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It Takes A Village To Save A Cat Stuck Up A Tree

Patch logo Patch 1/31/2021 Lorraine Swanson
a close up of a tree: Nobody knows how long this poor cat was stuck in a tree in Oak Lawn. © Courtesy of Steve Tischer Nobody knows how long this poor cat was stuck in a tree in Oak Lawn.

OAK LAWN, IL — A cat was rescued Friday after spending hours, or possibly days, stuck in Steve Tischer’s tree in Oak Lawn.

Around 11 a.m., a neighbor approached Tischer’s daughter: “Did you know there is a cat stuck in your tree?”

At first, they thought it was a raccoon clinging to the highest branches of their tree. When they saw a flash of white fur, they realized it was the gray tabby recently seen hanging around their neighbor’s garage.

“We don’t know how long the cat was up there,” Tischer said. “I saw the white fur on it and realized it was a cat.”

When kitty still hadn’t come down by the afternoon, Tischer called the Village of Oak Lawn. Animal control came out and shared some phone numbers of tree services, but they couldn’t come out until next week. It started to look desperate with winter storm Orlena headed for Chicago.

Tischer shared a picture of kitty stuck in the tree on neighborhood social media, asking if anyone was missing a cat. The ideas came pouring in: lure kitty down with tuna, coax him down in a gentle voice, use a laser pointer to guide kitty down.

It was getting on toward late afternoon. Nine inches of snow were expected to hammer the south suburbs on Saturday. While cats' claws make them adept at climbing trees, they have a hard time coming down. This cat was genuinely stuck.

“Someone saw [my post] on Facebook,” Tischer said. “Four people wanted to come over and help. I was very surprised at the outpouring.”

Alsip-resident Alison Kaminski, a self-described “assistant principal by day, crazy cat lady by night,” saw the cat’s dilemma on social media, but she was still at work an hour away from Oak Lawn.

Tischer said Kaminski, a foster cat mom who runs the Southside Street Cats Facebook group, “took charge and got it all done.”

“I periodically see cats stuck in trees, especially in cat rescue,” Kaminski said. “Usually cats are chased up trees in the early morning by a fox or a coyote.”

Kaminski left work at 4 p.m. She went straight to Tischer’s house. Meanwhile, residents were holding their collective breath on Facebook.

“Steve told me he had reached out to the village and called several local companies,” Kaminski said, “nobody was answering.”

She started calling every number that turned up in a Google search, when she came upon Tree Climbers Limb and Tree Service in Evergreen Park.

“I told Alison I was a tree climber,” Sluis said, who started his tree business about a year ago. “This is my third cat rescue, not something I originally thought was a possibility. I don’t mind helping out if I can get up in the tree and the cat down safely.”

Sluis showed up with ropes, a bucket and cat treats. It was after dark and kitty was still stuck in the tree top.

“Tim came out, he looked at the tree and said ‘that’s an easy one,’” Kamniski said. “The tree was about 60-feet tall. He roped off and said, ‘I’ve done this before.’”

Sluis set about the delicate rescue. He climbed up the tree about 40 feet with the bucket swinging off his harness, cat treats in hand. He tried to be as calm as possible, so the cat wouldn’t jump to another branch that wouldn’t support his weight.

While scaling the tree, Sluis noticed deep claw marks in the bottom of the trunk, where the terrified cat had most likely fled a predator.

“This cat was a little more timid,” Sluis said. “I grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and put him in the bucket. When they’re stuck that high up they’re usually pretty happy to see somebody.”

He lowered the cat down in the bucket, just like an Otis elevator. Kaminski named the gray tabby Otis.

“Tim was so unbelievably nice,” Kaminski said. “I gave him money, but he didn’t want to take it.”

With Otis safely on the ground, neighbors asked Sluis for his card and to come look at their trees. Tischer also plan to throw some tree work Sluis's way.

“I grew up with animals,” Sluis said. “I was a rock climber as a kid. I’ve climbed in Wyoming, Colorado and Michigan. I like heights.”

As for Otis, he is warm and snuggly in Kaminski’s basement. Otis will be vaccinated, vetted and eventually neutered. Eventually he will be put up for adoption by one of the animal rescue groups Kaminski volunteers for, but we think she should keep him.

“He’s a very friendly cat. My husband was able to pet him,” Kaminski said, wanting to give Otis time to decompress from his traumatic tree experience. “He’s emaciated and has already scarfed down a can of cat food.”

If you need your trees serviced, or an emergency cat rescue, you can reach Tim Sluis at 708-606-4609, or find him on Facebook, Google and Home Advisor, a division of Angie’s List. His reviews are stellar.

Sometimes it takes a village, or two or three.

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