Soon after the sheep arrived at the farm, so did the barn cats from the local shelter. Their job was to police the barn for varmints of all kinds, and keep the barn clear of them.
First came Lewis, a sweet little fellow who proved to be entirely unsuited to barn cat duties. We discovered, after adoption and during his first visit at our vet’s, that he’d probably been hit by a vehicle at some point which had damaged his rear end and rendered him both incontinent and unable to jump. Lewis’ only duty these days is to serve as a companion to Bowie in the main part of the barn.
So, I tried again, and found a bonded pair: Toby and Sadie. They settled into the upper part of the barn, the hayloft, and got to work. Being feral cats, they shied away from me for the most part, approaching only when it was feeding time. They came and went as barn cats do, and I was used to not seeing them for stretches of time.
Sometime in July, I began to notice that Toby seemed to gone walkabout for a really extended period of time, and that Sadie seemed morose and full of complaints. At this time, I also began hearing a cat meowing late at night, from what I took to be the garden bed just beneath my bedroom window. And, even though I searched diligently through the day and before turning in for the night, I couldn’t tell where this meowing cat was. By this time, I had also come to the conclusion that Toby seemed to have never come back from his travels.
And then one afternoon, while gardening, I looked up to see this:
Although he was meowing piteously by this stage, and wanting desperately to come down, he was stuck. Not stuck as in unable to move at all, because I could see that he was moving about, but stuck as in unable to do the cat thing and climb down. And so the situation remained for more than three weeks.
A friend used a ladder to attempt a rescue, no easy feat since the tree is enormous and on a steep incline, but Toby (being his feral self) went on the attack. A friend of a friend went to extreme measures and brought along her cat loving (and somewhat crazy) nephew, who purchased an old fire truck when he left a local fire company just to rescue cats (true story, I swear). This fellow showed up one night and attempted a rescue of his own:
Toby, instead of allowing himself to be rescued, climbed further up…way further up.
For the next two weeks, we resigned ourselves to Toby’s fate: he wouldn’t allow himself to be rescued, and he couldn’t rescue himself. Toby was going to die in that tree, and that was that. His meows grew faint, and then we stopped hearing anything. Every day, I waited for ravens and hawks to swoop in for a tasty meal.
And then, early one morning when I went into the hayloft to feed Sadie and clean out her litter box, who should greet me but:
By my count, he’d spent more than three weeks stuck in a tree. But, there he was, clambering over bales of hay, and not in the least bit surprised to see me.