Considering a recent call to rescue a cat who had spent three days up a tree we thought we would ponder if these instinctive climbers do really get stuck in trees?
New Zealand is not without its own varied reports of cat stuck up a tree rescues making it into the news. Headlines include cats being rescued after two weeks spent in a tree, to firefighters injured and pet owners dying in rescues that go very wrong.
Whether you love them, hate them, or are somewhere in-between cats are the most common companion animal in New Zealand. It is reported that New Zealand has the highest recorded rate of cat ownership in the developed world.
Climbing is common feline behavior.
The sharp claws, strong legs, flexible body and balancing tail of the cat enable it to climb with great efficiency. While cats can enjoy climbing for exercise or to survey their territory, climbing may be seen in cases where cats are being persecuted by rival cats, aggressive dogs or hostile humans. In such instances, they can be seen to clamber up trees with great speed.
Can our feline friends find themselves affixed high in the branches unable to descend?
Cat’s claws curve toward the back, which helps for climbing up the tree. But when they try to come down head-first, those claws are now curving upward and are almost useless for holding them securely to the tree. When the cat tries to climb down it senses that he is about to fall it. For a cat to climb back down the way he came, he’ll have to turn around and not so gracefully wiggle butt-first and going down backwards needs to be learned. He either does not know to go down backward, or he is too afraid to do it. He doesn’t know what else to do, so he simply stays where he is.
Sometimes, the cat’s not coming down because they don’t want to. Just seeing a cat up a tree does not mean a rescue situation. Cats climb down from trees all the time and it is normal for cats to stay in trees for long periods of time. Give him some time to come down on his own, eventually kitty will want some attention or something to eat and will climb down when they are ready to do so. However, a cat may have become stuck up the tree physically. The cat may have become wedged or poked by a broken branch or trapped by his collar. Cats finding themselves in such a situation will less likely find their own way down and may need to be saved.
What can you do if you think your cat is stuck in a tree?
If you are worried about your furry friends’ safety then ideas like offering a favourite food to coax him down can be a place to start.
You need to consider your safety if you decide to climb the tree yourself. Remember that your cat can climb better than you can. Make sure to use a sturdy ladder placed on a flat service and use all necessary safety precautions and someone to help. It may pay to use gloves and take a pillow or cushion with you as your usually unassuming tame companion may not be his usual self.
Who can you call if you think your cat is stuck in a tree?
While there are reports of firefighters answering the call to rescue a cat stuck up a tree it is not recommended to call the emergency services. There doesn’t seem to be any standardised procedure for how fire brigades in New Zealand respond to calls to rescue a cat stuck up a tree. While not all situations are equal, generally the fire brigade are not in the habit of putting firemen up ladders to rescue cats.
The SPCA would be a logical option and they may well be able to help. The SPCA would suggest trying to coax your kitty with food but due to health and safety regulations are unable to help climbing trees but could have contact details for someone to help.
Both the SPCA and Fire Brigade may recommend calling a climbing arborist to help rescue your pet. Most arborists should be skillful tree climbers and have the specialised skill and equipment for safely and efficiently climbing trees without causing damage to the tree.
So, it seems despite instinct to climb cats may well get caught up in a tree unable to get down for many reasons. The troubled tabby may find his way back down in time or he may require some assistance. Attempting a pet rescue should not be taken lightly and thought should be given to how and who should embark on recovering your treasured fur baby.
Think Trees Northland are happy to help if you are worried about your beloved pet.
So, what happened to the cat who had spent three days up the tree you ask? The beloved pet safely returned to terra firma much to the owner’s delight. Think Trees arborist climbed the tree to where the cat was located only for the cat to immediately make his own way calmly down the tree himself using the planks of wood and ladders that the owners had erected earlier. Classic!
Unfortunately, the facts, anecdotal evidence and our own experience fails to provide a clear understanding of feline behavior when it comes to a cat stuck up a tree. It does however help explain some of the physiological reasons for how cats climb and why climbing up is easier than down. A cat may become physically stuck and require rescuing but often it seems he may just make his own way back down when he is good and ready, or when a good-hearted arborist arrives uninvited into his tree top territory.