When You Can Call 911 for a Cat Stuck in a Tree

If a cat gets stuck in a tree, don’t call 911.

911 is for serious emergencies, and cats in trees don’t count.

The only exception is a cat on an electric pole, creating a hazard.

For all else, contact an arborist, animal rescue service, or a utility company if the cat is stuck on a utility pole.

Your kitty has dashed up a tree or a utility pole and can’t get down. She’s crying and crying and looks scared. You’re scared.

It seems like an emergency to you and the cat, but with few exceptions, this situation is not a real emergency, and 911 dispatch won’t send someone to help.

But, you have lots of other options for helping a cat stuck in a tree or on a utility pole, and this article will tell you about them.


Why Cats Get Stuck in High Places

Cats run up trees and power poles when excited – like getting outdoors for the first time – or afraid because a person or animal is chasing them.

It can also happen when one cat chases another cat, or a cat chases a squirrel or other small animal that runs up the tree first.  

Cats get up trees and can’t get down because their claws are curved backward, making going up head first easy and going down head first hard or impossible.

To climb down, the cat has to inch down backward, which is something cats don’t often do. So, it might take a while for a cat stuck in a tree to figure out how to do this.

Sometimes a cat gets stuck high-up off the ground, making the whole situation more hair-raising for everyone.

A cat falling from a somewhat greater height is often less likely to result in serious injury than a fall from a lesser height.

This is because a longer fall gives the cat time to right itself and spread its legs as it comes down, making for a softer landing.

A cat stuck in a tree is a distressing situation; however, calling 911 is almost always the wrong solution.

Here are 14 tips for rescuing a cat stuck in a tree or on a power pole, including how to determine if you need emergency services.


1. Relax

When kitty runs up a tree and can’t seem to get down, don’t panic. In many cases, the cat will make its way cautiously down the tree after it calms down, and no one is around.

However, if your cat is an indoor cat or a kitten, and this is her first trip up a tree, you may have a harder time getting her down, especially if the cat is declawed.

In this case, or if the cat is sick, injured, or old, you may need to call for help sooner.

However, relaxing, being patient, and thinking things through usually produces the best results for humans and cats when they are stuck in a tree.


2. Don’t climb the tree or a ladder to get the cat

Unless you are trained and experienced in tree climbing and animal rescue, don’t climb into the tree or get an extension ladder to save the cat. It isn’t safe for you or the cat.

Besides the chance of falling yourself, setting up a ladder, and climbing it may also scare the cat more, causing it to retreat to a higher perch or fall.


3. When to call 911 about a cat in a tree

The only genuine 911 emergency for a stuck cat would be if the cat were creating an electrical hazard near a high-tension electrical pole or a similar situation involving a potential fire or human safety issue.

A scenario like this might not end well for the cat. Still, someone should notify emergency services to remove the cat and ensure no further electrical hazards are resulting from this unfortunate accident.

Calling the utility company who owns the power pole is another option if a cat is stuck on a high-tension power pole or another type of utility pole.


4. Call a non-emergency service number

The 911 dispatch office, sheriff’s departments, fire department, city, county maintenance departments, and county animal control offices have non-emergency phone numbers for reporting problems.

Sometimes, off duty firefighters, police, and municipal workers are available to help with cat rescues, and calling a non-emergency number might lead you to someone with the time and ability to help.

However, these numbers may only be in service during regular business hours, or you may need to leave a message for someone to call you back.

If you can get through to someone on a non-emergency service number, even if they can’t send someone to help, they may know who is the best person or business to call for assistance.  


5. Offer enticing food

If possible, put a dish of food the cat loves at the base of the tree. The scent may help the cat build up the courage to climb down, especially as time goes by, and it gets hungry.

Don’t put food out if it is going to create problems with other pets or wildlife. Doing this may cause the cat to stay scared and up the tree if other animals are around.


6. Call gently to the cat

Use a soothing voice to talk to the feline, encouraging her to give climbing down a try. Once she gets going, she is likely to keep on going until she can safely jump to the ground, getting out of the tree by herself.

If the cat trusts you, being close to the base of the tree may help. If you don’t know the cat, staying near the tree may keep it feeling afraid and reluctant to come down.


7. Keep the area calm

Put pets and kids in another area and keep an ample space at the base of the tree open, quiet, and free of activity to help the cat relax and feel safer trying to climbing down.


8. Wait… at least 12 hours

It may seem like forever to you, but remember, cats spend a lot of time just sitting around. The cat may need several hours to calm down and figure out how to climb down.  

As long as the cat has a safe place to perch without needing to hang on, waiting for as long as 12 hours often gets a cat to come out of a tree by itself.

If the animal is very old or young, sick, or injured, you may not want to wait this long to call for help.

But do give the cat a bit of time and space to figure out how to get down on its own before you rush to call for help.


9. Contact an animal rescue service

Animal rescue services are available in many areas. These businesses specialize in the rescue and removal of animals from a variety of places where they should not be.

Animal rescue services have staff trained with handling wild and domestic animals. They have the tools, techniques, and equipment to get kitties out of trees as quickly and safely as possible.

Because animal rescue is their business, a service like this may be able to get to your location faster than other types of cat rescue assistance.


10. Contact a tree service

Tree services take care of landscape trees and other plants, pruning, trimming and removing trees and stumps, doing pest identification and treatment, and similar garden services. Some companies also advertise cat rescue services as part of their business.

Tree specialists have the correct ladders and equipment for safely climbing trees. They also have trained crews, many times with experience in rescuing cats stuck in trees and other high places.

A service located close to where you live, or someone who has done tree work for you or a neighbor in the past, may give you the most reasonable price for getting the cat out of the tree.

Or, they may be able to give you contact information for someone in your area who does this type of work.


11. Contact an arborist

An arborist and a tree service are not identical. Tree services often hire arborists, but many arborists work independently.

Not all arborists are expert tree climbers and cat rescuers, but a local arborist is likely to know people who can help you.


12. Contact a landscaping company

Many landscaping companies carry ladders and hire workers with experience climbing and working in trees. You may be able to find one who can help you.    

A company that regularly does work in or near your neighborhood may be able to respond faster to a cat rescue situation than a company located farther away.


13. Contact a utility company

If the cat is stuck on an electric pole, street lamp, or other utility structure, contact the company that owns or manages the utility.

Depending on the situation, they may be able to send their personnel, or direct you to someone who can help.


14. Getting Cats out of Trees and Other High Places

A cat rescue specialist may use various tools and equipment, depending on the size and condition of the tree and the cat’s height above the ground.

Ladders, rope, pulleys, a harness, or a cherry-picker lift could be needed for getting the worker into position to save the cat.

Besides having the right tools, people with cat rescue experience know the best ways to handle an animal once they reach it, minimizing the risk of injury to the cat and the person. The person may use a cage or box to put the cat in for the trip down the tree.

Cats stuck in trees and other high places and needing rescue happens all the time. In most cases, the cat will eventually figure out how to climb down unaided.

If not, get help from someone with experience and qualifications for climbing trees or utility poles who also knows how to do animal rescue. Only call 911 if there is a serious emergency.


Writer: Mary Innes

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