Do cats genuinely get stuck up trees? I doubt it.

I am happy up here. Please leave me alone and I’ll come down when I am good and ready. Thank you.
I am happy up here. Please leave me alone and I’ll come down when I am good and ready. Thank you.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

I am going to challenge the general consensus constantly repeated on the internet in hundreds of thousands of articles that domestic cats can get stuck up trees because they don’t have the ability to get down. Does that sound strange to you? How did nature over millions of years of Darwinian evolution fail so miserably?

Evolution gave the cat the ability to be a great climber. And high. Evolution does not work half-heartedly. Evolution is all about maximising the chances of survival. The survival of the fittest, remember? If nature through evolution gave felines the ability to climb so adroitly it would also have given them the ability to get down.

I mean cats like to climb. They like high places. There are a few wild cat species that almost live in trees. The margay is the best of them to which you can add the clouded leopard (not quite as adept).

The wildcat ancestor of the domestic cat, the North African wildcat, does not get stuck up trees. And the domestic cat has inherited all its behaviours and skills from the wildcat. So, what is going on?

Sometimes, I don’t believe that the domestic cat gets stuck up trees. Well, it can very much look as if domestic cats can get stuck 40 feet up as we see in the video below but when you think about it logically, it does not add up.

The anatomical problem for cats is that their claws, with which they, climb point backwards. This means that they don’t provide a grip on the bark of a tree when they try and descend forwards but they can use their claws effectively when descending backwards – going in reverse effectively.

Cats are not great at reversing as you can imagine but they can shimmy down trees in reverse very nicely. And some just race down trees head first jumping from one branch to another to brake the speed as it builds up.

So, cats can get down from trees. But sometimes they don’t want to or perhaps they feel unsure about it. But they have the ability. Ten thousand years of domestication may have blunted their tree descending ability a little but I am not sure about that either.

They are not frightened of heights as we are. So, a reluctance to climb down is not due to a fear of heights.

Perhaps they are not stuck. Perhaps they want to be up there, high above human activities. Perhaps they are not ready to come down when their owner panics and decides that they have to do something to rescue them.

To humans it looks like they are stuck. But are they? We can’t ask them. We are not sure. We presume that they are stuck and need help. We might be wrong.

But sometimes they appear to be stuck for days. This gives us the strong impression that they are stuck. But it is not a certain sign that they are genuinely stuck.

There is a strong argument that when people gather at the base of tree in which a cat is ‘stuck’ they might be making things worse. The cat is suddenly surrounded by a crowd of strangers. We know that cats are often fearful of strangers. This would encourage a cat to stay in the tree.

Often, we see firefighters trying to get a cat down and the cat climbs higher to get away from the firefighter.

Perhaps the best solution is for all the people to move away from the tree and let the cat descend in their own time. The cat in the video has been in the tree for five days they say. That’s without water of food on the face of it. Cats generally cannot survive for more than 2 or 3 days without water. While some factors can influence this timeframe, it’s crucial to always provide fresh water for your feline friend.

So, on that advice from Google Gemini (an AI bot) this black cat which may be a dwarf cat by the way, should be dead by now. Confused? The cat looks healthy and ready to come down.

The bottom line is that good natured humans and cat lovers can’t leave a cat alone when they are stuck in a tree. They have to do something which is fully understandable. It is nice and good but it is possible that they are making things worse as the cat will come down in due course. Watch and wait might be the advice.

There are has never been a report of a domestic cat dying in a tree because they couldn’t get down. They will come down eventually. That’s my speculative argument.

Note: the video above is embedded in this website. It is served by YouTube. If YouTube delete it, it will stop working here.

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