'Oliver' - the Kitty who climbed to the Tippy-Top

(mid October 2015)

Executive Summary

Oliver, a black and white tabby, was stuck overnight in an oak tree in Oxford, MS. I was able to rescue him, but it required some rescue-pole drama. Many thanks to Erin & Jordan, Kara, and Tom for your extremely generous donations to the Oktibbeha County Humane Society! Total rescue time was 6 hours (2 hours on site + 4 hours travel).


It was about 6:00 pm on a Friday evening when the Kat Fone rang. It was Erin, and she had been referred to me by the Oxford MS Fire Department. Her inside kitty ("Oliver") had escaped outside that afternoon, and was stuck in a tree -- could I help? I told Erin that my family planned to attend the 11:00 am MSU/La Tech football game the next day, but that I could leave at halftime if necessary to rescue Oliver. However, I told Erin that there was very good chance that Oliver would come down on his own, and to call/text me the next day if Oliver still needed assistance. The next morning, as we were preparing to go to the ball game, Erin called back and said that Oliver was still in the tree, higher than ever, and that their own rescue attempts had been unsuccessful. It was a beautiful October day, with a light breeze blowing, and I said that I could be there between 3:00 and 4:00 pm. My wife and I went to the game, and I left at halftime in order to drive to Oxford.

When I arrived at the apartment complex where Oliver was stuck I was met by Erin, Tom (a friend), and David (a helpful neighbor) who led me to Oliver's tree. He was about 35 ft up, and looked fairly comfortable. I was a bit concerned when Erin told me that Oliver had traveled far in the tree from where he was initially stuck; this made me suspect that he could be a skittish traveler, the toughest type of kitty to rescue. As I was installing my climbing rope, Kara (a friend) and Jordan (Erin's husband) joined the ground crew. Before I started up, I told everybody that if I had to use the rescue-pole, that I would lower Oliver and pole to the ground, where they would hold a net that he would be lowered into. I instructed them on how to release the wire on the rescue-pole by pulling on the end knob of the rescue-pole.

I started up, and soon I was just below Oliver. He had been watching me carefully but did not seem too concerned. My rope had to be installed below Oliver, so I had to pull myself up into a branch union below Oliver before making the grab. I pulled myself, and stood up, then tried to tighten my lanyard to steady myself. As I was doing this, I had to clear the lanyard from some branches, which frightened Oliver and he went further up the tree, yowling as he climbed. At this point, I realized that I probably would not get close enough for a grab, so I asked the ground crew to pass the rescue-pole up to me.

I climbed further up the tree until I was in range for a pole grab, and told the ground crew to get ready. I took a deep breath, and then tried to snag Oliver. The branches around Oliver hindered my efforts, and after a few seconds of me fumbling around, Oliver went further up the tree. My heart sank as I did not know how much higher I would be able to go, but there was at least one more good union above me that I could get to. I climbed higher, and saw that Oliver had run out of climbing room - he was perched at about 55 ft on the last possible branch that could support his considerable weight, and he was struggling to maintain himself on it. I stood up on the last branch that could support my weight, and saw that I could reach him with the pole. I told the ground crew to get ready again, and lifted the pole to snag Oliver, who was hanging by his front paws with his back paws on a tiny twig. I was able to use the pole to push his back legs off the twig, and then this allowed me to get the wire up around his waist. I pulled the wire tight, and at this point I had him firmly snagged. I then struggled to get Oliver off of the branch that his front paws were hooked over, as he had a death grip on it. I was finally able to pull him off the limb, at which point the pole flipped over with a yowling fat cat struggling at the end of it, and ended up hanging straight down. While lowering Oliver to the ground crew, I had to pull him off a couple of branches that he attempted to grab on the way down. Oliver finally reached the ground, where he was captured in the net by his owners, and then brought inside for food and water. I climbed back down the tree using lanyards to my main climbing line, and then descended easily the rest of the way. I was very thankful everything ended happily, and grateful for the help of the wonderful ground crew of Erin, Jordan, Tom, Kara, and David!

The picture below (courtesy Erin) shows Oliver relaxing the next day.