Rescue Strategy

Every rescue is different. Every cat is different. Every tree is different. Even if you are rescuing the same cat in the same spot in the same tree a second time, the rescue will still be different, and you still must tailor a unique rescue strategy that considers all the current circumstances. After you gather all the information you can from assessing the site and learning about the cat, you will be in a position to develop the best plan for rescuing the cat. It is also wise to prepare contingency plans in case there are any surprises along the way.

While the immediate situation is your primary consideration, it is often wise to think also about the possibility of a future rescue for this cat should that become necessary. If a future rescue seems likely, then you want this rescue to be as pleasant as possible so he won’t be terrified and uncooperative for subsequent rescues.

Your rescue strategy should answer the following questions:

  • How will you climb the tree?
  • How will you approach the cat?
  • How will you attract the cat to you, if necessary?
  • Which rescue method will you use? 

Climbing the Tree

In most cases, you will climb the same tree in which the cat is stuck, but there are some cases where that won’t be possible or advisable. For instance, if the tree is dead and unsafe, or if the cat is in the skinny top of a tree where you can’t get close, you will probably need to climb an adjacent tree that is taller and larger, if available. In extreme cases, you may need to set up a highline between two larger trees on opposite sides of the cat’s tree. Sometimes, even if the cat’s tree is safe to climb, you may want to climb an adjacent tree in order to reduce the risk of frightening the cat and scaring him higher.

You will also need to decide where to install your rope. In most cases, you will find it best to install the rope well above the cat, especially if you want to discourage him from climbing any higher. Cats are often frightened by the commotion created by the rope installation process, and, while they usually stay where they are, sometimes they will move away from it. If the commotion is above them, they may go down. If it’s below them, they may climb higher. If you want to discourage a cat from climbing higher in the tree either for your convenience or because the top of the tree is dead and unsafe, then it’s best to install the rope above him. However, if the cat is calm and likely approachable, you might decide it best to install it well below him so you can slowly approach him without frightening him.

If you think the cat might go far out the limb, then it's best to plan for that by installing your rope high enough above him to give you a safe rope angle for going after him. Also pay attention to the rope path at the time of installation to see if there are any limbs that would interfere with the movement of your rope as it angles out in that direction. Otherwise, you may find you need to climb above the interfering limb, move your rope to the other side, and then go back down to reach the cat.

If the cat is feral or otherwise very fearful and in his own familiar territory, it would probably be best to install the rope above him so that, if he decides to move, he will go downward. In these cases where you know there is no chance the cat will let you get close, then it may be best to install the rope high above the cat on the opposite side of the trunk so that he can’t see you climbing. Once you are a safe distance above him, you can calmly reveal yourself to him and motivate him to climb down on his own. This tactic is described in more detail in the Exceptional Cases page of the Rescue Methods section.

If there are no available limbs that are suitable for installing your rope, and there are no other nearby trees suitable for climbing, then you may need to climb the tree using a pole-climbing technique with either rope or climbing spikes. I never use spikes because I don’t want to do any harm to the tree, but I frequently use rope in an alternate trunk-cinching technique. Sometimes, I use this pole-climbing technique even when it isn’t necessary just so I can skip the rope-installation process and approach the cat with as little frightening commotion as possible. The alternate trunk-cinching technique is best suited for small trees with few, if any, limbs and becomes more difficult with larger trees, especially when there are many limbs or vines.

Cat Management:  Approaching the Cat   >>>