Complex cat-in-a-tree rescue

moss

Been here a while
Hey! How come there's not an "animal in a tree rescue" section in the Forum? Kidding.

Showed up at 5:30 PM after work last week to get a cat out of a smallish white pine before sunset. Turns out the cat was unapproachable, very afraid of humans except for its owners. It was up for 11 days at that point. Had been through 4 days of rain so it was well hydrated. Heat wave was on the way so it was critical to get the cat down for its survival.

I did a multi-point redirect SRS rope set (natural redirects for easy removal later) through a red oak to swing over and come down on top of the cat. Coming up on the pine trunk I would've simply chased him to the very top branches and would not succeed. It turned out he wouldn't tolerate me being in the pine no matter what direction I came from. He went out on a long branch, fell then caught himself on the end of one below. At that point sun was going down, I went to the ground redirected out of the top of the pine and built a tarp catch system under him. Finished that in the dark.

Next morning, day 12 for the cat, I returned. He had returned to the trunk and looked potentially dead. he was wedged in awkwardly on small branches and his head was hanging down, eyes closed. I shook the tree with my line and thrashed the upper side of the tree with the rope. He lifted his head and then put it back down again. I decided it was emergency climb time, went up with my grab bag. When I reached him he "woke up" and started running out the branch again. Normally I like to gradually grab a cat with it in closer to my body, do a test "scruff" and then do the firm scruff and bag stuff when the timing is right. This was a more desperate grab, I extended out and nabbed him on the run. I pulled him in, he was fighting hard, got him in the bag but he dragged bittersweet vines in with him. His body was tangled in the vine, I couldn't get his rear section in. I re-scruffed him 3x as I attempted to break the vines with one hand. On the third re-scruff in the bag he got to me and put a tooth through my left thumbnail and through some soft finger parts (all healed up). At that point "Screw this!" and let him run back out to the branch end.

I went to the ground and tuned up the tarp catch system, A lot of possible deflections on the way down, wanted to make sure I would catch him. I went up planning to cut him out of the tree, put my hand saw blade on the 2" diameter pine branch and before I could even pull he leapt into a tall black cherry and then went to the very top-most small branches. He was now roughly 95' above the ground, and surprisingly still over the tarp catch. I went down, brought the end of my throwline up and from the top of the pine threw a 10 oz bag over a high union in the cherry. On day 2 (for me) of the rescue I had my trap with me (TrueCatch 30B, now discontinued, replaced by the 30D "Wildcat Deluxe" trap). I set a rope and basal anchored on the excellent cherry and climbed up. Trap was left on the end of the tail of my line. When I got within 15' of the cat he freaked out and went to an out small branch, fell then caught himself in the same complex of branches. I stayed quiet a bit then pulled the trap up and set it up, lashing it just above a union at 80' or so. I wove an "on ramp" between branches using a long sling, paracord and small cherry branches (plenty available). Without the on ramp there is low probability that cat will get to the trap entrance. I have good success trapping cats in trees and there needs to be an easy route to the trap entrance whether existing (horizontal limb for example) or fabricated on the spot. With the trap set I headed home.

Day 13 for the cat, day 3 for me I got an early morning text "I think he's in the trap!". "I think" because the cherry is in woods behind the house and I could find only one vantage point on the top of stairs to the second floor of an outbuilding where the trap could barely be seen. Even then I could only verify with binoculars that the trap door was open or closed. I climbed up to the trap and he was in. His name is "Kiitos" which means "Thank you" in Finnish. He was not happy and did not thank me ;-) I brought him down inside the trap and released him inside the owner's house. He was shaky on his feet but looked pretty good considering. One of the owners works at a veterinary practice and had him checked out, all systems go.

51233175002_19f7ce87f6_c.jpg

Catch tarp tune dup on day 2, two small sugar maples (4-5" diameter) removed for clearance

51233878701_9cee49a0cc_c.jpg

The dude up in the cherry

51233878441_d255964c45_c.jpg

Trap set

51234655439_ba2d91aa5a_c.jpg

On ramp built, leaves inside the trap to create a "floor" the cat will walk on to the bait in the back of the trap. Camera is tilted, trap is close to level in all directions.

51234690264_b5a63ea731_c.jpg

Morning of day 3, day 13 for the cat, cat's in the trap

51233210317_e55a3f0b80_c.jpg

On the way down

51233238752_1fa747f386_c.jpg

11 pounder before he was up for 13 days, still heavy enough with the weight of the trap ;-)

51233238387_e5a691e5e1_c.jpg

Cat in the house, needs a little clean-up ;-)

51233878796_7fb59be24d_c.jpg

Base of the black cherry, don't see many this nice in woods without visiting western Massachusetts old-growth sites

51234124828_4c060b1f1d_c.jpg

Look down on ascent to get the trap down

All the photos here:
https://flickr.com/photos/naturejournal/albums/72157719377986558/

-AJ
 
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moss

Been here a while
Nice work! I was exhausted just reading the account. What was the bait?

I hit the wall mentally after the "bite and run" then jump into the cherry and go to the very top. I got over it ;-)

Some fancy wet cat food and water was the bait. I think he flipped the water immediately when the trap door shut ;-)
 

moss

Been here a while
Wow, that’s impressive! And a lot of work to catch one cat. Great job, as usual!

That was in my top 3 of challenging rescues out of a couple hundred. Most are fairly quick and relatively easy. I've been bit only three times, the worst one shredded fingers on both hands, during 40 mph gusts, Capt Hook traverse to ge to him etc. Another arborist who assessed the situation before me said the tree was unclimbable (Ha!, never say never). The other tough one was a two-day parrot rescue complete with pop-up storm lightning/downpours while I was up in a tree, and the house next to my "client's" started burning up with full emergency response as I was about to ascend the final time to get the bird ;-) Oh yeah, there was the intoxicated youth on the scene who tried to help (waved him off) then tried to sell me some bud, "No, but thanks".

The way it works is if a rescue starts to become difficult I can't say "Oh, this is too difficult, see ya!"
 
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moss

Been here a while
Last fun detail, should be a TV show, during the rescue of the cat that bit both hands in high winds... when I was making difficult throws into a grove of skinny tall conifers, a dude across a state highway in a liquor store parking lot started yelling "Get in the tree and get it!" etc. etc. Was like an old-school tree work foreman, wouldn't stop yelling. I had a bunch of spectators, Animal Control Office etc on the scene. I crossed the highway, got in his face (he was a bit taller and bigger than me) and told him to "Shut the f. up". He left. Not my normal operating mode but you rise to the occasion when you need to.
-AJ
 
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Wow, what a story. I’ve thought a few time about doing cat rescues when I get good enough at climbing, but now I’m reconsidering how “easy” I expected them to be :oops:
 

moss

Been here a while
This thread reads like a made-for-TV-drama. Hopefully Kiitos isn't a repeat offender.

Part way through I heard about a local climber who chased the cat out of a low perch same tree, the owner swiped him off the end of the branch with a maxed out pole saw without the saw on it. This time the cat was ready, that wasn’t going to happen again ;-)
 

JeffGu

Been here a while
I inherited a couple of outdoor cats that scamper up and down trees like squirrels. In fact, that's usually what they're after. I can't help but think that indoor cats don't learn these skills early enough, or something. Mine have their own "cat house" built into the garage (which they defend from all interlopers) and must have learned to climb trees at an early age. They were born outdoors and have never lived in a house. I've watched them hunting birds and squirrels 40 feet or so up in trees, and they certainly don't need any help getting down.

@moss have you noticed any trend regarding this? Have you had to rescue any cats that were strictly outdoor cats? My neighbor's indoor/outdoor cats are regular visitors, but I've never seen them climb a tree. When they get in a scary situation, they usually just run home. Mine almost never do that. They fight or run up a tree.
 

misfit

New member
Location
Baton Rouge
@JeffGu , it's good to see you again. I have missed your bizarre humor around here. I have done a number of cat rescues, and many were for outdoor cats. But just because a cat is outdoors now, doesn't mean it was outdoors when it was a kitten. My own theory about cats learning how to climb down a tree is that a kitten following its mother up and down a tree will likely learn, but, otherwise, it's hit-or-miss whether they learn or not. I think it's all about the exposure and experience they get as young'uns. Once they get older and in the habit of going everywhere frontward, the ability to think about going backwards just gets lost in the brain. I know a guy who says that he trained his adult cat to climb down backwards by putting him in a harness with a long leash and gently tugging at him on a tree to get him to learn the feel for coming down backwards. He says it worked, so adult cats can learn it too, but it's just more natural if they learn it as a kitten.
 

Christrees

Participating member
Location
New York
Hey! How come there's not an "animal in a tree rescue" section in the Forum? Kidding.

Showed up at 5:30 PM after work last week to get a cat out of a smallish white pine before sunset. Turns out the cat was unapproachable, very afraid of humans except for its owners. It was up for 11 days at that point. Had been through 4 days of rain so it was well hydrated. Heat wave was on the way so it was critical to get the cat down for its survival.

I did a multi-point redirect SRS rope set (natural redirects for easy removal later) through a red oak to swing over and come down on top of the cat. Coming up on the pine trunk I would've simply chased him to the very top branches and would not succeed. It turned out he wouldn't tolerate me being in the pine no matter what direction I came from. He went out on a long branch, fell then caught himself on the end of one below. At that point sun was going down, I went to the ground redirected out of the top of the pine and built a tarp catch system under him. Finished that in the dark.

Next morning, day 12 for the cat, I returned. He had returned to the trunk and looked potentially dead. he was wedged in awkwardly on small branches and his head was hanging down, eyes closed. I shook the tree with my line and thrashed the upper side of the tree with the rope. He lifted his head and then put it back down again. I decided it was emergency climb time, went up with my grab bag. When I reached him he "woke up" and started running out the branch again. Normally I like to gradually grab a cat with it in closer to my body, do a test "scruff" and then do the firm scruff and bag stuff when the timing is right. This was a more desperate grab, I extended out and nabbed him on the run. I pulled him in, he was fighting hard, got him in the bag but he dragged bittersweet vines in with him. His body was tangled in the vine, I couldn't get his rear section in. I re-scruffed him 3x as I attempted to break the vines with one hand. On the third re-scruff in the bag he got to me and put a tooth through my left thumbnail and through some soft finger parts (all healed up). At that point "Screw this!" and let him run back out to the branch end.

I went to the ground and tuned up the tarp catch system, A lot of possible deflections on the way down, wanted to make sure I would catch him. I went up planning to cut him out of the tree, put my hand saw blade on the 2" diameter pine branch and before I could even pull he leapt into a tall black cherry and then went to the very top-most small branches. He was now roughly 95' above the ground, and surprisingly still over the tarp catch. I went down, brought the end of my throwline up and from the top of the pine threw a 10 oz bag over a high union in the cherry. On day 2 (for me) of the rescue I had my trap with me (TrueCatch 30B, now discontinued, replaced by the 30D "Wildcat Deluxe" trap). I set a rope and basal anchored on the excellent cherry and climbed up. Trap was left on the end of the tail of my line. When I got within 15' of the cat he freaked out and went to an out small branch, fell then caught himself in the same complex of branches. I stayed quiet a bit then pulled the trap up and set it up, lashing it just above a union at 80' or so. I wove an "on ramp" between branches using a long sling, paracord and small cherry branches (plenty available). Without the on ramp there is low probability that cat will get to the trap entrance. I have good success trapping cats in trees and there needs to be an easy route to the trap entrance whether existing (horizontal limb for example) or fabricated on the spot. With the trap set I headed home.

Day 13 for the cat, day 3 for me I got an early morning text "I think he's in the trap!". "I think" because the cherry is in woods behind the house and I could find only one vantage point on the top of stairs to the second floor of an outbuilding where the trap could barely be seen. Even then I could only verify with binoculars that the trap door was open or closed. I climbed up to the trap and he was in. His name is "Kiitos" which means "Thank you" in Finnish. He was not happy and did not thank me ;-) I brought him down inside the trap and released him inside the owner's house. He was shaky on his feet but looked pretty good considering. One of the owners works at a veterinary practice and had him checked out, all systems go.

51233175002_19f7ce87f6_c.jpg

Catch tarp tune dup on day 2, two small sugar maples (4-5" diameter) removed for clearance

51233878701_9cee49a0cc_c.jpg

The dude up in the cherry

51233878441_d255964c45_c.jpg

Trap set

51234655439_ba2d91aa5a_c.jpg

On ramp built, leaves inside the trap to create a "floor" the cat will walk on to the bait in the back of the trap. Camera is tilted, trap is close to level in all directions.

51234690264_b5a63ea731_c.jpg

Morning of day 3, day 13 for the cat, cat's in the trap

51233210317_e55a3f0b80_c.jpg

On the way down

51233238752_1fa747f386_c.jpg

11 pounder before he was up for 13 days, still heavy enough with the weight of the trap ;-)

51233238387_e5a691e5e1_c.jpg

Cat in the house, needs a little clean-up ;-)

51233878796_7fb59be24d_c.jpg

Base of the black cherry, don't see many this nice in woods without visiting western Massachusetts old-growth sites

51234124828_4c060b1f1d_c.jpg

Look down on ascent to get the trap down

All the photos here:
https://flickr.com/photos/naturejournal/albums/72157719377986558/

-AJ
Great job man...that was definitely alot of work. Did you feel like giving up at any point. I would have thought about it for sure. But I would have done my best to stick with it and get the cat out. Again hell of a job
 

moss

Been here a while
Great job man...that was definitely alot of work. Did you feel like giving up at any point. I would have thought about it for sure. But I would have done my best to stick with it and get the cat out. Again hell of a job

I never feel like giving up but I have my “WTF, I’m not going to get this cat” moments. Similar to a difficult tree work situation just keep going until the solution appears.
-AJ
I inherited a couple of outdoor cats that scamper up and down trees like squirrels. In fact, that's usually what they're after. I can't help but think that indoor cats don't learn these skills early enough, or something. Mine have their own "cat house" built into the garage (which they defend from all interlopers) and must have learned to climb trees at an early age. They were born outdoors and have never lived in a house. I've watched them hunting birds and squirrels 40 feet or so up in trees, and they certainly don't need any help getting down.

@moss have you noticed any trend regarding this? Have you had to rescue any cats that were strictly outdoor cats? My neighbor's indoor/outdoor cats are regular visitors, but I've never seen them climb a tree. When they get in a scary situation, they usually just run home. Mine almost never do that. They fight or run up a tree.
Almost exclusively escaped indoor cats who never learned to downclimb. This year a lot of less than a year-old male cats that the owners want to be indoor/outdoor. They got too ambitious when something scared them up the tree. The young ones are the easiest to get. I have some repeat outdoor cats, total a-holes, they go up and sit there for a few days waiting for me, owners get tired of paying me ;-)
-AJ
 

Christrees

Participating member
Location
New York
I never feel like giving up but I have my “WTF, I’m not going to get this cat” moments. Similar to a difficult tree work situation just keep going until the solution appears.
-AJ

Almost exclusively escaped indoor cats who never learned to downclimb. This year a lot of less than a year-old male cats that the owners want to be indoor/outdoor. They got too ambitious when something scared them up the tree. The young ones are the easiest to get. I have some repeat outdoor cats, total a-holes, they go up and sit there for a few days waiting for me, owners get tired of paying me ;-)
-AJ
Damn man. I feel ya. Good job tho. That catching system in case he falls is a great idea. I'll have to put that in the memory bank.
 

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