Written by Brigitta MacMillan of British Columbia, Canada
A few years ago, our neighbor was an older lady with two cats. Barb the kitten was a little socialite who endeared herself to us. She was always there to ‘help’ with gardening or washing the car. Then, three days before Christmas, she went missing. She was still gone 24 hours later. Wet snow was falling and I felt worried, so at 9:30 I walked around hoping to find her in the quiet of the evening.
I was standing in a parking lot behind our house calling her name when I heard a faint wail. Tracking the sound, I saw two eyes glowing at the top of a tall evergreen tree at the lot’s edge. I called again and her cries grew frantic.
A call to the fire department brought the answer that they do not rescue cats from trees. The only solution seemed to be to climb the tree. I thought that if I could only get within a few feet of her I could coax her down. I was small enough to weave among the branches while my husband and neighbor watched from below. I called and climbed until I could see her. I reached for a paw and pulled, but she seemed stuck. So I climbed a little more but found none of her paws to be stuck in any crevices. So I went just a little higher and found her long-haired plume of a tail wound tightly around a branch where the tree narrowed at the top.
My Fingers Were Numb in the Below-Freezing Night Air
I’d worn gloves but I abandoned them for the fiddly task of prying her tail away from the tree. It was pitch dark, below freezing and I had to go by feel alone.
An hour passed. Now my fingers were numb and I could feel neither tree nor tail anymore. The tree top was swaying, one of the branches supporting me had snapped and my frozen hands refused to work. I knew the fire department wouldn’t get cats out of trees but I was pretty sure they’d come for me.
My husband made the call and their red engine soon turned into the parking lot. Even from my high perch I could see their lights. Before much longer, a fireman was up the tree at my side. The cold might have been affecting me because I told him I’m not coming down without the kitten.
We descended the ladder after he assured me he would go back for her. At the bottom I found myself blinking into bright lights and a camera lens. There was a small gathering of television and newspaper people. That evening we saw the whole episode on the 11:30 news as it was broadcast province-wide. (See News Photos) Must have been a slow news night. I cringed that my 15 minutes of fame was for being stuck in a tree. But Barb had a happy Christmas with her family (despite a sore tail) so I’ll always remember that as one of my best Christmases ever.
Don’t Take “No” for an Answer
People will tell you to put some food at the base of the tree and the cat will come down. One person once said in a mocking tone, “You never see dead cats at the bottom of trees, do you?” Yet this wet, freezing cat might have been dead by morning, still hanging there. Crows and other scavengers would have taken care of the remains. If a cat is scared, blind terror will drive it to climb far higher than they can get down from alone. It’s inhumane to leave them there. One last thought — if you’re ever searching for a missing cat, look upwards as well as in other places.
Are You a Hero Too?
If you’ve helped an animal in distress, please join Brigitta MacMillan and thousands of others who are taking part in The Great Animal Rescue Chase tournament to save one million. Simply rescue an animal in your community and then log on to share your story and photos. One of those rescue stories is featured here on Care2.com each day and the next one just might be yours.
Photo from sjaustin via flickr