BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

How to Get a Cat Out of a Tree: 9 Failsafe Steps

a-cat-climbing-down-a-tree
Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

Cats love to climb up to high places, which explains why most cat owners are not worried when they see their cats climbing handrails or cabinets inside the house. But it is a different story altogether when they climb trees. Aside from the threat of falling prey to a predator, there is the chance that he could fall from great heights or get sick due to exposure to the elements when he’s stuck for too long in a tree. Make sure you know how to get a cat out of a tree so you’ll be able to react quickly if such emergencies arise.

People often wonder why cats can easily climb up a tree but can’t figure out how to climb down. It’s because of how their claws are designed. If you allow your cat to go outdoors, chances are, sooner or later he’ll get himself stuck in a tree. Because of that, it has become quite imperative for pet owners to know certain tricks in getting their cats out of a tree. That way you can keep your pet safe—both physically and mentally, as being stuck in a tree can be a terrifying experience for cats.

close-up of a cat in a tree

In this article, we will explain why cats love to climb trees and why they can’t climb down when they could handle climbing up no problem. Then we will detail nine simple steps to get them down without needing any professional help.

Why Do Cats Like to Climb Trees?

We all know that cats are natural climbers. But have you ever wondered why some cats still climb trees when they already have their own cat trees or cat shelves to climb? Or even when they can climb the tops of cabinets instead?

Cats are naturally predisposed to climbing trees because their ancestors lived in the wild. The early cats were skilled climbers who would stay in trees for long hours while waiting for their prey. Domesticated cats still have that urge to climb trees.

A cat sitting in a tree

Moreover, the branches of trees serve as excellent hiding spots for cats—especially when they are frightened by things such as cars or dogs.

Why Is It Hard for Cats to Come Down from Trees?

Have you ever wondered why, despite their natural climbing prowess and agility, cats could get stuck in trees? You’ll have to look at the claws of our feline friends to understand why they can climb up easy but they have problems coming down from a tree.

Their claws go inwards, which makes it easy for them to grip the trunk and race up a tree. However, those claws are practically useless when they need to climb down. It is possible for them to use their claws to climb down a tree if they descend butt-first, but not all cats are smart enough to figure it out.

cat in a tree looking down

Moreover, larger trees with a wider girth make it difficult for cats to grip the tree with their front legs and control their descent. Their agility also won’t help them jump down from a tree unless the branch is relatively low-hanging. Suffice to say, cats would find themselves in a whole lot of trouble if they are stuck in high branches.

How to Get a Cat Out of a Tree

So how do you help a cat who’s stuck in a tree? In the olden days, the easiest way to rescue a trapped cat is to contact the local firefighters and hope that they are having a slow day at the office. But today, that trick may no longer work unless you live in a small town and you happen to know the chief or any particular employee of the fire station.

A more plausible approach is to call a tree removal or trimming service. Arborists are well-trained and well-equipped for this kind of job. They have the necessary equipment and tools to reach tall trees. They also know how to use those tools to rescue cats.

Cat Caught In A Tree looking down

But of course, you’ll have to shell out a certain amount for this service. There are tree removal services that accept donations instead of a fixed amount for rescuing trapped cats, but what if you find your cat trapped in a tree outside of normal business hours? Or what if you can’t find a tree trimming service that can help you out?

Then it’s up to you, the cat owner, to show diligence and creativity in rescuing your beloved pet. Don’t worry as there are many things that you can try to get your cat out of a tree.

Step #1: Do Not Panic

This is perhaps the most important thing to remember if you find your cat stuck in a tree. Staying calm would help you assess the situation and think of the best and fastest way to retrieve your trapped cat.

Cat stuck on a tree

Don’t yell or act as if the sky is falling down as it would only prevent you from thinking clearly. Moreover, it can only frighten your cat and make it harder for you to retrieve him. Remember that your cat being trapped in a tree isn’t an emergency by any definition. Unless he’s injured or in clear danger, keep your calm. Take a deep breath then think about your next steps.

Step #2: Check for Any Threat that May Have Bullied Your Pet

It’s also important to check your surroundings and determine if there were threats that prompted your cat to climb the tree in the first place. Look around and determine some possible reasons why your cat climbed the tree. Could it be your dog? Maybe there’s a bully cat out there. Remove the threat right away so that you can coax your pet to jump back to the ground.

Step #3: Determine Whether Your Pet is Really Stuck or Not

Determining whether your cat is really stuck or simply stubborn can help you decide on the best cat retrieval technique to employ. If he is stuck, then pay attention to the following steps that we will explain on how to help him.

cat-in-a-tree playing

If he’s being stubborn, then you will have to take a different approach. You may have to lure him down with delicious treats or enticing games.

Step #4: Use Treats to Coax Him to Descend

One effective way to coax your feline friend to descend is to use some food or treats that he likes. Use treats that have a strong scent like tuna. Leave a bowl of the food at the base of the tree. Give your cat enough time to come down. If you are lucky, he should descend from the tree after an hour or so. But if he still won’t come down and you’re worried about his safety especially since night has fallen, you can ditch the passive approach and get proactive.

Step #5: Communicate With Your Cat

You’ll need to take advantage of your cat’s familiarity with your voice to communicate with him. Use your normal talking voice to entice him to climb down himself.

A cat named Gilligan is stuck in a tree

It is important that you sound calm or your cat will sense that you are getting angry or upset. It may frighten him and discourage him further from descending. You can also use certain phrases or words that you normally utter when communicating with him.

Step #6: Use a Ladder to Provide an Escape Route

You may also check if your pet is willing to use a ladder as his escape route. Place the ladder at a 30-degree angle so that your cat would be able to balance his body as he descends face-first. Be careful. If the ladder is positioned too steep, then your cat may feel intimidated and elect not to use the ladder you’ve placed near the tree.

Step #7: Placing a Ramp

In case your cat is too scared to use the ladder in descending, you can make a makeshift ramp that he can use to come down from the tree. Find a plank of wood that’s long enough for one end to reach the lowest branch of the tree where your cat is trapped. You can hammer a nail in one end or screw in a long metal hook to secure it against the tree. If the plank you found is a bit small, you can place the other end in a ladder or a fence.

A man going up on a scale for a cat in a tree

Like in the use of the ladder discussed earlier, the angle of the ramp is critical. Your cat will likely refuse to use the ramp if it has a steep angle. You can cover the board with carpet or cloth to give your cat a more secure gripping surface.

Step #8: Making an Improvised Elevator

If your cat still refuses to climb down, you may need to get more creative in your approach. You’ll need your cat’s carrier for this technique.

Throw a sturdy and long rope over the branch nearest to where your cat is trapped. Tie the cat carrier to the other end of the rope. The carrier should have its door or top open and accessible. Slowly pull the other end of the rope to bring the carrier up the tree.

close-up of a cat in a tree

Wait for your pet to go inside his carrier. Be patient as it may take several hours for your cat to figure out what you are trying to do. If he still won’t go inside, then you may have to climb up and put him inside the carrier yourself. Take a look at the final step below for a more hands-on approach.

Step #9: Hands-On Rescue

Taking matters into your own hands when rescuing your cat from a tree isn’t the safest option, but when done right, you could have him back in your arms within a few minutes. To rescue your cat, you have to find the longest ladder you can.

Let’s be clear about this cat removal method; climbing up a ladder to rescue your cat can be risky. Wear protective gear like thick gloves and a helmet if you decide to go down this route. You should also ask someone to stay on the ground and help stabilize the ladder.

When you are climbing the ladder, try to remain calm as if nothing bad has happened to your cat. You would want to appear calm and soothing to him instead of angry so that he would let you grab him.

cat_stuck_in_a_tree

A commonly mentioned approach for this kind of cat rescue is to hold them by the scruff of the neck. This would enable you to avoid his claws during descent. But this may be difficult to pull off especially when you are wearing thick gloves.

Another way to safely retrieve your cat is to carry a laundry basket containing his bedding or some catnip. This should encourage him to climb into the basket. It will also make it easier and safer for you to carry him safely down the ladder.

Wrap Up

Cats are notorious for climbing up to high places. It can be annoying if they keep climbing up your kitchen counters or tabletops, but the real concern is if your cat decides to go up into a tree. Felines have inward-facing claws that help them go up quickly, but these claws are useless when they need to descend face-first.

In rescuing a trapped cat, you can always call a tree removal service. These firms provide cat rescue as a service. When you opt for this option, you will be asked details like the height and the type of the tree, as well as the physical and mental characteristics of the cat stuck in the tree.

The local tree-trimming service may also inquire whose property the tree is located in and ask permission from the property owner to get inside the area and climb the tree to rescue the cat. However, during instances when you can’t call for professional help, then you have no choice but to step up and help your cat descend from the tree yourself. You can try to coax him to come down by leaving a bowl of his favorite food or treats at the base of the tree. Pick something that has a strong and enticing smell.

cat-stuck-in-tree

If he doesn’t fall for this technique, you may try to place a ladder against the tree where he is stuck. A long plank may also do the trick as long as its placement is not too steep. You can also try to use his carrier as an improvised elevator that will safely bring him back to the ground.

Your last option would be to climb the tree yourself. However, keep in mind that your safety should be your foremost concern. Ask for the help of someone who can hold the ladder and keep it stable. Wear appropriate safety gear. You may also bring a laundry basket that your cat can safely hop into.

Do you know other tricks to get a cat out of a tree? Share them with us by writing in the comments section below! If you have any personal experience with rescuing your cat from a tree, we’d love to hear your story. Does this happen often with your cat? If he is easily startled and goes into hiding at the drop of a hat, find out how to curb this behavior by reading this article!

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.

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