Unless you’ve seen it yourself, the thought of a cat getting stuck in a tree sounds absurd. This agile creature routinely defies the laws of physics—climbing up walls, leaping from great heights, and even dashing across rooftops.
So how on earth do these felines manage to get stranded in trees?! Worse, it happens so often that it’s become a bit of a running joke. The scene of a fireman rescuing a scaredy-cat from a tree is so common, it’s been used in countless cartoons, movies, and sitcoms.
Funny as it is, it can be dangerous when cats get stuck in trees. Not only can they be injured by the fall, but it can also lead to dehydration and exposure if help doesn’t arrive in time.
In this article, we’ll break down the reasons why cats climb trees, how they get stuck, and how to rescue them safely.
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Why Do Cats Climb Trees?
Cats are infinitely curious, and a tall tree gives them an elevated vantage point to survey their surroundings. It’s also super fun for them. Cats love to jump and climb, so it’s not uncommon for them to take full advantage of a tree’s vertical landscape.
So fair warning: if you have a cat and trees near or around your home, it’s only a matter of time before your kitty tries to climb one.
The 4 Common Reasons Why Cats Get Stuck in Trees
The problem is that once they’re up there, cats aren’t always able to get back down. Here’s why they may get stumped:
1. The feline anatomy is not built for climbing down.
Cats are built to climb up, not down. They have curved claws that allow them to “hook” and climb, but they don’t have the same grip when descending. Their hindquarters are also more powerful and agile than their front because it’s meant to propel them forward and up.
As a result, they can have trouble maneuvering and coordinating their limbs when descending.
2. They can become disoriented and scared.
A cat climbing a tree doesn’t plan ahead. They’re living in the moment and are only concerned about leaping to the next branch.
By the time they stop to rest, they may be so high up that the entire environment feels unfamiliar to them. After all, they can only see the sky, leaves, and branches – no walls or floors to anchor them. The smells are foreign as well, making it hard for them to orient themselves. And fearless as they are, cats can get spooked and stuck in a panic.
3. They’re afraid of something at ground level.
It’s not uncommon for cats to climb trees to escape something they find threatening. It may be another animal, a person, or even loud noises. Again, cats are built to climb – and they’ll instinctively go higher to distance themselves from the threat. If they still feel threatened, they may not want to come down even if help has arrived.
4. They were hunting something.
As apex predators, cats are accomplished hunters. If they spot a bird in the tree or a squirrel, they will climb up to pursue it. And because they’re so focused on their prey, it may be too late before they realize they’ve gone too high.
How to Rescue a Cat From a Tree
If you’ve spotted a cat in distress or your own cat is stuck, here are some tips to follow:
Climb After Your Cat (Only If You’re Physically Able)
Since your pet cat already trusts you, it may be more willing to come down with you if they feel secure. But be aware of your own physical limitations, and don’t attempt to climb after them if it doesn’t feel safe.
Confident in your tree-climbing abilities? Grab a ladder, sturdy rope, and gloves. Make sure you have a secure foothold on the tree, wear proper climbing equipment, and avoid crossing over branches that look weak.
Make sure you have assistance as well. It’s safer to have someone else on the ground helping you navigate.
Put a Ramp Against a Tree
If you’re not able to climb up after your cat, help them climb down by placing a sturdy ramp against the tree so they can descend on their own.
Put the ramp within their line of sight, then try to lure them down. Use food, their favorite toys, or anything else that will encourage them to move.
Be Patient and Quiet
Never attempt to shake a cat out of the tree or call out in a loud voice. Clear the area of kids and other animals that may agitate the cat further. Be as calm as possible to help your cat calm down themselves.
Call the Professionals
And by that, we don’t mean 911 or your local fire station. Call a professional tree service that’s experienced with rescuing cats from trees. A trained arborist can safely climb and secure your cat, then lower them to the ground.
No arborist near you? Look up the number for your local cat rescue or wildlife sanctuary. Even zoos and utility companies can help! Or, put out a call in your neighborhood for tips and recommendations.
What NOT to Do When a Cat Is Stuck in a Tree
First, try not to panic. Your pet’s welfare is important, but keep in mind that cats are naturally adept at climbing trees. The worst thing you can do is to agitate them further.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. My cat is stuck in a tree. Should I call 911, firemen, or the police?
Despite what you may have seen in movies and TV shows, emergency services won’t come to the aid of a cat stuck in a tree. The police, fire department, and 911 operators are for human emergencies only.
2. Should I just wait for my cat to climb down?
Yes, you can, but not for too long. Cats are hardy creatures, and they can stay as long as a week stuck in a tree. Still, you want them down ASAP. Just because they can technically survive stuck up there doesn’t mean it’s comfortable or ideal for them.
For instance, your cat may become dehydrated or suffer heat stroke if it’s a particularly hot day. They can also be knocked down by birds, bats, and other animals. Rain can make the branches slippery, forcing cats to lose their footing and fall. The sooner you can rescue your cat, the better.
3. How can I stop my cat from getting stuck in a tree?
The best way to prevent cats from getting stuck in a tree is by discouraging them from climbing trees in the first place. If your kitty is an indoor cat, check all the entrances and exits from your house. Reinforce any holes or gaps that a cat can fit through, and make sure windows are shut securely.
Want your cat to enjoy the outdoors? Leash them up or build them a catio. This way, you can keep an eye on them and ensure they won’t climb too high.
You may also want to neuter or spay your cat if you haven’t already. A cat in heat is more likely to wander off and roam around, getting into all sorts of trouble.
Cats get themselves into all sorts of shenanigans, and sometimes, that includes getting stuck in a tree. If your cat ever finds themselves in such a situation, take deep breaths and try not to panic. In the meantime, keep the area calm and clear, call the professionals, and follow the tips above to prevent future incidents. That way, you can keep your cat safe and sound until they make their way back down to you.
Featured Image Credit: Emilia_Baczynska, Pixabay