"Lewy' - the kitty who would not speak

(February 2014)

Executive Summary

"Lewy" (<Louie>) is a young mixed breed cat (much Himalayan) who had been stuck in a pine tree for 1.5 days. He was unique in my rescues so far in that he was totally silent until the wild tussle that got him safely into the Kat Bag and then into the arms of his loving owner, Dr. B. Total rescue time was 1 hour, with no injuries except to Lewy's pride when he was yanked out of his comfortable tree nest. I would also like to give a big THANK YOU shout out for the extremely generous donation to the Oktibbeha County Humane Society by Dr. B in appreciation for the rescue.


It was a Monday, about 11:00 am. My formal meetings were over for the day, and I was reviewing my plans for the remainder: grading, coding, coding, coding. Unexpectedly (when is it ever expected?), the Kat Phone began ringing -- "Meeoowwwr, MEOWWWRAOOOOLLLL"!! The lady on the phone introduced herself as Barbara, who lived in Purvis, MS (a little south of Hattiesburg and about 3.5 hours away). She owned a kitty who had been stuck in a pine tree for about 1.5 days, was I available to help? I quickly reviewed my options: 1). Save a Kitty, or 2) Work in the Office. It was no contest -- "Save a Kitty" it was going to be! I headed home, packed up the truck, and hit the road. Many iPad tunes (product placement!) later, I pulled up in front of a gate in the country outside of Purvis. I was at Barbara's home, who I later found out was Dr. Barbara, a physician who worked in Hattiesburg. I also learned that Dr. B was extremely active in rescue and foster activities in the Hattiesburg area, and that the home was actually a 35+ acre haven for horses, dogs, cats, roosters, ducks and probably any other animal friends needing love. Lewy, the kitty stuck in the tree, and his brother Davie, were also rescue animals. It was 3:30 pm, and I was a bit early for our pre-arranged meeting. I called Dr. B, and she was just leaving the hospital and would be there in 30 minutes. Dr B. told me that the kitty was stuck in a pine tree, at the edge of a pine forest that bordered her back pasture. She gave me permission to enter the property so that I could get my equipment out to the fence line. She also told me approximately where the kitty was located, and that if I just wandered in the area calling for the kitty, that I would probably get a 'Meow' back in answer. I assured Dr. B that I would find the kitty, and have a line set in the tree ready to climb by the time she got home. One day, I will learn to avoid making brash, stupid predictions during cat rescues, but this was not the day.

I opened the gate, drove in, closed the gate to prevent horse escapes, and continued up the driveway to the house. As I got out of the truck, I was greeted by two very friendly large dogs, "Bear" and "Puppy Girl". Puppy Girl was a three legged rescue dog who needed a hind leg removed after she was saved from an abuse situation. Puppy Girl romped around just fine on her three legs, and was very interested in everything I did as I hauled equipment out to the fence line. The pine forest was fairly young -- very small diameter trunks, dense branches, with most trees between 20 and 40 feet tall. I speculated that it was going to be a repeat of my previous rescue, where I would have to strap on spikes to go up a young pine tree. With Puppy Girl escorting me, I started roaming up and down the fence line calling "Here Kitty!!! Heeeerrreeee Kiiiitttyyy"!!!! I got nothing back -- the only things that I could hear were the wind blowing and my stomach growling. I crossed the fence and went into the forest a bit and kept traversing the area where the kitty was supposed to be, but I had no luck in locating the kitty. Occasionally, Puppy Girl would investigate a tree that was acting in a suspicious manner and I would follow up with a harsh interrogation using advanced tickle torture techniques, but each time the tree admitted that it did not have a kitty in its barkly clutches ('barkly"? yeah, it may not be a real word but it should be!).

I finally gave up, and me and Puppy Girl settled down to await Dr. B's arrival. This did not take long, and Dr. B soon joined us at the fence line bundled up against the wind and the chilly temperature. Dr. B introduced herself, and I sheepishly admitted that I could not find the kitty. At that point, I was beginning to suspect that the kitty had climbed down as all of my previous rescues were yelling loudly for help when I approached their trees. However, Dr. B led me to a tree at the edge of the fence line that I had passed several times, and under interrogation, had vehemently proclaimed its innocence (apparently, I need to go back to tickle-torture school for a refresher). This tree was very different from the other young pine tree clones -- it was an older tree that had been passed over in the previous cutting because it was seriously deformed. At some point in its life, its main trunk had snapped, but that did not kill it. The limbs below the break had simply grown up and spread out, so it was more like an oak tree shape than a traditional pine shape. At the point where the trunk had snapped, the rising limbs around the break now formed a large bowl at about 20 feet, and there were lots of branches and leaves in this bowl forming a nest. Dr. B pointed to the nest, made a kitty call, and two kitty ears poked up above the rim! "Lewy" had felt no need to answer my kitty calls. This made me a bit nervous, as a silent cat generally means a cat who may not welcome rescue. Dr. B confirmed that Lewy was indeed very skittish, and only let her near him.

It was now about 4:20, and we did not have much daylight left. I quickly got my gear across the fence line and under the tree. Young trees around this older pine tree formed a dense canopy. I aimed my Big Shot slingshot at a crotch well above Lewy's nest, but the throw bag bounced off an intervening limb and ended up over a limb that was just slightly above Lewy, and well out from the trunk. I did not want to spend time trying for better positioning since daylight was short, so I proceeded to pull up my climbing line. It turned out to be a good decision, as it allowed me to advance up the rope well away from a skittish Lewy. I climbed up until I could stand on a limb that ran to the trunk about 5 feet below Lewy. I advanced very slowly on the limb, not wanting to spook Lewy, who was snuggled down in the nest. As I got closer, I realized that Lewy was well aware of me, but that he was huddled down and 'hiding' from whatever monster was making so much noise in the tree. When I got underneath him, I could only see the tips of his ears sticking out of the nest. I raised my cell phone above the nest as high as I could get it, and took a couple of quick photos. There was another branch about two feet higher than my current branch that looked perfect to stand on in order to make a grab at Lewy.

I carefully maneuvered my butt onto the higher branch and put a lanyard around the trunk. I unpacked the Kat Bag, and inserted my right hand into the glove at the bottom of the bag. I then gathered my feet underneath me on the branch and prepared to stand up and attempt the grab. Dr. B was on the ground crooning sweet nothings to Lewy in order to keep him calm. Lewy was still snuggled down, hiding in his nest -- he had yet to utter a single sound. I took a deep breath and stood up. Lewy looked up, our eyes met, and I could read Lewy's cat brain thoughts "YOIKS!!!! Kat-Eating Monster!! RUNNNNNN!!!!!! Lewy bolted to my left, heading up one of the side limbs extending out of the bowl. A Hindbrain superpower that I had heretofore not known existed shot my left hand out at ninja-tastic speed, grabbing Lewy by the left rear flank/leg, pinning him against the trunk. This is generally not a place where you want to grab a kitty, but I had no other choice. Lewy let out an indignant yowl, and then I got my gloved right hand on his scruff. From that point, the fight was on -- Lewy started hissing, spitting, yowling, jumping as I tried to get the bag over his head. Meanwhile, Dr. B was yelling encouragement from the ground "Just grab ANYTHING! Don't let him go! HOLD ON TO HIM!!! I enthusiastically followed Dr. B's advice to the best of my ability. It turned out that Lewy's antics were all straight from the WWF -- despite the noise and struggles, he never tried to scratch or bite me -- it was all for show and I think he secretly wanted into the bag. After what seemed a long time but was only about 15 seconds, I was able to slide the Kat Bag over his head and that ended the fight. Internally, I offered a prayer of thanks, because if Lewy had escaped further up the tree, I probably would have had a crash course in night rescue. I had brought a headlamp for that purpose, but I had only just purchased it the previous week and had no practice time with it.

At that point, it was a short ride for Lewy down to the ground and into the arms of Dr. B., who whisked him off to the house for a quick medical checkup and food and water. As I was loading up the truck, Dr. B introduced me to some of the other furry friends around the home, and related the stories behind their rescues. I then headed for Starkville, happy to know that Lewy was now safe. Below is a picture of Lewy and his brother Davie sent to me by Dr. B after the rescue. All pictures except of that of Lewy in his nest are courtesy of Dr. B.