For the first couple years of our cats lives, they were always indoors and never knew what they were missing and didn’t have any interest in being outside. One day we decided it would be nice if we gave them some freedom and let them be ‘real’ cats and hunt and stalk and play outside. For the past two summers they have been so happy to have this privilege and each day begins with everyone lined up at the door meowing for us to open it. They even realize that the doorknob is the magical key to opening the door, and reach up to touch it hoping they have the secret touch. So we are heroes in their eyes when we can touch that doorknob and the door opens so they can get on with being cats. We have always had a rule though that when it gets dark, they need to be inside. We live in a very rural area of Michigan that we share with a couple of neighbors fairly close by; and foxes, coyotes, hawks, raccoons, woodchucks, skunks, neighbor’s big dogs, and the occasional pack of wild dogs, so it was important to us that they are inside at night for their own safety. And they have always been happy to come inside to cuddle up with us in the evenings.
As I write this tonight, I have just spent a torturous week of searching for Gus. He went out with the other cats last Sunday morning but didn’t come when I called him Sunday afternoon. He has always been the easiest to round up to come inside at night; and even if I just wonder where he is during the day I can always count on him to come running as fast as he can when I call. He behaves more like a dog than a cat sometimes! As each day passed we became more and more worried about him. I walked our 10 acre woods; checked with neighbors; searched for him at the local animal shelter and humane society; posted a lost and found ad on Craig’s List; prayed that he wouldn’t have wandered the 400′ to the road where I would find him dead; and called and called and called him hoping that maybe he had just wandered a little too far off and gotten disoriented and wasn’t sure which way was home. We saw no sign of him until Friday morning when I was out walking through the woods calling his name and just happened to hear him meowing in frantic answers to my calls. I was able to follow the sound – only to find him on a tree limb about 40 feet up in the air. I don’t know how long he was up there, but he was very frightened and so ready to get out of that tree! Unfortunately, the area of the limb where he had perched himself was quite level, but it was a steep decline down to the main trunk of the tree and when he got to that part, he couldn’t make himself go any further.
Normally, my sweet husband would be right there beside me helping me, but he had a stroke early this year and isn’t able to help me now, so he enlisted the aid of 2 volunteer firemen who braved the mosquitoes and poison ivy and thick wild raspberry vines and carried our ladder from our barn about 600′ through the heavy underbrush of our woods out to where Gus was stranded. Unfortunately he was too high up for our extension ladder to reach him. We propped the ladder against the tree trunk and they held the ladder for me while I conquered my insane fear of heights and climbed to the top trying to coax Gus to come down where I could reach him. Every time he tried to make it down to me, he would lose his grip and his nerve and turn around and go back where he started from – which actually was a very safe little nest. He was tucked between an offshoot of that big branch and a big rope of poison ivy vine so he was secure from both sides. The firemen had done all they could do for me and they left me wishing me good luck.
I spent most of that day sitting in a lawn chair beneath where he was trapped, hoping he would find the courage to come down to me. I tried enticing him with tuna fish and as hungry as he was he just couldn’t get down that limb. My oldest and dearest girlfriend came and sat with me in the woods after she got home from work. We tried the ladder again, but Gus just couldn’t make it to me.
In the early evening a couple of friends came by to see if they could help. They couldn’t do anything either, so sadly, I had to leave him up there all night. It broke my heart to hear his cries as I walked away. Another friend called when he returned from work and said his son could help us – he works for a tree service, has climbing spikes and is a ‘tree monkey’. He would send him over the next day. He showed up about 9:30 that very night willing to go get him even though it was already dark. I wasn’t sure I could even find the tree in the dark – it was hard enough to find in the daylight, and as much as I wanted him home, it wasn’t worth anyone risking their own life, so I told him we would just have to wait until the next day.
I checked on him again as soon as it was light this morning. He was so much weaker than yesterday and I was very concerned for him. At that point it was going to be another 4 or 5 hours before our friend’s son could get there. I only stayed a few minutes and then returned to the house to make breakfast for Mark and I. I tried to do some things around the house, but couldn’t concentrate enough and finally told Mark I was going to take a chair and a book and go out to keep Gus company until help arrived. When I got back there, I was amazed to see that he had made it down to the end of the big branch and was in the crook of the tree now – about 25′ up the trunk! (Unfortunately the guys last night carried the ladder back to the house, so I had no way of getting to him.) He was crying frantically and so ready to get out of there. I spent a little over an hour coaxing and encouraging him from the bottom of the tree, and sending mental pictures of how he could turn around and back down the tree trunk. Finally he did turn around and vigorously sharpened his nails on the bark of the tree, and started backing down like a real pro! Within seconds he was in my arms!!! I can’t remember the last time I felt such a sense of relief! Gus clung to me while I hugged him and petted him. He gladly went into the cat carrier and we took off for the house. Fortunately he had come down just in time for me to get him to the our vet’s office before they closed at noon.
Dr. Tim gave him a good check over. Gus was lucky – he has a very sore area between his shoulder blades where Dr. Tim thinks something probably got a hold of him. Luckily he didn’t have any wounds. When I learned that, I was so thankful for that big tree even if it had been an ordeal to get him out of it. It probably saved his life. Gus was dehydrated and very hungry and weak; lost a couple of pounds, and was running a fever (from the dehydration) but otherwise he was okay. Dr. Tim gave him an injection of fluid with electrolytes to get him hydrated again and sent him home with me.
So tonight, Gus is sleeping comfortably on my lap and I know I have come to the conclusion that all the meowing and crying to get outside is nothing compared to the hours of worry Mark and I went through this past week; and Heaven only knows what Gus endured during those 6 days. Our cats are now again indoor kitties. We will make sure they have toys to play with and fun things to do until they don’t miss all that freedom they used to have. We will feel better knowing they are safe from predators and all the dangers that freedom brings.
To Grandma Sandy, one of the best Cat Moms ever.