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Thread: why do cats climb trees if they then can't get back down?

  1. #1
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    why do cats climb trees if they then can't get back down?

    Is it instinct to get at birds' nests, but the domestic cat is so soft it can't jump, or climb down?
    ................................

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    Cats can get down - it's just that some don't know how to. They need to come down tail-first, because their claws are hooked that way. It's the sort of thing that mother cats (of tree-climbing species) teach young cats, in the wild, but domestication has largely removed that process. So we have an animal that can easily go up, using the methods it uses every day to get around, but which needs to figure out a new skill in order to get down. Our cat figured it out fine for himself, and used to gallop up and down trees when we were on family picnics, for no obvious reason but the joy of it.
    I have no evidence to support it, but I wonder if the cats that do get stuck in trees (or at least, spend so long in the tree that their owner is forced to conclude they're stuck) have actually made an emergency ascent - been treed by a dog, for instance - rather than having got stuck during a process of natural exploration.

    Grant Hutchison

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    while cats do get rescued, I have not heard of cats dying up trees but many stories of cats finally working it out. Since I have an opinion that cats have many instincts but a limited, slow learning ability, I suspect they have an innate ability to reverse down the tree but maybe they get anxious and they have to wait till the anxiety is less pressing than hunger before they do so. They do learn as kittens so maybe they go through a learning phase which later reduces. I had to put up with many cats, one of which was rescued from living wild and ate spiders all her later life. Of the group I believe only one was smart enough (or maybe stupid enough) to learn his name. Whereas all learned to associate feeding times in a Pavlovian fashion. And how to avoid being put outdoors in bad weather by hiding.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
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    Once a cat has been up a tree for a week or two, you're kind of forced to the conclusion that it couldn't work out how to get down. But those are rare enough that they make headlines in tabloid newspapers.

    Grant Hutchison

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    (While googling around for tales of protracted cat rescues, I came across the marvellously fatuous argument that "Cats don't need rescued, because you never see a dead cat in a tree, do you?" Presumably the folk who make this claim have travelled extensively in the treetops, always on the alert for skeletal remains.)

    Grant Hutchison

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    Fair enough, my experience is only anecdotal, with cats deciding to come down after a day. But then not chased by a group of foxes. A cat might suffer from PTSD anxiety after such a scare. The socialisation period for kittens is given as 2 to 7 weeks after which they may fail to socialise well and my guess is that's also true for learning tricks like climbing back down. You can see kittens experimenting on curtains.
    But not all cats are the same, some seem to be smarter than others. For example I have experienced cats who never got the hang of cat flaps no matter how many times they watched other cats go through.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    In the case of the cat "stuck" on top of the telephone pole, the rescue attempt was halted when the cat just spread its wings and flew to the ground.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMaZ4WAmc1c

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    I noted in our cats, that when they want to come down from a too-tall height for a jump, they jump anyway, but they engage the wall with their claws and let friction slow their fall for the early part of the descent.
    Last edited by DonM435; 2018-Aug-05 at 07:52 PM.

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    I can identify with cats. When I climb up my 25' ladder to get on top of my highly pitched roof, and then turn around to see where I've been, the litter box seems soooo far away.

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    When I was very much younger, our family's cat got stuck up a tree way up in the next block. With another cat about 10 feet higher, which he had chased up there. We took a ladder up there and I was sent up to try to get him. When he saw me getting close, he took a leap and was waiting for us when we got home.

    More recently (but not all that much) one of our cats got in the habit of going up a tree to the roof of our house, and would be there crying piteously when I got home from work. I got out a ladder and went up to try to coax her over to me, but she stayed out of reach so I finally clambered onto the roof. At which point she went flying across the roof and down the tree to the ground, where she sat and meowed at me as I stood on the roof feeling like a fool. That actually happened twice. After that I just went iniside and she'd be at the door within a few minutes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Once a cat has been up a tree for a week or two, you're kind of forced to the conclusion that it couldn't work out how to get down. But those are rare enough that they make headlines in tabloid newspapers.

    Grant Hutchison
    When I was around 13-14, my next door neighbors' cat was up a tree for two weeks--way up, like fifty feet, on woodsy property. Fire truck ladder wasn't an option, and I guess nobody wanted to climb up the tree with one of those telephone pole sling-things and spiked shoes to wrestle with a freaked out cat.

    Finally, it climbed down on its own.

    It was "news"-worthy, who knew?
    Calm down, have some dip. - George Carlin

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    We had a cat who wasn't afraid of climbing anything, it would attempt what seemed the near impossible and it could leap across huge gaps, it was quite amazing. It would often climb up the nearest telegraph pole chasing after the magpies. It would sit at the top and the magpies would fly around teasing the cat. Once the magpies had given up the cat would back down the pole with ease. It was a great spectacle, my only regret was we never filmed it.

  13. #13
    We had a cat who could climb up ladders. It climb a ladder that was beside the porch and go across the porch roof and get to the woodshed roof and lay there. One afternoon a neighbor noticed her up there and called. I said it was normal and she will get down. I figured she was getting away form another cat we had the time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    When I was around 13-14, my next door neighbors' cat was up a tree for two weeks--way up, like fifty feet, on woodsy property. Fire truck ladder wasn't an option, and I guess nobody wanted to climb up the tree with one of those telephone pole sling-things and spiked shoes to wrestle with a freaked out cat.

    Finally, it climbed down on its own.
    Remarkable. Should have been nearly dead at that point.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by megrfl View Post
    In the case of the cat "stuck" on top of the telephone pole, the rescue attempt was halted when the cat just spread its wings and flew to the ground.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMaZ4WAmc1c
    I immediately thought of that video on reading the OP, too.

    Here's another one, involving a cat needing to go in the other direction:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrpB8m7Lw8w

    They just think they're stuck, until they're given sufficient incentive to get down (or up) on their own.
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Remarkable. Should have been nearly dead at that point.

    Grant Hutchison
    Why? The cat had probably been going up and down the trees all along (which is entirely possible). I mean it did eventually climb down, demonstrating the ability. Otherwise, depending on the water situation (what sort of leaves or depressions on the tops of limbs, etc.), there was probably plenty to eat up there, tree to tree.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    Why? The cat had probably been going up and down the trees all along (which is entirely possible). I mean it did eventually climb down, demonstrating the ability. Otherwise, depending on the water situation (what sort of leaves or depressions on the tops of limbs, etc.), there was probably plenty to eat up there, tree to tree.
    The story was that this cat was continously stuck fifty feet up a particular tree for a fortnight, which isn't a good hunting environment for a domestic cat. Assuming some water and little or no food, that's a starved and sick cat - cats stuck in sheds and outhouses tend to die over that timescale.
    So I think something remarkable was going on, if it was still able to descend fifty feet at the end of that time - either it was secretely commuting up and down the tree, for nefarious feline reasons, or it was successfully hunting in an odd environment, or it got lucky with a tree full of nestlings.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    The story was that this cat was continously stuck fifty feet up a particular tree for a fortnight, which isn't a good hunting environment for a domestic cat. Assuming some water and little or no food, that's a starved and sick cat - cats stuck in sheds and outhouses tend to die over that timescale.
    So I think something remarkable was going on, if it was still able to descend fifty feet at the end of that time - either it was secretely commuting up and down the tree, for nefarious feline reasons, or it was successfully hunting in an odd environment, or it got lucky with a tree full of nestlings.

    Grant Hutchison
    I think that's basically what I was saying...

    CJSF
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    Overcoming all resistance long after my remains have been
    Vaporized with extreme prejudice and shot into outer space.

    I'll be haunting you."

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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    I think that's basically what I was saying...
    So I guess I don't understand why you asked "Why?" the first time I said something remarkable must have happened. I only gave you my list because you'd asked that question.

    Grant Hutchison

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    I would therefore like to amend my comments on the amygdala, often cited as the fight or flight centre in the brain but we should include freeze.
    I snipped this from the Wiki page:

    "...A response to stimuli typically is said to be a "fight or flight", but is more completely described as "fight, flight, or freeze." In addition, freezing is observed to occur before or after a fight or flight response."


    I have to agree that two weeks is a long time to relax from freezing but it does fit the hypothesis that a frightened cat might climb higher than it does normally and then "freeze" due to the over stimulated amygdala, and it takes a major new drive such as hunger to make it attempt the descent. Or maybe exhaustion weakens the amygdala hold or it runs out of adrenaline, that would take some time , I guess.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    So I guess I don't understand why you asked "Why?" the first time I said something remarkable must have happened. I only gave you my list because you'd asked that question.

    Grant Hutchison
    I was asking why you found it remarkable that the cat wasn't near death, and then alluded to circumstances that would allow for it to be doing fairly well - including hunting in the trees (a wooded area) and surreptitiously climbing up and down. I feel like we are in violent agreement here.

    CJSF
    "Flipping this one final switch I'm effectively ensuring that I will be
    Overcoming all resistance long after my remains have been
    Vaporized with extreme prejudice and shot into outer space.

    I'll be haunting you."

    -They Might Be Giants, "I'll Be Haunting You"


    lonelybirder.org

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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    I was asking why you found it remarkable that the cat wasn't near death, and then alluded to circumstances that would allow for it to be doing fairly well - including hunting in the trees (a wooded area) and surreptitiously climbing up and down. I feel like we are in violent agreement here.
    I still find the list of possibilities remarkable, given the description in the original story, and the general ineptitude of domestic cats as arboreal hunters. But we otherwise do seem to be in agreement.

    Grant Hutchison

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    As long as we're sharing videos of cats in trees...

    https://youtu.be/ebbckGSSGGg?t=33s

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    Quote Originally Posted by megrfl View Post
    In the case of the cat "stuck" on top of the telephone pole, the rescue attempt was halted when the cat just spread its wings and flew to the ground.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMaZ4WAmc1c
    I don;t even have to follow the link to know what video this is. Incredible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Cats can get down - it's just that some don't know how to. They need to come down tail-first, because their claws are hooked that way. It's the sort of thing that mother cats (of tree-climbing species) teach young cats, in the wild, but domestication has largely removed that process. So we have an animal that can easily go up, using the methods it uses every day to get around, but which needs to figure out a new skill in order to get down.
    This sounds pretty darned plausible.

    Domestic cats tend to have stunted skills.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    This sounds pretty darned plausible.

    Domestic cats tend to have stunted skills.
    And, anatomically, they're terrestrial hunters. The margay, which is an arboreal hunting cat, has an anatomical adaptation that allows it to descend face-first, like a squirrel - it can rotate its ankles so that its claws face backward (and therefore curve forwards).

    Grant Hutchison

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    The neighbors' cat was on the large size (I'd guess over 20 pounds) when it went up the tree; it was significantly slimmer afterwards.

    What I wonder is how can cats go that long without water?
    Calm down, have some dip. - George Carlin

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    What I wonder is how can cats go that long without water?
    As I understand it, the ancestors of domestic cats were from dry regions of North Africa, and so cats are actually quite tolerant of low water intake (their kidneys are very efficient at recovering water). Cats get a large portion of their water needs from their food (our vet prefers wet food, versus dry, for this reason).

    The downside of all of this is that kidney disease is common in older cats.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    The downside of all of this is that kidney disease is common in older cats.
    is that partly due to feline diabetes though?
    ................................

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    Quote Originally Posted by WaxRubiks View Post
    is that partly due to feline diabetes though?
    I have no idea.
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