TreeCat Rescue: Kitty
What: Stuck in a Live Oak for 4 days
Where: McIntosh, FL
Rescue Date: 4.26.11
Rescue Climber: Danny Lyons
Rescue Ground Man: JB Bates
Today I got a call from Dotty in McIntosh, Florida, about her "Kitty" who was 35 feet up in an old oak tree. Kitty had been up in the tree overnight and her granddaughter, Gena, was understandably upset about it. At first I thought about having Kitty wait in the tree for another night, just to see if he would come down on his own. But on second thought, I told Dotty I'd be on my way. JB met me there.
Dotty and Gena wait patiently for TreeCat Rescue to get Kitty out of the tree.
Kitty climbed as high as he could possibly climb into the old oak tree. He looked comfortable on a huge limb, stretched out, almost relaxed. Dotty and Gena told me Kitty gets a little grumpy sometimes, if you touched his tail. But he likes neck scratches. "If you can get to scratch his neck, you and Kitty will be just fine," they told me.
I set my line and quickly climbed up to about 25-30 feet. As I climbed into the tree, Kitty became very vocal, as if he were telling me, " get me out of this tree!"
Kitty, relaxing and waiting to be rescued.
My goal was to set up a second anchor so I could get better access to Kitty. With my feet braced in opposition against the skinny palm tree, I threw my tag line right into the next anchor-point on the first throw. But just as I nailed the throw, JB yelled up, "The cat just jumped into the palm!"
I looked up to see Kitty, 10 feet above my head in this spindly little palm tree, backing himself down the tree in a panic. The rescue plan had just changed drastically. Kitty had jumped almost 6 feet into another tree! Apparently he couldn't wait for me to get to him. He was now making his way to me.
Kitty's location in the tree, marked by the red dot.
Kitty began howling and yelling at me as he worked furiously to not fall out of the palm tree. He still had a long way to descend to reach me. JB readied himself to catch Kitty, if and when he fell from this extremely precarious position. The palm was too steep for Kitty to do anything but go down, and fast.
In a moment, he tried to turn around and descend head first, which was a big mistake. He lost his grip and his hind legs went swinging sideways off the palm for a split-second. I could hear his front claws dig in deep. He looked at me and I caught an intense look in his eye. Primal. Determined. He howled more.
Kitty was able to swing his body with the momentum and somehow up righted himself once again onto the palm tree. He continued his controlled fall down the tree, clawing his way, backwards. When Kitty got close enough to me, I grabbed him with one hand on the scruff of his neck and the other hand under his belly.
I tried several times to stuff him into a special bag that I brought with me. I had hoped to secure him inside the bag and safely descend with him to the ground. He would have none of that.
Each time I tried to put him in the bag his strong hind legs thwarted me, wiggling and resisting. Both of us were pumped with adrenaline. And at that point I realized that Kitty is a really big cat, probably 18-20 pounds of panicked cat-power, fighting for survival. I gave up the "cat in a bag" idea and yelled down to JB, "pull out my safety knots, we're coming down!" JB pulled on my climbing line, clearing our way to the ground. Kitty and I swiftly descended down the rope to safety.
Kitty, Gena and Dotty were united and celebrated with big hugs and lots of treats.