Wild cats never get stuck in trees but domestic cats do

I have never read, either on the internet or in a book, about a species of wild cat being stuck up a tree. It doesn’t happen in my opinion because any wild cat species is more in tune with nature. They’ve evolved to be great climbers and evolution is precise. Nature would not have allowed them to be misguided enough to climb a tree that they cannot get down from.

Wild cats are aware of their capabilities. They stick within their limits unless they are forced to take great risk for whatever reason such as being chased by a predator or their prey animal turns on them. But, I stress, you never read on the internet about a group of people crowded around a tall tree in Africa urging a wild cat to get down because they’re starving to death at the top of it. Okay, I have painted a ridiculous picture to emphasise the point, but we do see a lot of domestic cats supposedly stuck high up in a tree or on a telegraph pole.

Cat in tree. Is she stuck?
Cat in tree. Is she stuck? Picture in the public domain on Pinterest.
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The first point to make, I think, about domestic cats being stuck in trees is that some are not genuinely stuck. People think that they are but if given sufficient time they would come down. I’m sure some people would disagree with me. Dr Fogle, DVM says that, “If your cat is up a tree and seems to be stuck, keep your cool. Most will eventually come down on their own.”

In his statement he is saying by implication, that some cats don’t come down on their own. Further, it can be tricky for a stranger to get a cat down because they are strangers and a cat will tend to move further away, which is upwards. That’s a complication because the owner probably won’t have the ability to climb up to 40 feet and therefore she/he has to rely on a stranger to do it.

I ain’t stuck; just looking down and enjoying myself. Photo by jonas.lowgren

So why do domestic cats get stuck up trees? I can only think that the reason is that they have lost some of their natural instincts and are unable to gauge their abilities and therefore lose confidence. Also, their abilities compared to wild cat species have been diminished by being domesticated. In short, they’ve become distanced from nature by living in an artificial world with people. The human world is artificial to a cat. Of course they adapt to it and it becomes their world but to the raw cat inside them it is artificial and abnormal.

So let’s say that a small proportion of domestic cats get stuck in trees but smaller than the numbers that we see on the internet because some of them are brought down before they’ve had time to come down. So how long do you leave them up there? That’s a moot point and there’s no formula for it. One lady on the Quora.com website says that she is an experienced feral cat provider and she allows two days up a tree at most before they should be rescued or come down of their own accord.

I think that’s too short a time frame. Many cats have been trapped in containers for up to a month and survived. I’m not saying people should ignore a cat stuck up a tree for a month or anywhere near it. I’m just saying that people should give them time and try and entice them down with treats.

Perhaps, sometimes, people in their eagerness to help make matters worse. Let’s think about it: a cat is 30 feet up a tree and preparing to come down after 2 days. A group of people, all of which are strangers, gather around the base of the tree. Their presence may be offputting to a cat because he or she is perhaps accustomed to living with one person and rarely meets other people. If I’m right it may be wise to simply disperse and leave the cat alone and watch from afar.

Cat stuck up a tree
Cat stuck up a tree. Pic: Sam Constanza for NY Daily News.

I would give a cat several days to come down, at least, although I would be highly concerned about it. I think this is the root of the problem. Once a cat has been up a tree for a day or so the owner becomes justifiably very concerned and wants to take action. They can’t wait because they are anxious about the welfare of their cat.

In some respects when a cat is apparently stuck up a tree the cat’s owner is in a worse position than their cat. Their cat may look a bit puzzled but they rarely looked terrified, anxious or pleading to come down. It is the owner who is terrified, anxious and pleading to get her cat down.

One problem with cats who are ready to come down trees is that their claws are curled backwards which makes them perfect for climbing upwards but it means that they have to come down backwards and domestic cats are not very good at going in reverse. Some cats charge down forwards using branches to break their speed. Confidence plays a role at this point.

But the bottom line is that nature has given the domestic cat the skill to climb upwards and the skill to climb downwards. Otherwise nature would not have given this animal the skill to climb upwards. Nature does not work like that. It is logical. The problem, as I see it, is that the domestic cat, living in the human world, loses his confidence through lack of practice in natural surroundings, to get down. Eventually they will normally come down when their hunger and thirst overcomes their lack of confidence.

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