The cat who lived in a tree


G. Sam Piatt



It’s an understatement, I know, but for the purposes of this story, I point out that there are differences between the domestic cat and the wildcat, or bobcat. And one of them is that a house cat will climb to the top of a tree and then decline to come back down, either headfirst or backwards. Many of us have seen instances where a friendly fire department sent firefighters to rescue a kid’s kitten from a tree.

A bobcat will go up and down a tree with agility – even use a tree as a launching pad to leap down on unsuspecting game.

A reader once told me of a sight he witnessed while fishing from a boat along the shoreline of Yatesville Lake, near Louisa.

An adult deer and her half-grown youngster were browsing along the shoreline, oblivious to him. Suddenly a bobcat leaped from a tree and landed on the smaller deer’s back. The deer imitated a bucking bronco in a rodeo. The mother deer reared up on her hind legs and tried to kick the bobcat off with her forefeet.

As our fisherman watched, the struggle between the bobcat and his desired dinner went on for maybe five minutes. Finally, the exhausted bobcat leaped off and climbed back up the tree. The two deer wandered off into the woods unmolested.

Whiskers up a tree

Our cat, Whiskers was covered with soft black hair. He was coal black except for a white splotch on his neck and chest. He was an indoor-outdoor cat.

We went away on a weekend fishing trip. I left the garage door up just enough to allow Whiskers to come and go and left him plenty of food and water.

When we returned we could not find the cat anywhere. For two days we worried and wondered. I was fond of that cat. We all were. We searched the neighborhood. We looked along roads and ditches.

I was in the backyard, near the big tulip poplar, when I heard the meowing. I looked up into the tree and saw Whiskers, about 40 feet up. No amount of coaxing would bring him down.

I left some food and water on the ground at the base of the tree, then watched from a kitchen window. Down he came. Looking nervously left and right and all around, he wolfed up the food and washed it down with water.

And then up the tree again he went.

This went on for a week. He came down daily to eat, but only when I stood far enough away not to pose a threat to his routine. There was a hollowed-out space where one of the big limbs met the trunk. That’s where he curled up to sleep.

What would cause this cat to want to live like a squirrel?

Then a neighbor told me that, while we were away, a black dog, weighing 80 pounds or more, came through and killed two cats.

I saw the dog in the neighborhood later. He seemed friendly enough. To humans. He had a deep hatred for cats. Whiskers apparently had had a narrow escape. That explained why he had taken to tree house living, evidently thinking, “If you get me, you’ll have to climb a tree.”

Problem corrected

My son-in-law, Dwight Cole, had a farm at South Webster, 25 miles away. He had horses and cattle. There was a hay barn and an abandoned wood building with a porch. Living on the place were about half a dozen cats, barn cats, who ate the mice that ate the oats and grain stored for the cattle and horses.

There was no dog anywhere close.

He granted permission for Whiskers to join the colony.

I finally nabbed the cat as he was eating. I placed him in a cage and drove him out there, along with a big bag of his favorite food.

The last time I saw Whiskers he was sitting on that front porch. Half a dozen cats gathered around him.

The king and his harem.

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G. Sam Piatt

Reach G. Sam Piatt at gsamwriter@twc.com or 606-932-3619.

Reach G. Sam Piatt at gsamwriter@twc.com or 606-932-3619.