Watch a typical rescue in this video:
Before the RescueI'll use a slingshot to launch a small weight over a strong limb high in the tree. The weight pulls a thin line behind it, which I use to haul a heavy climbing line over the limb. The climbing line is strong enough to hold more than 5000 pounds.
I use special climbing hardware to ascend carefully into the tree so as to not scare the kitty. It's helpful if you are reassuring your cat from the ground. If you have some of kitty's favorite food I'll bring that into the tree as well to sweeten the deal.
During the RescueOnce I'm near the cat I do my best to show the cat that I'm there to help. That usually involves meowing, petting, singing, sweet talking, offering food, etc. At the right time, I use a large bag with gloves sewn into the bottom to gently scruff the cat - similar to how its mother did to transport it when it was a kitten. Once I have the cat in my hand the bag is inverted over the scruffed kitty and cinched closed to ensure a safe trip, for me and the kitty, back to the ground. I can also use a special long handled rescue net that cinches closed or a rescue pole if the cat will not let me get close to it.
During a rescue some cats will come right to me, but others are more scared of being rescued than staying in the tree. Sometimes I have to wait quite a while before the cat will let me come near it. Other times I have to follow the cat higher in the tree or further from the trunk in order to rescue it.
Here is a link to a podcast discussing the science behind cats' amazing ability to survive falls from incredible heights. Here is another link to a video showing a cat rescue that ended in a cat jumping from the tree and running off. It doesn't hurt to have a blanket or tarp handy that the ground crew can use as a fireman's net in case the cat looks like it plans to jump.
Feel free to take pictures or video during the rescue. I will have my camera with me, too.
After the rescueThe greatest health risk to a cat who has been stuck in a tree for more than a few days is dehydration. Cats don't drink much anyway, but when they don't have access to water or food (from which they get much of the water they need) for a prolonged period, they can quickly become dehydrated. Dehydration is bad enough, but it can lead to other serious health issues such as kidney damage, impaction (when your cat can't move its bowels because the moisture content of the feces is too low) and urinary tract infections. If it has rained during the time your cat was in the tree, and if he or she had the strength to groom afterward then chances are pretty good that kitty got some water off his or her coat.
There is a simple non-invasive way that you can determine the extent of dehydration in your cat. Grab the mass of fur at the scruff of your cat's neck and pull it upward gently. In a healthy cat, when you release the fur it will immediately fall back in place around the shoulders. In a dehydrated cat, the skin is not as elastic and will retain the pinched look for a second or two. Here are two links about dehydration that I recommend: http://pets.webmd.com/cats/dehydration-cats-symptoms-causes-treatment and http://www.cat-world.com.au/dehydration-in-cats.
Even if your cat is an outdoor only cat, it is always a good idea to keep a rescued cat inside for observation for the first few hours at least. If the rescue goes as planned I will hand your cat to you in the rescue bag so you can let it out inside, or in a garage, or in a shed, etc as appropriate.
Here are some reasons to take your cat to the vet after the rescue:
- Take your cat to the vet immediately if there is any evidence of broken bones, infected open wounds, or concerning behavior. When in doubt err on the side of getting medical attention.
- If your cat remains lethargic or disoriented 12 hours after rescue
- If your cat will still not eat or drink 12 hours after rescue
- If cat shows signs of prolonged dehydration 24 hours after rescue (see neck scruff test above). Your vet may decide to inject liquid under the cat's skin to quickly re-hydrate a sick cat.
- If your cat shows any signs of urinary tract infection or blockage (see http://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/cat-urinary-tract-problems)
- If your cat has still not gone poop 2 days after rescue