'MIssion Impossible' - A Kitty Stuck 90 Feet up a Dead Tree

(early February 2016)

Executive Summary

"Mission Impossible" is how I felt when told of a kitty (unknown name) stuck 90 feet up a dead pine tree in Brookhaven, MS for 8 days. Fortunately, I was able to climb a neighboring tree and rescue the kitty. Many, many thanks to Sonya and Steve and the rest of the neighbors on Eola Trails for your generous donations to the Oktibbeha County Humane Society!


It was late on a Friday afternoon when I noticed a missed call on the Kat Fone from a Brookhaven, MS phone number. My 'kitty-in-trouble' sense tingled -- earlier that day I had idly thought that the weather over the weekend would be nice for a kitty rescue -- this falls under the category of be careful what you wish for! I returned the call, and talked with Julie of Brookhaven Animal Rescue League. She told me that a lady had called BARL about a kitty that was stuck in a tree, and could I help? I said that I could, and Julie said that she would pass my contact information to the person who needed it. A short while later, the Kat Fone rang again, and it was Sonya. She explained that an unknown kitty had been stuck for 7 days in a tree in their yard. She had called the fire department, and a friend had come out, and said their bucket truck would not reach the kitty which he estimated at over a 100 feet. She also told me that the tree was dead. When I heard "over 100 feet" and "dead tree", I thought this may be one kitty that I would be unable to help. Sonya sent me a picture of the tree and said there was a tree close by that possibly I could climb. When I looked at the picture, it did not look like any of the neighboring trees could help (I realized later the picture angle almost completely obscured the tree that Sony had mentioned). I thought about it for a while, then called Sonya back and said that I would come out and that we could try a large trashcan with food in it that I could haul up to the kitty since it seemed that I would be unable to climb.

That night, my wife helped me rig up a tall plastic kitchen trash basket with a tie rope and an outer covering of a laundry bag. The plan was that in addition to the rope hauling up the trashcan, a second small rope would be included that could pull on the laundry bag drawstring once the kitty was in the can, preventing the kitty from jumping out while it was being lowered (this were her idea, she is sorta smart even though I did beat her on one test in college).

I arrived the next day at 10:30 am in Brookhaven. Sonya met me, and pointed to a dead pine tree next to their driveway. I followed the trunk up, and located the kitty near the top. The kitty was not over 100 feet, but it was very high - 90 feet. I then saw the tree Sonya mentioned that was near the dead tree -- it was about 9 feet away, taller than the dead tree, and had sturdy branches at the height that the kitty was at. I changed my plan from the 'kitty elevator plan' to the 'climb the neighboring tree plan' as Sony had originally suggested. While I was hauling my climbing gear to the tree, I was introduced to Steve, Sonya's husband. Also, a group of neighbors showed up as well, wanting to help. I told them they could be on tarp duty while I attempted the resuce. I was worried about installing a climbing line as the first good branch on the neighboring tree was at 70 feet, and the branch that I really wanted was at 90 feet. However, a higher power was helping me, and I hit the 90 foot branch on my first try with my BigShot slingshot. (From this point on, I will refer to the kitty as "Mi", short for "Mission Impossible").

I soon had a climbing line installed and started up. I noticed that when I did my bounce test, that my Bulldog bone ascender slipped on my rope. I then realized that I HAVE NEVER CLIMBED ON THIS SECTION OF THE ROPE as I have NEVER CLIMBED TO 90 FEET BEFORE DURING A KITTY RESCUE (I have only climbed to 90 feet once prior to this day, and that was on a different rope during a recreational climb). Thus, the rope was not broken in, and was a bit slippery -- fun! On the way up, I tried not to think about the height as I tend to start questioning my gear when I get above 50 feet. I tried to think happy thoughts, such as, my wife and I have long term care insurance, so if I fall and become paralyzed, I will not be a burden to her. Or better yet, I would probably just die out right from that height. So buoyed, I continued wheezing and puffing for a long time up the rope until I was finally at height with Mi, who looked quite comfy on his branch. My original plan was to traverse/swing over to the dead tree, thinking that most of the weight would be on the rope tied to my live tree. However, seeing the EXTREME DEADNESS of the tree UP CLOSE made me rethink my plans - I did not trust any of those branches to hold more than kitty weight. So, I asked Steve to pass up my rescue pole since it looked like Mi would be in range if I fully extended the pole.

I soon had the rescue pole and was ready to try rescuing Mi. Prior to climbing, I had informed the ground crew that if I had to use the rescue pole, that I would lower kitty and pole together, and to position my net under the pole such that the kitty would be lowered into the net. I warned the crew to get ready, and started trying to get the noose around Mi. After a couple of failures, I was able to get the hoop firmly around Mi's middle. I pulled Mi off the branch, and started lowering the kitty/pole combo to the ground. At about 20 feet, Mi grabbed on to some intervening branches, but I was able to pull Mi off of those. Mi then became tangled in some vines about 10 feet and I could not see what I was happening - I kept lowering the pole hoping the ground crew would be able to grab it and pull Mi out of the vines. According to the crew, the pole handle was waving around and had just come within reach when Mi came loose of the vines and reached the ground in an unexpected location. The jarring of the pole during the chaos loosened the noose, and before the ground crew could react, Mi wiggle out of the noose and took off for the back property line where he/she disappeared into the neighborhood. All were very disappointed that Mi escaped, including yours truly. However, Mi acted and looked like a pet cat, not a stray, so I believe Mi was heading for the home in the neighborhood that he/she belonged to.

When I descended, I met Julie and KayKay from BARL, who had arrived while I was in the tree. They thanked me, and I thanked them as I believe that people who volunteer their time at animal shelters are the real heroes in terms of helping distressed animals.

I have included a video and some pictures taken during the rescue (thanks Sonya and Julie).