Cats Up Trees

cat stuck up tree

Some intrepid cats seem to climb trees all the time, fearlessly but problems can occur. Cats have strong hind leg muscles and are able to climb up trees most efficiently. Other cats are not really interested – perhaps because they are aware of how very difficult it can be to get down again. Getting up is a lot easier than getting down, which explains why some cats become stuck and have to be helped down.

Q. My cat got stuck up a tree recently. Will she have learned that climbing this tree is not a good idea?

Not necessarily. Cats that like climbing trees often repeat the exercise, but they rarely get stuck a second time.

Q. How can I prevent my cat from climbing my ornamental trees?

cat stuck up treeIt’s difficult, and not fair, to stop a cat from climbing trees if it wants to. However, you could try spraying the cat with water (from a plant spray or fine hose) whenever it tries. If you do this, try to hide so that your cat does not associate you with the water being sprayed.

Q. Are there any trees that are more likely to cause a cat to get stuck?

Trees that have smooth, tall trunks (as in plane trees, for example) tend to pose the biggest problem for a cat. Cats like climbing trees for a number of reasons, which we can only really guess at because no cat has ever tried to explain them! However, once up, they are often not so good at coming down: once they feel they are stuck, they may become nervous, and no amount of calling and coaxing will persuade them to come down. If your cat is stuck, you will probably know because it has told you: it may be sitting on a branch and miaowing loudly, while a kitten will make a pathetic mewing sound. Your cat is asking you for help.

If a crowd gathers under the tree, this will probably make the cat even more nervous, so it may be less likely to attempt the descent on its own.


The question is, how can you get the cat down? The first thing to do is to try and persuade the cat to come down on its own. Someone who the cat trusts should be left to call the cat, tempting it with treats if necessary (a bowl of its favourite food or a saucer of milk, for example). This may be sufficient to make the stranded cat try a different route. If this does not succeed, it may be worth leaving the cat on its own for a while, to figure things out: without human attention, it may well be able to use its own resources.

However, if the cat is physically caught on part of the tree, injured, or simply so traumatised that it cannot move, you will have to resort to using a ladder to get up to the cat. Of course, the arrival of strange people and threatening looking ladders will frighten the cat, so try to reassure it with friendly noises and food treats, to prevent it from retreating to higher branches. As a last resort, you may even have to get professional assistance (in the form of the fire brigade).

  • Cats find it more difficult to climb down a tree because their front legs are less able to take their weight than their hind legs. Also, their curved claws can grip to pull them up, but not support them as they descend.
  • Cats often prefer to jump down than climb down. The pads on their paws act rather like shock absorbers.
  • The grinning, Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland speaks to Alice from its position sitting in the branches of a tree.