I’m sure I’ve written before on here about our young cat and her propensity to climb trees. She’s escaped the house and bolted up a tree probably 10 in the last year we’ve had her. Usually, she comes down on her own in an hour or so. We worry every time, but we’ve grown accustomed to worrying and having her come sauntering up to the house later in the day or evening.
We also usually know when she’s left the house. Monday, though, we realized something was amiss when none of us could find her in the evening. My son had two friends over and my son remembered the kitten (who is no longer a kitten technically), Scout, had run into the basement when his friend had come over. He went to look for her, but she wasn’t there. We looked in all her normal nap places and figured she’d come out eventually. After an hour or so, she didn’t, so I went outside and called for her. She didn’t come but I thought I heard her meow. I went back inside and tried again an hour later. Still, nothing.
Around 9 p.m., I tried again and this time I clearly heard her meowing. I knew then she’d got herself stuck up a tree. My husband, my son and his friends grabbed flashlights and worked on finding her. We found which tree, could hear her, but couldn’t see her at first. She wasn’t coming down and my husband had to go to bed because he had to work early the next morning. Everyone went inside but I went out another time to see if I could convince her to come down. When I went out, I turned the flashlight upward and saw green glowing eyes looking at me like a specter some 40 feet up. She’d made it all the way to the top of the tree somehow. Her eyes looked either like stars in the sky or something other worldly.
In that moment, I had a sinking feeling I might not see her alive on the ground again. She seemed unable to move to get down and I knew none of us could get up. I went to bed but couldn’t sleep. I kept looking out the window at the tree, hoping I would see her at the bottom, strolling toward the house, like she so often did. Instead, I found my son at 12:30, sitting under the tree, looking heartbroken. He was blaming himself for her getting out, even though he’d never opened the door from the basement to the outside. I tried to sleep but woke up a couple of times to look out the window.
After my husband got up, our neighbor, who is on the town council, saw him looking up the tree, knew what was going on (since he’s witnessed us looking up trees for this cat very often), and offered to have the fire department stop over.
My brother had said the night before that we should call the fire department, but the first time this happened with her, I’d searched online and learned that is a no-no these days. Fire departments, especially volunteer departments, don’t have time to be retrieving cats from trees. They’re too busy working their other jobs and only get called out for real emergencies. There have apparently also been a number of incidents of firefighters being injured rescuing cats and I certainly didn’t want that to happen in our case.
The guy from the borough (that’s what towns are called in Pennsylvania), a member of the fire department, my neighbor, and my husband and I were eventually all staring up the tree. The fire chief (I think he was the chief anyhow) shrugged a shoulder and said, “Eh, cats usually come down on their own after a while.” But he added, “If she doesn’t come down by this afternoon, let us know and we’ll bring the truck over.”
The borough man (I’m not giving his real name because I don’t have his permission) told me he’d swing by a couple of times during the day to see if she’d come done. I thanked him and headed back upstairs because I had slept wrong, bending my neck oddly, and had a horrific headache. Later in the morning, I went down to the tree and sat, eating some cereal, and talking to Scout, hoping it would coax her down. She came down a couple of limbs but panicked and scampered up again.
I didn’t feel like sitting out there with my neck feeling so awful, so I went back in, did a few things inside and made a salad. I headed back out and that’s when the guy from the borough drove up in his truck and said something along the lines of, “The ladder truck’s behind me.”
I was so embarrassed that they were bringing their big, expensive truck up to save our small cat, but there they were. It was in that moment, much like the moment on Labor Day when the town’s ambulance came to take my daughter to the emergency room, I was grateful for small towns and how kind the people in them can be. We have a town of 600 people and what they say about small towns taking care of their own really is true.
The entire time they were there, I kept worrying that someone would need the fire truck while they were up here rescuing our cat, but they assured me they would head out if they got a call. Luckily it was only the man from the borough and one volunteer fireman but then the ambulance pulled up. I was so nervous that they were there in case the fireman fell off the ladder. The ambulance crew did have to leave on a call, backing down our street to get there. I hope they got to the call in time.
The fireman had a heck of a time with Scout who swatted at him several times. He was wearing heavy gloves and his heavy fireman’s coat and I thought he would just reach out and grab her but I think he was afraid with the way she was squirming that he’d dropped her. Plus she has huge stinking paws since she is a polydactal.
So he and his fellow volunteer firefighter (the borough man I mentioned before) devised a plan to convince her to crawl down on her own.
He found a blanket and swatted at her repeatedly until she started to back down the trunk of the tree. This worked for about ten minutes and then she got pissed and ran right back up to the branch she felt safe on. So then he started shaking the top of the tree and using the blanket. He was trying these tactics and others for a good 40-minutes and I was more embarrassed with each minute that passed.
These men had other jobs they were taking their time away from. I tried to tell them to just leave her up there. I don’t think they wanted a small cat to defeat them, though. My son and his friends and my daughter were watching, as well, and I don’t think they wanted to disappoint them.
Either way, Scout finally started to scoot her way down the tree, hissing and yelling at the guy the whole time. We even got a broom handle for him to poke at her with. She started to fall a couple of times so I went to the bottom of the tree and had The Boy come with me. Once she was low enough to reach her with our ladder, The Boy climbed up and yanked her off the limb and into his arms.
I felt a mix of emotions. I felt relief and joy that she was alive, yes, but I also felt insanely annoyed at her for causing so much drama and I started contemplating giving her away, while simultaneously being unable to imagine our house without her.
I profusely thanked the firefighters while my son took her to her upstairs bathroom and locked her inside with food and water so she could recover. They told me it was no problem and that’s what they do as volunteers. Excuse me as I get a bit teared up at this because we often take our public servants for granted. They sacrifice a lot to be there for us and I am extremely grateful for their willingness to serve, either for no pay or for very little.
It’s true that each cat has their own personality and that they do become like members of the family. Our all-black cat, Pixel, can be super moody and smack or bite if you touch her wrong and she will tear up the backdoor if we don’t let her out when she’s ready. But, she’s also a cuddler when the weather gets colder – if only for about 5-10 minutes and she waits for us to turn the water on for her in the bathroom so she can take a drink from it, scowling at us if it isn’t set at the right velocity for her.
Scout, on the other hand, is like a 9-year-old child with occasional ADHD. I hope this doesn’t come out as rude because I know children and adults with ADHD, or have known them, and they are some of the coolest, smartest people. What is neat about them is that they can be super hyper one minute and then incredibly laid back with a “whatever” attitude the next. Scout is like that. One minute she’s chasing the dog or darting out the back door and the next she’s looking at us with half-open eyelids from the couch, bored out of her mind by us. I suppose some of that simply describes all cats, but it is also uniquely Scout.
Scout was still a stinker after her rescue. You think she would have learned her lesson or at least acted appreciative of all the effort to rescue her, but nope. She scowled at me when I went to check on her in the bathroom and then stood by the door and looked at it like, “Excuse me. Why am I not being allowed out to strut around my domain again?” I still had friends of my son to take home and I knew I couldn’t trust her not to try to run outside again.
This distrust was further proven to be correct the next day (yesterday) when she rushed to the backdoor to escape every time we opened it.
She must have learned a little something from spending an entire, 36-degree night, in a tree because she seemed much more affectionate that night and the next morning. I found her on top of my dresser the night after her rescue and she purred as soon as she saw me and gave my hand a good cleaning while I petted her. Sometime in the wee hours of yesterday morning I felt her nose against my nose.
I was too tired to open my eyes, but felt her rubbing her head against my face and mouth and heard the purr. I could tell she was trying to flop herself between my head and the pillow. I vaguely remember reaching up and petting her in the darkness and would have thought it was all a dream if I hadn’t woken up with her curled up in her favorite spot on the pillow opposite my head.
As for solutions for preventing all this from happening again, we are mulling our options. We could declaw her, but then she will be defenseless if she slips out again. Other solutions include at least trimming her claws, putting a collar with a bell on it so we hear her if she runs out and can hear the bell when we go to look for her, and placing chicken wire around the bottom of the two bigger trees around us so she can’t run up them as easily. If any of you have any other ideas, please feel free to let me know in the comments.
For now we’ll just keep an eye on her because while we love her, we have a sinking feeling she might be possessed in some way. We may need to do an exorcism at some point.