A cat stuck in a tree can be worrisome. But do all cats need to be rescued from trees? We take a look at why felines are intrigued to climb up bark and how long they can survive on a limb. We also reveal how high a cat can fall without getting hurt.
Keep reading to learn how to coax a cat out of a tree and whether it can get down by itself. Paws up!
Why Do Cats Climb Trees?
Cats are natural climbers, so when they see a tree, it’s an instinct to find their way to the top. The bark is also good for sharpening their claws. But there are several reasons cats climb trees besides just for the fun of it.
Outdoor cats hunt, and birds or squirrels are often their prey. Both are often in trees, so cats like to stalk them by sitting on branches. In contrast, cats also climb trees to escape when they are the prey. If they feel threatened or scared, a tree allows them to get up high and out of danger. They may also use a tree to survey their surroundings and territory, letting other cats know it’s their domain.
How Do Cats Climb Trees?
The largest muscle group, the quadriceps femoris, in a cat is on the front of the thigh. These muscles are essential to a cat’s movement and mobility. They extend the leg and help the animal pounce, jump, and climb.
Cats also use their retractable claws to grip the tree bark. They’re naturally agile climbers due to their muscles, claws, and technique. Their claws, center of gravity, and muscle power allow them to hold their bodies close to the tree so they don’t fall backward.
Why Your Cat Might Not Come Down Out Of A Tree
Climbing up trees is easy for cats, but coming down is a bit more of a workout. Unlike some wild cats, such as the margay, domesticated cats can’t climb down a tree head first. They need to turn backward to get a proper grip and sidle down.
Cats’ retractable claws are curved in one direction. This, combined with their hind legs being stronger than the front, makes it difficult to climb face forward down a tree. Instead, they need to go down rear-first. Essentially they use the same technique as climbing up the tree, but backward. This prevents some cats from wanting to come down, and so they get stuck in a tree.
Another reason your cat might not come down out of a tree is because it’s having fun. Some felines like to hang out up high and watch the world go by. It’s like playing king of the castle for them. Or they might find the leaves intriguing to swipe at with their paws, or they’re simply having a blast running around branches like a jungle gym.
Alternatively, your cat might be staying up high because something scared it. If a cat gets spooked or feels threatened, climbing a tree makes it feel protected and at an advantage point.
Kittens can be more apt to get stuck in a tree than adult cats. This may be due to their lack of experience, and mothers typically don’t get the chance to teach their newborns to climb trees or how to get down.
How Long Can a Cat Survive Stuck in a Tree?
If a cat is stuck in a tree, the chances of you or someone else finding it are pretty good. However, if a cat isn’t found, it can survive in a tree for about two weeks without eating.
Additionally, if a cat goes without food for two days, it’ll start to become malnourished. Cats can develop hepatic lipidosis, a liver condition, without food. The starvation will lead to internal organs shutting down. So, food is extremely vital for cats.
But water is even more crucial, as it keeps cells alive for organs to work. Cats will become dehydrated when without water for 24 hours. On average, they can survive three to four days without water.
Do Cats Really Need to Be Rescued From Trees?
Cats may eventually come down from trees on their own, but it’s best not to wait too long. As we said, a cat will become dehydrated within 24 hours without water. So, if your cat refuses to get out of a tree after some time, make a plan to get it down.
Also, your cat may simply need some time to calm down if it climbed the tree due to a threat. It could be afraid or unsure if the threat is gone. Giving it a little bit of time to relax may help it come down by itself. Attempts to coax it or scare it back down may just draw out the process. But if your cat won’t come down from a tree, don’t leave it up there knowingly for more than a few hours.
How Do You Get a Cat Out of a Tree?
There are a few ways to get a cat out of a tree on your own before calling the professionals. Let’s look at each.
Give It Time
Your cat may need some time to calm down. For cats that don’t regularly jump around tree branches, the first time in a tree may be terrifying. Or if a predator caused it to run up the tree, the cat may be experiencing some anxiety. So, leave the cat for an hour or so to relax. After doing so, it may decide to come down on its own or at least make it easier for you to get it down without being scratched.
Coax With Favorite Treats
If your cat can’t figure out how to come back down a tree, try to coax it down with treats. It may entice it to climb down backward or jump if it’s not too high. Be sure to get a treat it can see and smell. If it is used to a certain sound of a treat jar shaking, try that with some gentle cooing and babytalk.
Pro Tip: If your cat is injured, use our pet first aid tips.
Use a Ladder
Using a ladder to get a cat out of a tree is one of the most common ways. However, we can’t stress enough the importance of safety. Don’t put yourself at risk, especially if the tree or ladder is unstable or if the cat is too high for you to reach with the ladder. Also, be aware that a cat may get nervous and scratch. Take a towel with you to protect your skin.
Call a Tree Service
If you can’t get the cat out of the tree yourself, contact a tree service or arborist. Many don’t charge to get cats out of trees. However, we recommend at least tipping them for coming on short notice. They’re equipped with climbing equipment to get into high branches.
Don’t Call the Fire Department
Fire departments are busy with emergencies daily. And, unfortunately, a cat stuck in a tree is not considered an emergency, so don’t call 911 if it happens. While they’ve been known to use their ladder system to get cats out of trees, it’s not their first priority.
If you do call the fire department, they’re likely to direct you to a tree service unless your cat is in immediate danger. But the cat will likely be able to hang out in the tree without harm until a tree service can get there with equipment to climb the tree.
How High Can a Cat Fall?
Cats have been reported to fall 20 stories and walk away with minor injuries. There has also been a report of a cat falling 32 stories and surviving with a chipped tooth and collapsed lung. Obviously, you should never push or drop your cat from any height, but studies show felines can live after falling over 200 feet.
Check out this video to learn what terminal velocity has to do with cats falling and landing or not landing on their feet. It also describes why cats don’t always get hurt when they fall, thanks again to their amazing musculoskeletal system.
How To Prevent Your Cat From Climbing Trees?
Likely the only way to prevent your cat from climbing trees is to keep it indoors. Since climbing is natural for cats, it would be very challenging to keep a feline from a tree when outdoors. That’s not to say all cats climb trees for fun, but if they’re threatened, it may be instinct.
Or you can teach your cat how to climb trees and get down. We walked our kitten on a leash outside and let her climb trees up to about shoulder height so we could easily grab her if needed. But the goal was to help her figure out how to climb down backward before going any higher. Once she figured out she could go back down the same way she came up, it was no big deal.
Stay Calm If Your Cat Gets Stuck in a Tree
If your cat gets stuck in a tree, remain calm. Handling the situation without pushing the panic button will help ease your cat and resolve the situation effectively. Remember, if you can’t get to the cat safely, call a tree service in your area or someone with the proper equipment to help. But, hopefully, your fur baby will come down on its own, even if you need to coax it with a snack.
Has your cat been stuck in a tree? What did you do to help it? Share your story in the comments below.
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