Bellingham man heard a cat meowing in a tree for days, so he climbed and got stuck

Contrary to the cliché, most fire departments, including the Bellingham Fire Department, won’t actually respond to a call for a cat stuck in a tree.

But for the man who crawled 40 or 50 feet up a tree in an attempt to retrieve a stuck cat on their own? The big red fire truck is on the way.

That was the Bellingham fire call last weekend from the Lettered Streets neighborhood, and it gave firefighters a chance to notch their first rescue using their newest apparatus.

“Although we do get some calls for people stuck in trees, it is not a regularly occurring call,” captain David Pethick told The Bellingham Herald.

Crews got the call at about 10 p.m. Friday, July 12, to the 2100 block of F Street. Engine 1 responded approximately five minutes later and quickly added Ladder 5 to the call, Pethick said.

Ladder 5 had just been put into service a little more than 24 hours earlier, and though the rig had made several medical calls, this was its first rescue, Pethick said. According to an April 1 post on the Bellingham Fire Department’s Facebook page, delivery of the new truck was taken this spring, and Pethick said it has undergone extensive testing since then.

The ladder, which Pethick said can reach a maximum height of 110 feet, was needed Friday after the man reportedly climbed into a tree after hearing the cat meowing for days.

Fortunately, Ladder 5 “worked great,” Pethick said, and the man, whom he estimated was in the tree about an hour, was safely brought down.

The cat, who had climbed higher than the man, was left in the tree, and Pethick said he believed a private climbing service came out to safely retrieve it.

“Climbing the tree, especially if the cat is high off the ground, should not be your first choice,” Pethick told The Herald.

Petmd.com says cats’ claws make it easier for them to climb trees than descend, and if they climb too high, they can become too scared to climb or jump down. To help get them down, the website recommends:

Luring them down with food.

Making a ramp.

Calling for help.

But if fire departments won’t respond to calls for treed cats, what options do cat lovers have?

0717 Ladder 5.jpg
Ladder 5 is shown in February before the Bellingham Fire Department took delivery this spring. The new truck recorded its first rescue on Friday, July 12, when a man got stuck in a tree while trying to retrieve a cat. Bellingham Fire Department Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Pethick says the Whatcom County’s Prospect Fire Dispatch Center has phone numbers that can help cat owners find a private company that can help retrieve cats.

Whatcom Humane Society executive director Laura Clark also recommended catinatreerescue.com, a website started by a Seattle man who saw a need after helping rescue a cat from an 80-foot tree in 1998.

Among other tips and stories, the website has a nationwide directory of companies and individuals that can help retrieve cats, birds and other animals from trees. In Whatcom and Skagit counties, their suggestions are:

Sean Tait: 360-758-2392, Seant@wesspur.com.

Arborwright Tree Service: 360-599-1746.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.