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Why Do Cats Get Stuck in Trees? Feline Facts & FAQs

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By Nicole Cosgrove

cat stuck in tree

Cats are known for being agile and athletic, plus, we know that cats are famous for always landing on their feet. So, why exactly do they get stuck in trees? They seem to make their way up the tree with ease, you’d think it would be simple to get right back down.

Cats can get stuck in trees due to their climbing instincts and agility that allow them to ascend easily, but their descending skills are less refined, potentially leading to situations where they are unable to come down on their own. Let’s look at exactly why our feline friends find themselves stuck in trees and what we can do about it.

Why Do They Get Stuck?

Regardless of why a cat ends up in a tree, the answer to why they get stuck is simple. In general, cats will jump down from high places rather than climb down. Their anatomy is built to propel them forward and upwards, and their hook-like claws are ideal for climbing up things.

Climbing down is not so easy for them, they have trouble coordinating their front and hind feet to make their way downward in any situation.

You’ll notice that when your cat climbs up onto their cat tree, the couch, or the counter, they will always jump down. Once they are up in a tree, they realize they are up too high to simply jump down, and they become stuck.

In some cases, a cat may not be stuck in the tree but is too scared to jump or climb down it. It’s important to note that declawed cats have a higher risk of getting stuck. They can’t climb as well as clawed cats, but they could still manage to get up a tree. However, they will not be able to come down, as they do not have claws to provide any traction.

cat on a tree branch
Image Credit: Emilia_Baczynska, Pixabay

Why Do Cats Climb Trees?

You may be wondering why a cat would even attempt to climb a tree in the first place if they are unable to come down. They aren’t necessarily considering the consequences of their actions. We’ll look at the reasons a cat may climb a tree.

Toyger cat in a tree
Image Credit: Kutikova Ekaterina, Shutterstock


We’ve all heard the saying “curiosity killed the cat,” but we could also say that curiosity gets the cat stuck in a tree. Cats are adventurous animals. Stray cats and those who are free to roam around outside, whether they’ve escaped the indoors or are outdoor cats, can get themselves in some tricky situations. They may simply climb up the tree because they can and then realize they cannot get back down.


Cats are avid hunters and love a good pursuit. Once they have their eye on a prey item, they may stop at nothing to get it. If a cat is chasing prey, such as a squirrel, and it bolts up a tree, chances are the cat will follow.


Cats may be carnivorous predators, but they are quite small and tend to become prey as well. Dogs are probably the most likely culprit to chase a cat up into a tree but depending on where you live, coyotes, bobcats, and various other large predators may pursue a housecat.

There is also the possibility that a cat may be trying to escape its owner. Some house cats like to sneak out of the home and go exploring. When their owner tries to catch them and bring them back inside, they may not be ready to end their rendezvous and do whatever it takes to

If cats feel threatened in any way, they search for safety up high, where they have a better view of what is going on below.

Big black maine coon kitten climbing in tree
Image credit: AVRORACOON, Shutterstock

What To Do If a Cat Gets Stuck in a Tree

If you come across a cat that has become stuck in a tree, it’s best to relax and not get too stressed or panicked about the situation. There are some things you can try to convince them to come down. Read on for tips on getting your favorite feline out of a tree.

Create a Ramp

The easiest and least risky option to help a cat down from a tree is to create a makeshift ramp to help them get down. You can take a board or anything you can find that the cat can climb onto and make its way down easily.

Remember, they are afraid to drop from the height and to climb down the vertical tree. The ramp will allow them to make their way down more easily at an angle. This will depend on the kind of tree and how high your cat has climbed, as it may not be a possible solution in all cases.

Use Food to Coax Them Down

tabby shorthair cat climbing down tree
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Putting out some cat food, cat treats, or a can of salmon or tuna may help convince a cat it’s worth making the climb down. If they are in the tree due to fear, it may be much harder to lure them food, they will need to feel safe before they are willing to make the trip down.

This option may take time and you may have to warm up some wet food to produce more enticing aromas to convince a cat it is worth facing their current fear of coming down the tree. This option may not work for all circumstances either. You’ll have to use your best judgment when in the situation.

Climb Up After Them

Climbing up after your cat may be an option. This is undoubtedly the most dangerous option for you. It likely won’t end well if you are going after a cat that does not know you or trust you. Even if the cat does know and trust you, they are in a tense situation and could react out of fear. You need to ensure the cat is calm enough to be handled.

Not only are you at risk of the cat’s reaction to your attempt to climb up and get them down, but you’re at risk of also falling. If you choose to climb a tree to get to a cat, you need to make sure you have help. Someone on the ground will need to stabilize a ladder if used, or simply be there to spot you. If anything happens to you in this attempt, you’ll want someone that can call for help.

If you don’t know the cat or the cat is incredibly nervous, it may be best to try any of the other options if possible or call for help. Chances are, you could scare the cat even farther up the tree if it is in fear of you.

cat stuck high in tree
Image By: Unsplash

Call for Help

If you have come across a cat stuck in a tree and none of the above options are feasible, it is best to call for assistance. For instance, if the cat is extremely distressed and agitated or is very high up in the tree, you’ll want professional help.

It’s a good idea to contact your local animal shelter or any rescue groups in the area for assistance. You could also call a local tree trimming company, they may be able to help.

It’s maybe your first thought to call the Fire Department, it’s what is commonly portrayed as the solution to this kind of situation in cartoons and movies but is far from reality. The Fire Department’s job is to assist in human-related emergencies and fires. They typically do not respond to calls for cats stuck in trees.

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Now we know that cats get stuck in trees because their anatomy is not built for climbing down. They can make their way into trees for various reasons and may either be too scared to climb down or legitimately stuck. Thankfully, we do have some options and can try to assist them with their dilemma. Worst-case scenario, we may have to call professionals for help. It’s always recommended to keep your cat microchipped, that way if they ever get lost or stuck in a tree and need rescuing, they can find their way back home.

Featured Image Credit: Unsplash

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