It sounds like a cliché, but any cat owner knows that our feline friends are as curious as they are smart, but this may lead to you trying to figure out how to get a cat out of a tree.
While Mittens may be a professional tree climber, your furry friend may not be equally adept at descending once they are up there.
So what does one do if your cat gets stuck up a tree?
Let’s find out!
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How to get a cat out of a tree
There are several ways to methods you can try to get a cat out of a tree.
1. Coax Them Down With Food or Snacks
Coaxing your cat down should always be your go-to.
Before looking for a tall ladder, or calling animal control, try luring the cat down from the tree with its favorite food.
Not only is this usually the best way to get a kitty to make its way down from a tree, but it will also help you determine just how stuck your feline friend is.
Strongly scented foods are preferable. While kibble could work, a tasty tuna treat or the smell of canned salmon are more likely to get your cat’s attention.
Depending on how long it’s been, your cat should be eager to cash in on the offer of delicious treats.
2. Using Play to Trick Them Down
If trying to tempt them down with food doesn’t work, you might want to try getting your kitty down by play.
But, just like people, cats can get nervous. So much so that they might be too frightened to climb down a tree even though they can.
Using a fluffy toy attached to the end of a long stick can work a charm. By engaging your cat in play, you can take its mind off of its fear and gently guide it down a path to safety.
A laser pointer can work just as well but might be a bit tricky in bright sunlight.
3. Give Them Time
If your cat is in no immediate danger and not too high up in the tree, it could be best to give them time to try and make their way down.
It is the safest option for both you and your cat.
As long as the tree doesn’t have a particularly tall trunk and there are adequate branches low enough to the ground, your cat may make it down at its own pace.
Make sure they have access to food. Usually, hunger will overpower any trepidation.
Perhaps put down a bowl of water as well, and keep an eye on the situation.
Give it a couple of hours. If your kitty hasn’t made any progress, it’s time to take action.
Check this video for more tips:
4. Using a Ladder
Whether or not you choose to take this approach should depend on how high up in the tree your kitty is.
Make sure to use a sturdy ladder. If they are stuck on a relatively low perch and you are confident of your safety, this may be the easiest route to take.
Often when cats are stuck in trees, it’s because they have gotten themselves into an awkward position and can’t confidently orientate themselves to climb down.
That is why one may find that your cat is ‘stuck’ only a few feet up a tree.
Before climbing up to reach them, give it a moment to see if your cat is comfortable using the ladder to come down on its own.
Your cat might be tense because of the situation. Even the most placid kitty might claw and scratch if you try to dislodge them from their perch.
Make sure to wear long sleeves and gardening gloves to avoid scratches.
5. Makeshift Cat Carrier Elevator
If your cat is carrier trained, this could be the best solution for you. First, securely attach a rope to the handle of the cat carrier.
Make sure you use a long enough piece of rope and that it can safely hold the weight of a cat carrier.
Next, attach a ball or any other weighted object to the opposite end of the rope.
You will use this end as a weight to carry the rope over a branch near your cat. Be careful not to hit your cat when throwing the rope over.
Although cats land on their feet, they could still get hurt, knocking into branches on the way down.
With the cat carrier door open or removed if possible, pull it up where your cat is stuck.
Try to get the orientation right, using any pole-like object to orient the entrance towards your cat. With a bit of luck, they will seek safety in the familiar comfort of their carrier.
Let the carrier down slowly, avoiding any sudden drops. If your cat is startled, they may jump out of the carrier and hurt themselves in the fall.
6. Call For Help
Despite it being one of the most expected movie tropes, firefighters don’t generally come out to save kitties stuck up trees.
Your best bet is a professional gardening service or tree felling service.
Pretty much any maintenance professional that uses ladders in their work could help you.
You must contract their services. Avoid accepting free assistance. Professionals in this general line of work have cover for on-the-job injuries.
Should something go wrong and they sustain any injuries, both the worker and yourself are in the clear in terms of any liability.
Be sure to provide them adequate protective gear. If you have a cat carrier, it might be best to have them use that.
Coaxing the kitty into the carrier will likely make for an easier descent for both your frightened cat and its brave rescuer.
How to Keep Cats from Getting Stuck in Trees in the First Place
There is no simple answer for keeping your cat from getting stuck in a tree, other than ensuring your cat stays an inside cat.
Indoors, you can create areas for your cat to climb and explore safely, such as by using cat trees.
Alternatively, you could try to create an environment outdoors where your cat has ample safe climbing space.
Outdoor cat tree houses are ideal for this purpose and make your garden an attractive and interesting addition.
You can attach climbing spokes to any trees outside to make sure your cat is able to get down as easily as they get up.
WHY DO CATS GET STUCK IN TREES?
The short answer is that it is because of their physiology. Climbing up things is a natural instinct to find safety, eat meals in peace, evade other predators, or hunt. However, you may also have seen that your cats don’t climb down again. Instead, cats prefer to navigate their way down any terrain or obstacle with tactile jumping.
WHY DO CATS STRUGGLE TO CLIMB DOWN TREES?
Climbing down trees is difficult for cats because of their retractile claws. The tiny tendons that your cat uses to extend their claws are relatively weak. Once extended, your cat uses their claws in a pulling motion. The way that their claws hinge from their paws means that they effectively require no additional muscle or tendons to stay extended.
WILL A CAT COME DOWN FROM A TREE ON ITS OWN?
If they can find a safe path down, a cat will find its way down a tree more often than not. They may stay up there for what may seem like an unreasonably long time, then suddenly find their way down with seemingly no effort.
As they get hungry, their instinct to find food will overpower their apprehension. Unfortunately, there is not always a safe way for them to come down. If your cat has been stuck up a tree for more than a couple of hours or miss feeding time, they may not be able to get down on their own.
HOW LONG CAN A CAT BE STUCK IN A TREE?
Technically, up to a week. However, in no circumstances should you leave your cat in a tree for longer than 24 hours, and even that long is risky to their health and safety.
Getting stuck up a tree is a risk that all cats run. If you are a cat-parent for long enough, you will run into this problem.
It is best to stay calm and patiently attempt the various strategies we have covered.
If all else fails, you should contact animal control officers to rescue your cat.
Have you tried rescuing a cat from a tall tree? Please share your experience with us in the comments below!
Hi, I’m Tamsin. I’m a serious animal lover and dog behaviorist and trainer. In fact, I live on a farm with nine rescues! So, I love writing about and creating awareness around the health and wellness of all animals.