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Cats in trees for a few days probably okay but owners’ nerves fray quickly

By Christie Pool, Staff Writer

Moose the cat stuck high up in a tree.

            I’m a huge animal person. But they can stress me out when they do things my human brain thinks are ill-considered.               In December I adopted a dog from the local shelter. Duke, as we now call him, fit into our existing pet herd well. Mr. Wiggles, our 17-year-old cat, did an excellent job of putting the one-year-old pup in his place right off. With a hiss and nose swat, Mr. Wiggles made clear that he is not a cat who likes to play with dogs. Moose, our seven-year-old cat, however, did not clearly convey her wishs to remain separate and aloof. 

            On a recent Saturday, my husband   watched  Duke chase Moose up a tree. In all fairness, Duke likely didn’t mean for Moose to flee some 30 feet up, nor did he intend any ill to his new feline sister; the cat ran, the dog followed in a little game.

            When she was a younger cat, Moose occasionally ran up the same tree to just hang out so initially we weren’t too worried about her being able to get down. We brought Duke inside to provide her plenty of dog-free space to maneuver the descent. 

            Despite being 30 feet up a tree, Moose seemed pretty content, perched in an old squirrel’s nest that looked surprisingly comfortable. We thought she would come down overnight.

            The next morning I woke up to find a very tall ladder perched against the tree. My husband had climbed up the ladder to coax her down but the ladder was too short and Dan was not nearly as comfortable as a cat that far off the ground.  

            After hearing a series of pitiful meows we both grew concerned the cat really couldn’t get down. So we left the ladder and, deciding cats don’t climb aluminum, duct-taped beach towels to it for her to come down. She did not.

            At this point it was going on 36 hours since she ran up the tree. A cat of her proportions could probably go a week without food and still be a normal-sized cat, but what about dehydration?

            We turned to Google: “How long can a cat stay in a tree” and “How to get cat out of tree.” One week was the standard answer for how long is possible, but that comes with numerous warnings about health complications. One suggestion was hoisting a basket up with food and water to prevent starvation and dehydration (or maybe just to make us feel we were helping). We waited all day with tuna and a water bowl hanging in a basket just below her perch.

            No luck. 

            We went to sleep for a second night worried and thinking up other options. But at first light she was gone from the tree. She hadn’t used the basket and, more than likely, didn’t require the towel-strewn ladder. 

            She didn’t seem bothered that she had caused us immense amounts of worry and stress the preceeding two days. Recounting the story at work on Monday, our co-worker said when she was a child her family had a cat get into a tree during extremely cold weather and stay there for a week and a half. Her family paid $75 for someone to come get the cat down, only to have the same dog that ran her up the tree in the first place, do it again.

            So now we know. Moose could have lasted longer, she just chose not to get down until she was ready.

            She didn’t seem to care that we worried for days, nor did she seem to appreciate our efforts to get her down, rebuffing our pleas of encouragement along the way. In typical cat fashion, she just turned her face away as I stood under the tree with an outstretched towel, begging her to jump into it. 

            Even Google couldn’t tell us how to get a cat down. And as long as that cat sits there napping you just have to accept it’s beyond human hands to fix.

            In some way, it was her teaching us a lesson on relaxing or acceptance or just being “chill.” 

            Whatever it was, we failed, but at least the cat is down.      

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