Cat in the Bag
- Cliff Newell
- Lake Oswego Review - News
When cats take the high road, Lake Oswego tree climbing enthusiast and cat
It was the greatest challenge of Bob Stewert's career as a cat rescuer.
A feckless feline had managed to get itself trapped up a very tall tree for many hours, so its owner did the smart thing: Call Bob Stewert of Lake Oswego - expert tree climber and rescuer of cats.
The operation started normally, with Stewert and his assistant Karen Yee finding the right tree and the right cat and proceeding with the rescue. Stewert climbed 100 feet and was about to pop the cat in a bag and lower it down to Yee. Suddenly the cat eluded him and climbed 50 feet higher, to the very top of the tree.
Stewert kept climbing, right to the top. Even though the cat could get no higher it still did not want to be rescued, so it fought Stewert tooth and claw in his efforts to get it into the bag.
Stewert won the battle and finally lowered the pugnacious pussy to the patient Yee waiting below. Thus he completed his seventh straight successful rescue in an effort that lasted three hours. He certainly earned his $75.
'Before I started doing this, I didn't know there was such a thing as a cat getting stuck up a tree,' Stewert said. 'I thought it only happened in old movies.
'It's a unique thing, and I love the climbing and thought process and each step. Every rescue is different and it's inherently dangerous, but there are safety rules. If you do follow them, you'll be OK. You have to have a creative approach to get a cat down.'
It is a true dilemma for a cat lover when his/her cat climbs a tree, and their panic grows as they frantically seek help for their beloved pet.
The Lake Oswego Fire Department? No. A firefighter might be up a tree and get a call to rescue a human being.
The police department? No. They have to deal with a different breed of cat.
Animal control? No. Humane Society? No. The local veterinarian? No. Calling 9-1-1? No. Going online? No. Just No, No, No. Not even Ace Ventura. The only option seems to be a ladder that won't even come close to reaching the cat, not to mention your incredibly shaky knees.
But now there is a real option in Lake Oswego and West Linn: Bob Stewert. Cat rescuing is a new profession, but it is starting to grow, and Stewert is one of these new breed of men who love a challenge.
Stewert's saga started with a love of cats. He has had at least one around for the past 25 years. Then he fell in love with tree climbing. Then he found the perfect way to hone his skills: Rescuing cats.
It started with his discovery of world champion tree climber Dan Kraus of Washington, probably the George Washington of cat rescue and the intrepid rescuer of a mind-boggling 600 cats.
'I saw Dan at the competition at Corvallis two years ago,' Stewert said. 'It was so fascinating to watch him. How easy he made it look and how skilled he was.'
Unlike most people who watched Kraus that day, who were probably deeply grateful they didn't have to climb a 150-foot tree, Stewert was eager to try it himself. And cat rescuing, in the view of a master like Kraus, is just a natural development for a tree climber.
'I always had thought cats came out of trees on their own,' Stewert.
Yes, this is often the case. Cat owners have often moved heaven and earth in an unsuccessful effort to get their cat out of a tree, only to look down later and see the little blighter rubbing itself against their legs.
So Stewert gives himself plenty of leeway when it comes to rescuing cats.
'When people call and say their cat has been up a tree for two hours, that's too soon,' Stewert said. 'If they want to pay me that's OK, but two hours isn't long enough. I've had three or four calls for every cat I've actually rescued.'
But if your cat has been up a tree for two days? Then it's time to worry. Stewert said cats have been known to stay up trees for eight or nine days. Then, a cat rescue operation is definitely in order.
'Some cats can't figure out how to get down,' Stewert said. 'They can't figure out how to go down backward. Usually they're scared. Maybe a dog or coyote has chased them up the tree, and they're hot, tired and panicked. Sometimes they do come down after a couple days when everything has settled down.'
How long is too long for a cat to be up a tree?
'Maybe three days,' Stewert said. 'It depends on how long an owner wants to hear a crying cat.'
Most of Stewert and Yee's efforts are quite pleasant. He doesn't have to climb very high or the rescued cat even settles in his arms and starts purring. Sometimes when Stewert starts climbing, the cat comes down to him.
Even more rewarding is the reaction of the relieved cat owner, so relieved to have the errant tabby back home again.
'The reunions between the cat and the owner are the best part,' Stewert said. 'Their gratitude is tremendous. They're distraught at the beginning because they've tried everything. I've received such great compliments on rescuing a cat.'
For people wanting to get their cat out of a tree, they can call Bob Stewert at 503-636-3743. If so interested, they can talk to Stewert about joining the brotherhood of cat rescuers.
For a fascinating look at cat rescue work from the master himself, go to Dan Kraus's site www.catinatreerescue.com .