Why cats who go up can't always come down - Dr. Marty Becker

Why cats who go up can’t always come down

Wednesday, Jun 29th, 2016 | By Dr. Marty Becker

Cats are among nature’s most agile athletes. And they love high places. So, asked a reader: Why do they get stuck in trees?

Q: We live in a wooded area, and our cat has access to the outdoors. As we were coming up our driveway one evening, the headlights shone on our cat, who had treed a possum twice his size. Despite his hunting prowess, though, he was having trouble getting down from the tree. How come cats can go up a tree, but not down?

A: A cat’s claws anchor him as he races up a tree (think rock-climbing crampons), but they’re not so convenient when he’s trying to make his way back down. While a cat is graceful and quick on the way up, he moves much more cautiously and awkwardly in the opposite direction. That’s because digging the claws into the trunk on a downward trajectory can result in clunky movement that more closely resembles a series of semi-controlled crashes instead of the smooth moves that took the cat upward.

What should you do if your kitten or cat is stuck up a tree? Some people stick by the notion that the cat will come down when he’s darn good and ready, but most of us are more softhearted than that, especially when the weather is cold or wet. The easiest and least expensive method is to open a can of cat food while standing beneath the tree and hope the aroma wafting upward is enough to tempt him down.

You can try calling the fire department. If you’re in a small town and the firefighters are having a slow day, they might come out and offer assistance — but don’t count on it. There’s a good chance they’re prohibited by statute from using their equipment for anything other than fires or human rescues.

I once rented a bucket truck to rescue a cat in a tree jam. That’s extreme, but in some instances, it may be the only way to get your cat back on terra firma.

Read more, including a cheap, low-tech approach to helping dogs who itch, in this week’s Pet Connection!