Shaun Sears, owner of Canopy Cat Rescue, and his brother-in-law Tom Otto have rescued hundreds of cats from trees since launching their nonprofit in 2009.
Sometimes they climb as high as 175 feet.
Here are some important tips they've gleaned from their climbs.
1) Don't leave food out. Many cats run into trees to escape predators, such as dogs or raccoons. Frequently, putting food out will just attract the same predators back to the base of the tree.
2) What goes up can’t always get down. Cats' claws are shaped like fish hooks, and trees are nature’s escape routes for them. They will often climb until they feel safe, then stop and realize they’re stuck.
The only safe way for them to get down unaided is to go down backward, which, unsurprisingly, they’re often not willing to do.
3) The fire department won’t come get your cat. Let go of the bucolic childhood scenes of a firefighter plucking a scared cat from the treetops and returning it to Granny. The fire department will generally not respond to an animal call, because they need to be available for human emergencies.
4) Cats can survive a long time in trees. Shaun and his business partner Tom have rescued cats that have been stuck for over two weeks. They think the cats have gotten water from their fur, or tree limbs.
5) But that doesn’t mean you should leave a cat up there to test the theory. “It’ll just come down when it’s ready” is a myth (see no. 2). When they get severely dehydrated, cats will go into kidney failure. If you’re in Washington state, you can call Canopy Cat Rescue to schedule an arboreal extraction: Their service fees are donation-based to ensure all cats that go up, come down.
6) Spay/neuter and microchip your cat – but you already knew that one, right? Unneutered cats have different testosterone levels, as do female cats that are in heat. If your cat does get stuck in a tree, they are likely to be far more aggressive toward rescuers. And once your cat is found, or brought down, an updated microchip is often the only way reunions are facilitated.
7) If your cat has a serial problem with trees, try treating it more like a dog. You can put your cat on a leash, keep it in your yard, or otherwise supervise it if it really wants to go outside. Then when it’s time to come back in, just bring Fifi with you.
8) Is Fluffles stuck in a not-so-tall tree? Get crafty. If the tree is less than 20 feet tall, try rescuing the cat with a tall ladder. More advanced rescuers can try attaching rope to a weighted object (like a tennis ball tied up with rocks) and carefully tossing it over a branch next to the cat. Then, use the rope to pull up the cat carrier. Sometimes they will get right into it and you can pull them down.