Cats are great at climbing ... not so much at getting back down.

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Cats are curious creatures and can sometimes get themselves in a bit of trouble. Anyone who owns a furry feline knows how much cats love climbing up on things, whether it's in a cat tree or on the kitchen counters. Although, climbing down can be a different story.

Why Do Cats Get Stuck in Trees?

Cats are great climbers, but their paws aren't really made for backpedaling, according to Haylee Bergeland, CPDT-KA, RBT and Pet Health and Behavior editor for Daily Paws. "A cat's paws (and their nails) are made for climbing upwards and their back legs help them to jump and land. This makes them great at climbing up short distances that they can easily jump down."

However, Bergeland says, a cat's retractable claws are curved, which makes it difficult to maneuver backwards. So if it's too high for the cat to jump safely, they may be in need of rescuing.

tiny kitten clinging to branch of tree
Credit: Getty

How to Rescue Your Cat from a Tree    

The right person can get the right cat out of a tree, but if you have even the slightest doubts about getting your cat down from a tree yourself, put down the ladder and call an expert. There is an entire nationwide directory of cat rescuers who can help while you watch from the safety of the ground. If there isn't a cat rescue expert in your area, the fine folks behind the Cat in a Tree Emergency Rescue website suggest calling your local animal shelter or a tree care company in your area who might be able to help. (These are professional tree climbers, after all.)

Generally, fire departments aren’t going to respond to a call about a cat in the tree, since they need to be able to respond quickly to humans in emergency situations. So don’t call 911 if your cat takes to the branches.

But if you have a sturdy ladder and the tree isn’t too high, you can climb up and try to bring the cat down. Just make sure there aren’t any nearby power lines and ensure the help of a friend or neighbor who can help keep the ladder sturdy from below as you ascend.

How to Keep Your Cat Out of Trees

Having your cat get stuck in a tree is no fun for anyone—cat or human alike—so you're better off keeping it from happening in the first place so everyone can stay safe on the ground. 

If you let your pet cat outdoors, it's best to do so with supervision, and consider investing in a cat harness or leash. And, of course, make sure your cat is wearing ID tags and is microchipped. That way, you can get her back if she scampers up an unfamiliar tree and someone else rescues her. 

Although cats may appear as though they would love the outdoors, it can be a dangerous world for them. If you want to keep your fantastic feline safe but also want to make sure she is happy and content inside your home, there are lots of fun, inexpensive things you can do to enrich her indoor world instead of letting her roam the neighborhood. Here are four great ideas to try:

  1. Purchase a great "cat tree": Encourage safe climbing from indoors with a cat tree that offers perches and "bark" for her to scratch.
  2. Make places to hide: Cats are happiest when they can hide and have alone time. Create hiding spaces by offering your cat old boxes (the internet's rule of "if I fits, I sits" applies here) or cover furniture with blankets and pillows (everyone loves a pillow fort!).
  3. Offer lots of enrichment toys: Cats need enrichment and love to play! Give your cat toys that will stimulate her mind and body.
  4. Install a window perch: For the cat that loves to watch the outside world, consider installing a window perch or move furniture (or their cat tree) next to a window so they can watch those pesky chipmunks whenever they please.