Why Cats Get Stuck In Trees - And What To Do When It Happens


Do cats REALLY get stuck in trees as often as it's portrayed on TV and in cartoons? 

Recently a poor cat in Ireland was stuck in a 50-foot-tall tree for six days. Stranded near the top, the cat was meowing loudly and demonstrating signs of distress. The owner and local volunteers from the ISPCA (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) tried unsuccessfully to coax the kitty down.


They then called the local Tullow Fire Brigade, but their ladder couldn’t reach the distressed cat.



Finally, they enlisted the Lucas Tree Services to use a massive bucket lift truck to reach the cat and happily bring him to safety, effectively ending the six-day standoff.


So, Why Do Cats Climb Trees?

There are a number of reasons that a cat might climb a tree. First, as hunters, they might chase their prey up a tree without understanding what might happen when the chase is finished. They might climb too high if they feel threatened with danger from strangers, other animals, or loud machinery. Indoor and outdoor cats also like to have a high vantage point and might climb a tree just to be above their environment.


Why Don’t They Just Climb Down?

Cats naturally climb up, but usually jump down from furniture, trees, or other objects that they climb. If they get stuck, it probably means they are too scared to climb or jump down from where they are currently situated. Also, cats have curved claws that are purrfectly designed to climb up, but are then curved the wrong way to proficiently climb downward.


What To Do If They Do Get Stuck?

First, don’t panic. This won’t do anything to ease your cat's stress and it can cloud your logical thinking processes.

Next, try to entice the cat to come down with some strong-smelling food or treats. If this doesn’t work and only if you are physically able, climb up the tree to your cat and bring them down. Always have someone there to watch in case you need help. 

If the tree isn’t too tall, you might be able to use some type of wood or other objects to create an incline or ramp that the cat could use the get down. 

If all that fails, call a local animal shelter or rescue that might have some advice or could recommend a service such as a tree trimmer to help bring your cat down. As a last resort, you can call your local fire department.


If you're worried about your cats getting out and climbing up a tree, consider limiting your cat's time outdoors to walks on a leash or harness, which can be a great way to give your cat safe, secure time outdoors and plenty of exercise

You could also provide your cats with a "catio," which is basically an outdoor enclosure (often a screened-in patio) that provides your cats with outdoor enrichment while still safe at home.

Photo by Eileenmak, Flickr, Creative Commons


And if your cat is an avid climber, be sure to fill the catio with a cat tree so they can safely scale the heights



  • Kate

    Fire departments I have found in USA DO NOT COME TO HELP WITH KITTIES! mine was 60 ft up. In a spruce with no lower branches. It was raining and I had to go to airport etc. it took 12 hrs and he did get down on his own. He went up another time and I finally got a big ladder (rented) and climbed up and took treats and a pillowcase to carry him down in. It took time but worked. He doesn’t climb high anymore!!!
    It’s real irritating fire depts won’t help. In WA state near Seattle there is a tree company who does this service as a gift to help stranded kitties. They are good people!

  • Geoff

    We had a climber who got up to the top of a 40 ft blue spruce. I called the fire dept and they said “We don’t pull cats out of trees, call this guy”. I called him and he said “Cat will come down when it’s ready. It is not stuck up there, it knows how to get down. I CAN climb up if you want me to, but it’s $$ for me to come out.”

    By the time I got off the phone with him, the cat was down on its own.

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