Why Do Cats Get Stuck In Trees? Not Because They’re Klutzes

By Category: Cats Outside, Why Cats Get Stuck In Trees
Reading Time: 3 minutes

When cats get stuck in trees, it’s not because we’re klutzes. Blame our claws, which are designed to go up, not down. I’ve put together some tips for helping a cat who’s stuck in a tree. Spoiler Alert: Don’t bother calling the fire department!

When cats get stuck in trees, blame their claws.

Is this cat stuck in the tree or just enjoying the view?

Why do cats get stuck in trees, Thomasina? It seems if they can get up, they could get down.
— Curious About Cats

Hi, Curious!

Cats are good at going up, but we’re not so great at coming down. Unfortunately, I know this from personal experience. For a cat, I’m sort of a klutz. But that’s not the reason why cats get stuck in trees.

Our bodies are designed to go forward, not backward. And while we like to climb up, we prefer to jump when it’s time to come down.

Why Cats Get Stuck In Trees

I have to admit I’m not big on climbing trees. Pieces of bark and bits of leaves get stuck in my fluffy tail, and I look a mess. Sitting on the trellis in front of our condo is a lot neater. And jumping off a trellis is way easier than climbing down a tree. 

But for cats who don’t have a trellis or fence to sit on, climbing a tree is fun. We love to be up high where we can watch the world go by from a safe place. We get into trouble when we climb so high we can’t jump down, maybe because a dog is chasing us, we’re scared of something or we’re just not paying attention.

Our claws are one reason why cats get stuck in trees.They’re curved forward and aren’t really designed for going backward. Our back legs are stronger than our front legs, too, and that also makes going backward really difficult. Of course, we could turn around and go down headfirst. But that’s sort of scary and wouldn’t even occur to most of us. 

Another problem with climbing down a tree is habit. We’re used to seeing what’s in front of us. Walking (or climbing) backward is scary, too!

If Your Cat Is Stuck In A Tree

Sometimes it’s hard to know if a cat’s stuck in a tree or is just staying up there to enjoy the view. If you’re pretty sure he’s stuck, don’t panic! Remember, we pick up on our humans’ thoughts, even if we’re many feet above them at the top of a tree. If you’re very anxious, he’ll be even more scared. 

If you stay calm, you might be able to talk him down, especially if you have a bag of treats. The treats could give him the incentive to make the leap to a lower place. Hold your arms up so he can see you’re ready to catch him if he falls and guide him down when he’s within reach. And talk to him quietly. Cats never like loud voices, and yelling his name and begging him to come down is just going to make him want to stay where he is.  

Oh, and about guiding him down when he’s within reach. Push him gently, and let him get his bearings after each move. If his claws are dug into the tree, don’t try to pull him off. You could get scratched, and you don’t want him to get so scared he goes back up the tree. 

Who Do You Call When A Cat’s Stuck In A Tree?

The answer here is not the fire department! They won’t come, but a tree service will. Don’t wait too long to call. It’s a myth that the cat will come down when he’s hungry enough, or cold enough, or wet enough. If he’s stuck in a tree, he’s really stuck and needs help getting down. I hope this answers your question, Curious. Hey, I have an idea. If you’re worried about your cat getting stuck in a tree, maybe you could get him one of these. You could even put it under cover on your patio or deck, so he could climb a tree he won’t get stuck in outside. 


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