July 26, 2012 in City

Pining feline rescued from 80-foot perch

By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Karen Fishburn, left, holds a cat she helped rescue from a tree. Kyle Robinson, right, holds another cat apparently acquainted with the treed critter. If you recognize the cats email Fishburn at rkfishburn@aol.com.
(Full-size photo)

Everyone knows that when a cat gets stuck in a tree, firefighters rescue it. At least that’s what happens in the movies.

But when Karen Fishburn and her neighbors heard a cat in a tree on Saturday, then finally spotted the animal in the top of an 80-foot pine tree near the intersection of Ray Street and East 17th Avenue on Sunday evening, things didn’t go quite so smoothly.

“I got the binoculars out and I could see him,” said Fishburn, who lives on 17th near the tree. “He was just a little black dot.”

She walked to nearby Fire Station 14, hoping that firefighters would rush over and rescue the cat, but she was turned away.

Monday morning, the cat was still in the tree, and it was still meowing.

“That’s when I emailed the mayor’s office,” said Fishburn. “I just really wanted someone to help get the cat out of that tree.”

Soon after, Fishburn got a call from the Spokane Fire Department, which sent a crew with a ladder to investigate.

Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said the Fire Department’s policy on cats in trees is that no rescue can take place until the cat has been there for at least 24 hours. Normally, the cat comes down on its own when it gets hungry, Schaeffer said in an email. Also, someone has to be willing to take responsibility for the cat.

For example, on April 16, Spokane Fire Department’s Engine 13C rescued a cat named Whiskers from a tree in north Spokane after he’d been stuck there for more than 24 hours.

In Fishburn’s case, there was no such luck: the ladder was too short and the tree too tall.

Firefighters called a tree-pruning service and left the scene.

The wind picked up and the cat kept meowing.

Fishburn, a self-described softie when it comes to cats, couldn’t wait for the pruning service to arrive at noon, so she went on Facebook asking local veterinarians for advice.

Staff at the Lincoln Heights Veterinary Clinic referred her to Spokane arborist Paul Heindle, who is part of www.catinatreerescue.com, a nationwide online directory of arborists willing to climb trees to rescue cats.

Heindle said he has about 20 cat rescues under his belt.

“By the time I get there it’s usually been a couple of days and the cat is ready to come down,” said Heindle. “I don’t bait the cat. They don’t fight it. They kind of say, ‘Hey, I’m ready to come down.’ ”

Heindle puts the cat in a special bag attached to his climbing harness so he can descend safely.

Heindle spent about an hour retrieving the black cat near Fishburn’s yard; she paid his $100 fee.

“When he came down I just wrapped the cat in my sweater and took it inside,” said Fishburn.

Meanwhile, an almost identical black cat had showed up to be reunited with the tree dweller. Fishburn said the cats clearly know each other and were wearing similar nylon collars.

“We don’t know if the cats were dropped off in the neighborhood,” said Fishburn. “No one here recognizes them.”

Fishburn is now trying to find the owner of the two shorthairs. One has a little white on its chin, and the other is completely black.

“They are very friendly cats and they are doing fine living in my neighbor’s backyard,” said Fishburn. “But … we really want for the owner to step forward and claim them.”

Watch Pia Hallenberg talk about this story with KHQ’s Dave Cotton

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