Why Do Cats Get Stuck in Trees?

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Many cats will climb trees, but far fewer will actually get stuck in them. Still, getting stuck in trees is not necessarily a rare occurrence. According to the online forum Quora, some pet parents report their cats frequently get stuck in trees, while others have never had an issue. So what gives? Why do cats get stuck in trees? To answer that question, we must first understand why cats climb them in the first place.

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Why do cats climb trees?

In general, climbing comes naturally to most cats. They will climb trees for a variety of reasons including curiosity, hunting, and escaping from backyard predators.

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Curiosity

Many cats will initially climb trees out of curiosity or playfulness. Climbing is a common feline behavior — one that popular pet furniture encourages to keep indoor cats active and mentally stimulated. Tree climbing itself is not always a problematic behavior. Usually, most cats are able to make their way down. It's those odd occurrences when your moggie gets overcome with the freedom of climbing, and they scramble too far up a tree to then descend safely.

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Hunting

Your cat is a passionate hunter who loves nothing more than to chase smaller animals such as chipmunks, mice and butterflies. When your cat's prey flees for safety, these backyard pursuits will often lead up a tree. Yet, when the chase is over, many kitties find themselves too high up to successfully navigate back down.

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Escape

While your cat is often a predator, they can also become prey. Depending on your region, dogs, coyotes, foxes, and other larger animals may pose a threat to your cat — forcing them up a tree to find safety. Some cats may even climb a tree to avoid contact with their humans when it's time to come inside after a vigorous day of patrolling their territory. Essentially, when cats feel threatened, they'll seek safety high up in a tree or otherwise. The higher up they are, the better view they have of any potential dangers down below.

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Why do cats get stuck in trees?

Cats get stuck in trees for a couple of reasons. First, a cat's claws are shaped like fish hooks. So when they get stuck, their only means of descent is to climb down the tree backwards, according to the professionals at Cat Canopy Rescue. Not surprisingly, climbing in reverse does not come as naturally to cats as using a forward motion to climb up trees. In other words, cats get scared — hence the term "scaredy cat." Regardless of why your cat is stuck in a tree or why they cannot get down by themselves, the real issue is how to get them down safely.

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What to do when your cat gets stuck in a tree

The best way to get your cat out of a tree depends on whether or not your cat is truly stuck, or is just unwilling to come down. Also, the height at which your cat is stuck will also help determine the best course of action.

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Tempt your kitty with cat food

Try coaxing your cat down a tree by tempting them with their favorite treats. This is often the best option when they are unwilling to descend or if they are simply "kind of stuck," but are probably able to climb down with a little encouragement.

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Climb up to retrieve your cat

This is a controversial solution. So let's start with the disclaimer: You should never climb up a tree to retrieve your stuck cat if you're not physically able to, and never do so without support or assistance. However, if you have a sturdy ladder, a family member or friend to assist, and you're physically able — then this may be the quickest way to get your cat out of a tree. Still, this option is risky for a couple of reasons. You could injure yourself. And you might scare your cat even farther up the tree. Consider luring your cat down with a combination of treats and climbing up a ladder to fetch your kitty.

Make a ramp or cat elevator

Sometimes your cat may climb too high to come down on their own. In these instances, you'll need to get creative. A popular way to get a stuck cat out of a tree is to fashion a makeshift ramp from a ladder, wood planks, or a basket on a pole. This option will take some planning, and the resulting "ramp" will look differently depending on whatever materials you have at your disposal. Another technique is to create a cat elevator using rope and a cat carrier or another similar on-hand container. Ensure that whatever device you create to rescue your cat is sturdy enough to hold their weight. You don't want to risk accidentally dropping your cat.

Call for professional help

While policies vary depending on your region, your local fire department will most likely not send a firefighter to retrieve your cat. Instead, try your local Humane Society or animal shelter. Many times these organizations have staff or other resources to help you get your cat out of a tree. Additionally, there are professional services available such as Canopy Cat Rescue that specialize in the safe retrieval of cats stuck in trees. In fact, the website Cat in a Tree Emergency Rescue maintains a nationwide database of emergency rescue services. If all else fails, your county animal control may be able to assist and some pet parents have been known to hire an arborist to rescue their cats.

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In summary

Cats get stuck in trees for two reasons: fear and the fish-hook design of their claws which makes climbing backwards challenging. Cats climb up trees because of their curious nature and both their predator and prey instincts. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to rescue your cat from a tree including enticing them down with treats, building a makeshift ramp, and calling a professional rescue service. Additionally, microchipping your cat gives shelters a quick way to identify your best friend. You never know, your kitty could get stuck in someone else's tree.

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