How To Get a Cat Out of a Tree

Jan 4, 2021

We all know the trope of the cat stuck up the tree and the fireman coming to rescue it. In reality, cats do get stuck up trees and very often the fire department isn’t available to assist. 

Here’s what you need to know about how to get a cat out of a tree and some things you should be careful not to do.

Who To Call

Ideally, you won’t be trying to get a cat out of a tree unless you are a professional accustomed to climbing trees. Here are a few options that you can consider to help you get a cat down if you’re not.

  • Tree trimmers and arborists. Tree trimmers have the experience and the equipment to get up into trees where they need to be to rescue a cat. By calling trimmers in your area, you may find a crew that is already deployed nearby who won’t mind stopping by to help.
  • The fire station. In some cases, especially if the cat is in imminent danger, the fire station may be willing to help you. They have the equipment necessary to reach high places, though this is usually reserved for emergencies.
  • Animal control. If the cat is not your own cat, it is best to call Animal Control first. They have the experience and personal protection necessary to work with animals that might carry diseases.

Be Safe!

The most important thing that you need to keep in mind if you are trying to get a cat out of the tree is your own safety. There are many different ways in which you can be injured trying to rescue a cat in this situation, whether it is your own cat or somebody else’s.

Here are some very important considerations in staying safe when getting a cat out of a tree:

Be Extra Careful When Climbing

It can be very easy to lose your mind a little bit when you see a cat in danger, especially if it is your beloved pet. However, saving your cat depends on being thoughtful and careful yourself.  

Whether you are climbing a tree, going up a ladder, or in any other way you are putting yourself at risk by climbing, you must be careful and thoughtful about what you are doing. Here are a few of the specific dangers that you might encounter depending on how you’re climbing.


People are injured every year falling out of trees. Even highly experienced arborists can be in a lot of danger from falling out of trees. You may also accidentally interact with an electrical cord while you are moving branches around or moving through the tree, so this is a significant threat as well.


If you are climbing up a ladder to get to the cat, there is a serious risk of you falling off the ladder or the latter being destabilized. Even if you are okay on the ladder until you get to the cat, the sudden weight of trying to carry a cat, especially one that may be restless from being stuck, can easily cause you to knock over the ladder. It is important to never stretch onto the top rung of a ladder where falling is more likely.


Very often, cats get into the top branches of a tree by finding their way onto a roof first. You may think it is convenient to climb onto the roof to reach the tree or to reach the cat directly.  

However, it can be very dangerous to climb on a roof. Loose shingles can easily cause you to slide off. Metal roofs can cut you very easily. Climbing from a roof onto a tree makes it much more likely that you will fall either going up or coming down.

Be Aware of Cat Behavior

You may expect the cat that you are rescuing to be overjoyed to be rescued by you. However, this is often not the case. Even if the cat is happy to be rescued, they are very likely to be extremely scared, which tends to make cats hold on for dear life.

Since you are what they are going to be holding onto, this may not be the best thing for you. Therefore, you should be ready for this kind of behavior in the cat you are rescuing, whether it is your cat or somebody else’s. 

Here are a few things that you can do to prepare to handle a cat that may be very frightened.

  • Wear heavy-duty gloves or oven mitts. You want gloves that go as far up your arms as possible while still letting you climb down. You don’t need to climb up in these gloves, just have them ready and available so you can put them on when it is time to handle the cat. These gloves will help protect your hands and arms so you don’t fall in case the cat starts to react very poorly and begin clawing or scratching at you. 
  • Bring a heavy blanket or several towels. Typically, cats calm down when they can’t see what’s going on around them. A heavy blanket or towel also provides something for the cat to sink their nails into, which also offers a sense of security. 
  • Don’t be afraid to use the scruff. You might never scruff your cat under normal circumstances, but in this very serious life-and-death case, it is better not to take any chances. Most cats react to being held by the scruff by relaxing. You should never support a cat’s entire weight by the scruff, but it is an ideal vantage point by which to grab a cat that may try to bite or scratch you.
  • Don’t chase or panic a cat. If a cat feels panicked or that it is at serious risk, it may react by jumping. To avoid that, stop moving forward if the cat seems panicked or like it is looking for an out. Speak slowly and gently to the cat, encouraging it to let you approach. Offer some kind of tasty treats and speak gently to encourage them to trust you. 

Cats Can Carry Disease

Cats can carry diseases that can affect you. Being scratched or bitten by a cat can have serious health consequences. If the cat you are considering rescuing is not your own cat, think seriously about whether it is wise to take a risk of being scratched or bitten by an unknown cat.

It is typically best to call animal control so that somebody who is vaccinated against rabies and is accustomed to handling animals that may carry diseases can rescue the cat.

When To Take It On Yourself, and When To Wait It Out or Ask For Help

If you notice that a cat, especially if it is your cat, is stuck in a tree, you are very likely to immediately start trying to figure out what you can do to help and whether you should interfere. There are absolutely some cases when it is smart to hurry to get a cat out of a low tree or easy-to-reach tree branch, in case it goes up further or injures itself getting out. 

However, in cases when you aren’t sure how the cat will react or when it has not been there very long and seems calm, it may be better to wait. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind and ask yourself as you try to determine what to do:

How Long Has the Cat Been There?

Cats often choose to be in trees. If the cat has not been there long and isn’t in obvious distress, it might be best to leave them alone and let them come down of their own volition. However, if there is serious inclement weather, especially extreme cold or heat, or if a cat is in obvious distress by yelling or looking for ways to get down, it may be more important to help sooner.

Where is the Cat? 

There are times when a cat might get to a place that you cannot safely access. It can be hard to find someone to help you, but it is better to spend the time to call around to fire stations and tree service companies to try to find someone to help you get the cat than to take a serious risk in climbing somewhere that is unsafe. 

If you are at all on the fence about whether you should try to get the cat down or not, err on the side of caution. 

Talk to Your Veterinarian About the Best Care for Your Cat

Most veterinarians agree that it is safest and best for your indoor cat if they remain indoors. If you choose to give your cat access to the outdoors, it is important to talk to a veterinarian about risks they may encounter, especially if they’ve been an indoor cat their entire life. 

Being stuck up a tree is only one of the many potential hazards that your cat could meet outdoors. Outdoor cats need different vaccinations and must be prepared in several different ways. Having a licensed veterinarian available to diagnose emergency problems is also extremely important when you give your cat access to the outdoors, and just another reason Airvet’s on-demand remote veterinary services are paving the way for future veterinary care.



Tree Removal Safety Guide

Healthy Pets, Healthy People

Humane Feline Handling 101