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How To Get a Cat Out of a Tree: 8 Possible Ways

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Balinese Cat Sitting On A Cherry Tree

Cats are acrobatic animals that excel at climbing and evading predators, but their abilities seem less impressive when they scurry up a tree and cannot climb down. Although some cats can make their way down eventually, others may be frozen in fear and unable to descend from a precarious height.

Regardless of the myth that cats do not need human assistance to climb down, it would be best if you did not wait more than a few hours before attempting a rescue. Rescuing a cat from a tall tree typically requires professional equipment most homeowners lack, but you have other options to coax your frightened friend back to the ground level.

The 8 Ways to Get a Cat Out of a Tree

1. Address the Threat

Why do cats climb up trees? While some cats will run up trees to escape predators, others may choose to explore the great heights out of pure curiosity. Cats enjoy perching in elevated positions and observing the world below them, and if you have a backyard with trees, your pet will eventually climb one. If the animal does not seem frightened, it may choose to climb down before dinnertime, but a scared kitty may be hesitant to move if a nearby threat is present.

Walk around the area and look for dogs, rival cats, or wildlife in the area that may be keeping your friend from descending. If you can scare away the threat, your cat may decide the environment is safe enough to return home. However, if a large predator like a mountain lion or coyote lurks nearby, call animal control for assistance.

2. Tempt with Food

Bribery often works wonders on felines who have missed their normal feeding time. Using a can of wet food to lure your pet down can be incredibly effective, especially if the animal is hungry. If your cat is frozen at the top of the tree, you can use a ladder to place bits of food on lower branches.

Dry food might work, but it’s not as aromatic as wet varieties. The ideal bait is a meal or treats that your cat loves but only eats on special occasions. You can move your grill closer to the tree and cook tuna steaks or another fish your cat loves. The smell of the delicious meat may make your cat temporarily forget its fear and decide to move down.

cat stuck in tree
Image credit: Oscar Fickel, Unsplash

3. Lean a Ladder Against the Tree

A tree without lower branches may be more problematic for cats to descend, but you can prop up a long ladder against the tree to help your pet down. It may take a while for the cat to climb down the ladder, and some cats are hesitant to move down when a crowd has gathered below. Give your cat some space and wait a few hours to see if the animal seems interested in using the ladder. You can try calling its name or making a familiar whistle or sound the cat hears before mealtime, but if the animal does not seem likely to move, you’ll need to try another method.

4. Use a Favorite Toy

Cats enjoy playing with their favorite toys, and some items may be particularly loved by your pet. Felines sometimes treat their toys as prey, but they also latch onto beloved objects for security. Like Linus’ blanket in the Peanuts comics, a toy may be a welcome sight for a frightened creature. Tempt your cat with a string toy or use a laser pointer to target lower branches. However, most laser toys will be ineffective in bright sunlight.

cat stuck high in tree
Image credit: Guillaume de Germain, Unsplash

5. Set Up a Pet Carrier Rescue

A carrier-trained pet may feel comfortable entering a carrier from an elevated position, but this method should only be used as one of your last resorts. Using a carrier as a dumbwaiter is a challenging process that’s much easier if you have assistance from a friend. First, throw a rope over a branch located near the cat. You may have to attach a small weight to the end of the branch is high up but be careful not to hit your pet when you toss the rope. Pull the rope to ensure the branch is stable and attach one end to the carrier’s handle. Open the carrier door and slowly raise the container to the animal’s location. Your partner can use a long pole to stabilize the container while you pull on the rope. If the cat enters, you can slowly guide it down to the ground.

6. Attempt a Rescue with a Ladder

Rescuing a cat from a tall tree is not recommended, but you can use a ladder to climb a small tree if you’re confident in your climbing skills. If the ground beneath the tree is uneven, ask a friend to steady the ladder as you climb. When you ascend the tree and approach the animal, try to stay calm and speak to your pet in a reassuring tone. A frightened cat may be hesitant to accept your help, and it may decide to scratch you on the way down. Wearing gloves and a thick jacket will offer some protection from a scared cat but try to stay relaxed even if you’re being attacked.

7. Call for Professional Help

Law enforcement officers and firefighters are unlikely to help you with a cat retrieval; they’re usually too busy to assist, and some departments have policies that forbid officers from assisting. If you live in a large city, you can look online for a cat rescue organization specializing in saving cats in trees. A landscaping company that employs arborists can help you, but you’ll have to pay a fee for the job. However, the prices for cat removal are likely to range from $75 to $100 depending on your location, and the charge is much less than paying a vet to treat broken bones.

Cat Rescued on the tree
Image Credit: Prilutskiy, Shutterstock

8. Contact a Climber

If the professionals cannot help you in a reasonable amount of time, you can try calling friends or family with climbing experience. An amateur mountain climber would jump at the chance to ascend a mighty tree for a rescue, and you can contact a local climbing club through social media for assistance if you’re not lucky enough to have experienced climbers as friends. A friend will probably help you for free, but you can offer a reward to anyone willing to help.

Will a Cat Eventually Come Down from a Tree?

Curious cats who are not scared or worried about nearby predators may come down the tree unassisted. Although some online posts recommend waiting 48 hours before calling professionals, we advise against waiting that long. Your cat can survive for two days without water, but why wait when you have so many methods to bring the animal down? Harsh weather and extreme temperatures can traumatize your pet and cause injuries, and you should only wait a few hours before attempting a rescue.


A firefighter rescuing a cat in a film may seem amusing, but when the cat is yours, amusement is replaced by fear and anxiety. Felines are smart creatures, but their intelligence gets a bad reputation when the cats cannot climb down from a tree. Luckily, cats have humans to help them down. With the previous techniques, you can figure out which ones are most effective and use them the next time your cat escapes to the top of a tree.

Featured Image Credit: Fazlyeva Kamilla, Shutterstock

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