Monty Doing Some Tree Climbing

By Ruth (Monty’s Mom)

This is a short video of Monty doing some tree climbing, taken recently at six in the morning with my iPhone before I had to leave for work. Monty was begging to go outside using what I call his “starving baby kitten meow.” Since coming to live with me he has become very vocal, boldly demanding food or attention. But when he really wants something he meows like he did when he first came to live with me– a soft meow, almost inaudible, that gives the impression that he is too frightened and weak to manage anything louder.

So outside we go into the chilly morning, which must have felt very good to Monty. Since the weather has turned warm he has done very little tree climbing, but on that morning he went right to one of his favorite trees. I thought of filming him to see if I could capture his characteristic head first method of descent. He did not disappoint. During the winter he had been consistently climbing down rear paws first, all the way to the ground. I think this was because jumping out of the tree or running down head first caused his front paws to hit the snow with enough force to wedge snow between his toes, and he hates that. So all winter he climbed down backwards, as a cat should. He’s back to trying to do it like a squirrel now.

Monty in a Tree

Monty in a Tree. Photo by Ruth (Monty’s Mom).

Sometimes gravity will pull his back end into proper position, but often he just turns again to resume head first climbing. I thought he would learn to go backwards from gravity teaching him it was easier that way. Plus, his claws don’t grip the tree in the forward descent position. I think he does know how to climb down backwards, he just doesn’t want to. He is a stubborn cat and will continue to do things his own way, so long as it suits him.

I personally like the part of the video where he jumps up suddenly and exercises his claws on the tree. This is a good workout for the muscles of his shoulders and upper back. He needs those to be strong to protect him from the osteoarthritis he is at risk for with all the jumping out of trees he does. All those hard landings from jumping or racing down trees head first can take their toll. However, since he is a stubborn cat who does exactly what he wants, I have given up scolding him for his head first descents, but I do encourage him to exercise his claws on lots of trees. Sometimes I hold him in my arms next to various trees and he will reach out and dig his claws in just about every time. I like to place my hand on his little body as he does this and feel his muscles tightening, pulling against the resistance. This exercise is his best defense against repetitive stress injuries down the road from all the jumping out of trees he does.

Sometimes on PoC we seem to suggest that only declawed cats are at risk for osteoarthritis, and this is not true. Cats who like to jump down from heights a lot and cats who are overweight and/or inactive are also at risk. Encouraging these cats to exercise their front claws on a tree or tall scratching post is the best protection for their joints. Strong muscles around a joint give stability. Sadly, this type of exercise is exactly what declawed cats are deprived of.

Perhaps because I am a physical therapist assistant, I find myself thinking often of how to design something that could give declawed cats the ability to reach up and pull down against resistance. Most of my ideas have centered around something using hook and loop material, but the issue is how to attach this to the cat, since declawed paws are often painful. Perhaps something that would attach farther back around the limb, avoiding pressure on the paws, or perhaps the cat’s caretaker could gently hold, avoiding direct pressure on the paw, but encouraging the cat to pull back against gentle resistance, rewarding him with a little treat for doing so. Sometimes I simply stop these thoughts, because to design such a system or exercise program might in some small way legitimize declawing, since it would essentially remove one of the downsides for the cat, by restoring his ability to exercise the muscles of his shoulders and upper back.

Working in physical therapy must truly be a calling for me, since I think of Monty’s outside time almost in terms of a physical therapy session at times. I’m often doing my workout while he is out there. When I get more active, running wind sprints across the yard or going up and down the back porch steps, he will get more active too, racing across the yard, climbing up and down trees or exercising his claws near the base of a tree. Monty suggests what he would like to do at times, like asking to be taken outside, but quite often throughout the day he takes his cues from me. If I am sedentary, he sits quietly, if I am busy looking through papers, he will start exploring little nooks and crannies of a room as if he is looking for something too.

I wish I could climb the way he does. Having done a fair amount of tree climbing as a child, I know the pleasure of it, but no human could ever climb up a tree with the same ease as a cat. They are truly built for it, and I know Monty gets great pleasure from it. I thought readers of PoC might get pleasure from watching Monty enjoying himself. I know I do!”

Thanks for featuring Monty again!

Ruth and Monty

(who wants to go outside in the morning again– what have I started?)

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Monty Doing Some Tree Climbing — 23 Comments

  1. Thanks again for featuring Monty, Michael! He is happy to provide material, the little ham. I sent you a photo last evening of him sitting in a tree– one of my favorites. He looks so wistful or wise or something. I found another video from last year that still scares me watching it because it sure looks like he is going to go head first from a tall straight tree. He obviously thinks it over, finally decides on butt first, but then jumps off while he’s about six feet up. What a goofy cat. But he has fun out there, and I worry less now. He seems to be getting better at tree climbing. He still prefers his method, but will go back legs down first if safety requires it.

    He has entirely accepted my sister as one of his people. She came outside with us last week and he rubbed against her and then flopped down asking for a belly rub, which she dutifully knelt down and provided. He purred his fool head off for her making me feel just a tad bit jealous, but it was good to see.

  2. I loved seeing Monty up that tree happily doing what cats love to do, it did my heart good.
    My favourite bit too was when he reached up to exercise his claws.
    I don’t think we give the impression that only declawed cats suffer from arthritis, it’s just that they are more prone to it because they can’t exercise as cats need to.

  3. I love this video and article and the detail – it’s really interesting and really fun. Monty is just great isn’t he. I’d be very proud to be his friend.

    • Marc,
      At first Michael said if he posted this video you would be jealous. I said he should post it and make you jealous seeing as you had said he is a bit dodgy (because of his role as a neighborhood catnip dealer for stray cats.)

      I’ve wondered if Monty would be friendly to all his admirers from PoC, should he ever meet them. I think he accepts anyone who smells of cat. We had a repairman in the other day and Monty was just fine with him. Then the repairman said he has a twenty pound Maine Coon at home. There seems to be a pattern: smell of dog and he will growl at you, don’t smell of animals and he will be indifferent and growl to tell you to go home when he’s had enough of you, but smell of cat and he will accept you.

      • We are now onto how people smell – a favorite subject. I believe that some people for some reason smell friendly to a cat. In other words, their body odor suits felis silvestris catus. I don’t know what it is but when a cat smells my hand they like it, and lick it, even strange cats sometimes.

        Maybe they know I’m the catnip dealer 😉

  4. He does look happy and free. He reminds me of Fluffy, who used to climb up our apricot trees and get stuck. I’d have to get the ladder and get her down. One time she made it to the roof.

    Thanks for sharing. I needed some cat time! Back to work..

  5. I personally like the part of the video where he jumps up suddenly and exercises his claws on the tree…

    I noticed this and I love to see it. It is an all round good thing for a cat to climb a tree and scratch. It is very natural.

    • Don’t you think he is scent marking that tree? Looks like it. Wonderful video and story about Monty. He is truly a POC famous cat now. And a beautiful one at that.

      • Yes he might be scent marking and perhaps visually marking (scratch marks) and sharpening claws and stretching all at the same time.

        I sense Monty is doing more in the way of stretching and claw sharpening rather than scent marking because he is high up and cats will scent mark on prominent objects nearer the ground where other cats are likely to see and smell them.

        • Monty does that type of scratching too, and it probably is scent marking. But maybe he was scent marking to tell those pesky squirrels that this is Monty’s tree!

          Whenever I come back into the house after having been away, Monty sniffs me with interest. It’s like he’s asking, “Where have you been and who have you been talking to?” Though I have very little sense of smell, I love to bury my nose in Monty’s fur and sniff and sniff him. I am, as Elisa says, a “cat sniffer.” Jeff will say, “I think he smells like his litter box. He was just in there.” Not being able to tell the difference, I don’t care. I still like to sniff him. Monty doesn’t seem to mind. He doesn’t know it’s like a blind person looking really carefully at a painting. I still do it.

    • Monty’s lucky to have so many to choose from! Even with the few that we blocked off because he got stuck in them he has the option of climbing seven different trees of varying heights and sizes.

      • We have trees all, along the back outside our back fence too, our boyz used to go up more often when they were younger like your boy.

        • I wonder if Monty will climb less as he gets older. All the more reason to give him ample chances to enjoy it now.

          • Yes I think most cats climb trees less as they get older, they are not as adventurous maybe? Or maybe like us they get more sensible and realise some things are really quite risky.

            • Perhaps that is it. I think I have gotten a little bit more sensible as I have gotten older. I once freewheeled my bicycle down a huge hill in Lake Delton and in front of me was an old guy driving the speed limit. It took me a good half an hour to walk my bike up that hill so I could cruise down it going fast, so I had no intention of doing the speed limit. I just passed him on the left and kept flying by. I wonder if he was surprised to be passed by a kid on a bicycle. The speedometer on my bike said I was going 50 miles per hour. I wouldn’t do that today. Humans can lack any semblance of good sense until they are about 29 years old.

              So do cats have the same issue? Do young cats take more risks climbing than older cats? Or do older cats stop climbing as high because it is less easy for them to climb, so they don’t do it? Or do they really perceive the behavior as risky at an older age, but not when they are younger?

              • Oops, I meant to say I passed him on the right. Well, whatever, it was horribly dangerous.

                When I was about 13 I climbed all the way to the top of this huge pine tree on a hill next to Lake Delton. The people who owned the land it was on had asked that my sister and I not climb the rocky points down the hill to the lake, but otherwise we could play there. Well, they never said anything about that tree. I got to the very top and stood up. The tree was swaying in the wind, but standing up there I could just see over the tops of the other trees, especially since there I was at the top of the ravine. My heart was pounding and I was shaking, but it was an incredible experience. So I understand the joy Monty gets from tree climbing. That tree was awesome. My sister and I would sit up there for hours, about half way up. I have some pictures, but they kind of turned green and faded over the years.

                Another thing I’d never do today, even if I physically could! I have climbed a couple of our back yard trees to rescue Monty, but I haven’t had to do that in a long time. He’s getting very good at getting himself down.

            • My pastor says a cat will “turn into a rug” at about age seven. He seems to think this is a good thing. I hope Monty stays active and adventurous for a long, long time.

              • Oh that’s not true Ruth! Our cats are almost 12 and they are far from rugs. If cats turn into rugs it’s through the neglect of their caretakers. If we don’t let them have some freedom, if we don’t pay them attention and play with them, then life is dull and they have nothing to do but watch the world go by, or sleep.
                Yes cats become less adventurous as they age but we certainly shouldn’t let them become rugs at any age at all.
                All our old cats have enjoyed their lives until their very last days because we have made sure that they did.

                • I agree with Kattaddorra. But I am amused by the phrase:

                  a cat will “turn into a rug” at about age seven

                  I think seven is too young. However at a certain age, depending on the cat, he will be pretty static.

              • Pastor is too protective of his cat to let him outside. He plays with him, certainly loves him– but once a cat is overweight he is going to be less playful. It’s probably harder to play when carrying extra weight. Probably? I know it is, being quite the fatty myself. But I know I have to exercise anyway, no matter how hard it is. A cat doesn’t know that. Pastor feeds Gideon dry cat food. I think it always comes down to that. Most of the overweight cats I know are fed exclusively or primarily dry food. An overweight cat at seven may turn into a rug. If I can keep Monty at a healthy weight and keep giving him outside time, he should stay active. I could tell Pastor about wet food being better and give him one of Monty’s squirrel tail toys for Gideon. (One of Jeff’s friends hunts and brings Monty squirrel tails.) A toy that seems so much like live prey (Monty loves them) and better food might make all the difference over time.

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