

I began to research the matter, and I learned that there is such a thing as tree-climbing and that there is specialized gear to make that safe and efficient. I even found a few tree climbers in other parts of the country who were actually rescuing cats in a tree and providing pictures and videos of some rescues which I found very inspiring. In fact, it was one of these rescuers, Dan Kraus, who not only had rescued thousands of cats in a tree, but also created a directory of other rescuers all over the world. It was through his directory that I was able, at last, to find someone who would rescue the cat in my neighborhood.

When I first told Judy about what I was learning and that I might be interested in rescuing cats in trees, her two-word response was emphatic and clear: “No way!” That could have been the end of my dream, except she and I were both there when the rescuer climbed the tree to rescue the kitty in my neighborhood, and seeing it play out so simply, safely, and successfully made a very positive impression on her. She turned to me and said with excited confidence and support, “You could do that!” She began encouraging me to do it, so I continued my research in earnest.

As I began to study tree climbing, I was frustrated with the lack of organized information that is targeted to the beginner. I would look at tree service supply catalogs and wonder what a piece of climbing gear was and how it could possibly be used. I was overwhelmed with all the new terminology that had no meaning to me. I could find videos and articles here and there, but I had no idea if the information they were teaching was good or bad. I wanted a formal, organized, and reputable course designed for the beginner, and I was lucky to find one that being offered very close to me. This course was offered only one time, and I was lucky that I was there and ready for it when it happened.

While I gained much knowledge from the course, I did not get as much actual climbing experience as I needed. I felt confident in my basic knowledge but not my experience. I practiced climbing on my own for a while but still felt like I needed more training, so I got some private instruction from a teacher in the Atlanta, Georgia area. After that, I began to feel more confident in my climbing ability, and I practiced and refined my personal style of climbing techniques for several more months before I felt I was ready to tackle a real cat rescue.

I was now ready to climb a tree, but I still did not know how to go about rescuing a cat. I gained limited knowledge from a few other cat rescuers, but there was no school or training manual for this. To learn the art and science of managing and handling a cat in a tree, I was mostly on my own. I learned what works and what doesn’t work as I went along. I studied the video from my rescues so I could focus more on the cat’s behavior than I could when I was in the tree focusing on my climbing and safety. From the videos, I learned how I originally misinterpreted a cat’s behavior, and I saw responses that I had missed when I was there. I learned from my mistakes even though I often repeated them too. Over the years, my climbing style and cat rescue style evolved as I continued to learn new things and search for better ways to do this or that. It’s a never-ending education.

If you have doubts about your suitability for climbing trees and rescuing cats, that’s perfectly justified. I had doubts too but learned over time that it’s not as hard as I thought it would be. Many people assume that tree climbing is done with spikes on your boots or, if using a rope, that you pull yourself up the rope with your arms. That is not the case. While there may be a rare case where climbing spikes are suitable for a cat rescue, I never use them. I don’t even have spikes to use. I always climb using a rope, and rope climbing is done using your legs to ascend. There are devices that attach to your feet, grab the rope, and allow you to climb with your leg muscles as easily as you would climb a flight of stairs.

While some rescues can be more strenuous than others, it is still an activity that is suited for both men and women. There are women who work in the tree care industry, and there are women who rescue cats in trees, so it’s definitely possible. Most rescues are fairly easy, and if you can walk up several flights of stairs at any pace you like and hold yourself upright with your arms, you can climb a tree. Some rescues, however, can be more strenuous and require holding your body in awkward positions, sometimes even while trying to maneuver a long pole into a precise position a long distance away from you. Tree climbing is an excellent whole-body workout at times, so consider that an added benefit.

If you’re interested but are afraid of heights, then this is exactly what you need. There is no better way to conquer your fear of heights than by climbing trees even if you never rescue a cat. That’s because you are in control at every moment. You can decide just how high you want to go and can stop or go back down at any time. You can climb to a height at which you begin to feel uncomfortable, stop there until you feel comfortable and then choose whether to go higher, stay longer, or go back down. You can do this as often as you need to become comfortable with the heights you can reach in a tree. A certain amount of fear is a good thing as it keeps you aware of the danger and prevents you from becoming complacent.

I do not claim to be the authoritative expert on rescuing cats in trees. While I have rescued hundreds of cats in trees and studied the matter thoroughly, I am mostly self-taught and can't boast any credentials in the science of rescuing cats in trees. Furthermore, there are other more experienced rescuers who have done rescues numbering in the thousands, and they may be better qualified to write a guide like this. Whoever writes it, there is a need for a guide like this to recruit, encourage, and instruct beginning rescuers, and I have the time and motivation to do it. I don't claim that my way of rescuing cats in trees is the only way or the best way. I simply want to share what I have learned in the hope that it will be of benefit to beginning rescuers as they develop their own way. This guide is also important to me at a personal level as a bucket-list goal of mine, because I don't want to die without knowing that this resource exists to serve for the benefit of future rescuers as well as all the cats and their owners they will serve. While I have made every effort to be truthful, there may be statements here that are misleading, inaccurate, incomplete, or simply wrong, and I welcome the opportunity to be corrected and to revise those statements as needed. Please feel encouraged to send your comments, feedback, and corrections to me at

Every rescuer is different, and we all have our own unique styles, preferences, perceptions, limitations, skills, and philosophies resulting in different ways in which we rescue a cat. This guide, consequently, reflects only my own style of rescue, and all other rescuers are not going to agree with all that I say here. That is to be expected, and we all must develop a way that works best for us at this time while being receptive to allowing our style to evolve over time with experience.

Rescuing a cat in a tree is a noble act of kindness. Among all our virtues, the one I most value and revere is the kindness that moves us to relieve the suffering of other creatures. While a cat stuck in a tree is not the worst example of suffering in this world, to the cat and the owner at that moment, it certainly feels that way, and it is one that touches me in a special way and is emphatically worthy of relief.

To recognize and understand the cat's distress requires empathy. To care about the cat's misery requires compassion. To help the cat get down requires initiative. While there are many people who have the heart and desire to help a cat stuck in a tree, there are very few people who also have the knowledge, skill, and commitment that is required to rescue the cat successfully and safely. The number of people today who are actively rescuing cats in trees is not adequate to meet even a small fraction of the need for rescuers, and countless cats and their owners are suffering greatly as a result. The world needs more rescuers, and the purpose of this guide is to provide tree-climbers with the basic knowledge they need to begin rescuing cats in trees. It is my hope that this guide will help alleviate some needless suffering by encouraging and inspiring others to hear the call and provide this noble service in their own communities.

Getting Started   >>>