"Clarabell" Escapes The Grab

(mid August 2018)

Executive Summary

"Clarabell" was stuck 25 feet up a large oak tree for two days in Starkville MS before her rescue. During the grab & bag, Clarabell began struggling and escaped, turning an easy rescue into a hard one. I eventually snagged her with the rescue pole, whew.


It was about 6:30 pm on a Saturday night when I noticed a message on the Kat Fone. It was from Mitch/Starkville, their kitty had been stuck up an oak since the previous day, could I help? I called back and we discussed it - I was a bit hesitant to do the rescue that day in case I ran out of daylight, but after seeing a picture where "Clarabell" was only 25 feet up decided to go for it. I told Mitch that I would be there in 30 minutes, and started loading the truck.

Upon arrival, I was met by Mitch, his wife Trish, and their two young daughters. A 25 foot ladder was leaning against a large oak, and Clarabell was a few feet out on a limb above that. Mitch said that at the top of the ladder he could reach just below her limb but could not get Clarabell to come to him. Mitch explained that Clarabell, a 6 year old calico, was a recent adoption (one month) when her previous owner went to the retirement home. His wife and daughters had been letting her explore the yard for the first time a couple of days previously, when Clarabell became spooked by something and went up the tree. Mitch said that Clarabell was friendly so I hoped for an easy rescue. Clarabell watched cautiously as I set a climbing line but otherwise remained calm.

I geared up, began climbing, and soon was at height with Clarabell. I offered some dry kitty treats but she was not interested. I began petting her with my left hand, and while she tolerated it, she was not enthusiastic about my touches. I decided to go for the grab. As I gathered her scruff, Clarabell began hissing and when I lifted her off the limb she went into full freakout mode - hissing, spitting, yowling. She was a heavy weight and I was having a hard time getting a firm grasp on her scruff. I pulled her into my lap and tried to drag the bag over her while she was struggling. She nipped my fingers through the bag, causing me to reflexively loosen my grasp. She took advantage of this and jumped out of my lap, going out on some limbs that headed toward the house. My ineptitude had just turned an easy rescue into a hard rescue. I debated waiting until the next morning to give Clarabell time to settle down, but decided her attitude probably would not change much overnight. So, I climbed higher, and began limb walking out on a limb that was above the limb she had scampered to.

I soon spotted her new position - she had climbed up a small-diameter vertical stem that branched off of a large horizontal limb and was near the end of it. She was in a good position for a rescue pole attempt, so I asked Trish to retrieve the rescue pole from the truck. I lowered my lanyard to Trish, who attached the rescue pole to it using the carabiner at the end. I pulled the rescue pole up, then walked out a little more to reach snaring range. I placed a backup lanyard on a limb above me in case I fell off the limb during the grab (FORESHADOWING!). I reached out with the pole, and tried snagging Clarabell, but she dodged my attempt climbed to the very end of the stem. I reset the hoop, walked a bit further out, and tried again. This time I was successful as snaring Clarabell about her middle. I pulled her off the stem, falling off my limb in the process but I was caught by my backup lanyard (hurrah for safety!) I then lowered the rescue pole + Clarabell to Mitch on the ground. I threw the cat bag down to Mitch who covered Clarabell before trying to to release her. The rescue pole was being stubborn about releasing the hoop, so Mitch disconnected the pole from the lanyard and brought pole/bag/kitty into the house. Inside, Mitch and Trish were able to release Clarabell, and she began recovering from her ordeal. The photo below (courtesy of Mitch), shows Clarabell hanging out under a bed. Hopefully Clarabell does not repeat her tree climbing in the near future.