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When treats don't lure cat, it's chain saw time

After five days in the treetops, a marooned kitty draws a worried crowd 30 feet below. Then came heroes in a pickup with a tall, tall ladder.

Published March 20, 2007

[Times photo: Julia Kumari Drapkin]
Jerred Johnston and Michael Johnston rescue a cat from a tree in Hudson Monday afternoon.
Click for video

HUDSON - They tried to wait it out, but that didn't work.

Five days later, they tried to lasso it with a rope. That failed, too.

Out came the honey barbecue chicken wings, leftovers from Beef O'Brady's on Friday night. Even those were a bust.

It was time for desperate measures.

- - -

JoAnn Black first spotted the long-haired gray cat Wednesday morning. Black, headed to a friend's house, opened the front door to her mobile home on Langdale Drive and saw the furry feline in the front yard.

"As soon as I opened the door and said 'hey,' it was like he was gone up the tree," Black said.

Black wasn't too worried, though. She was sure the cat would scurry down the 45-foot oak tree sometime soon.

Or so she thought.

By Monday, the cat hadn't budged. It had perched itself on a branch about 10 feet from the trunk of the lanky tree, about 30 feet up in the air. None of the neighbors claimed it.

So Black decided to take action.

Around noon, she called the Fire Department.

"They said, 'We don't do that, so call Animal Control.' "

Animal Control wouldn't help, either. Someone there said to call Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative. Maybe they have bucket trucks, the person said.

The electric company told Black to call the Sheriff's Office. Again, no one would help.

So Black went on the Internet and looked up local tree services. She called about 10 companies before she reached Chuck's Tree Service in Hudson, who offered to help for free.

Charles "Chuck" Johnston was on his way.

- - -

About 3 p.m., Chuck and his crew, nephews Jerred and Michael Johnston, pulled up in a dusty F-150 pickup.

The trio was prepared for the task at hand. Chuck pulled out a rickety 28-foot ladder and propped it against the tree.

Jerred carefully climbed the tree, heading for the branch where the cat sat. Meanwhile, his brother, Michael, climbed up and stood at the top of the ladder.

By then, a small crowd - Black's boyfriend, Adam Beck, his daughter, Sierra Edwards, 18, and Black's daughter, Jolene Armstrong, 15 - fell silent as Jerred shook the branches on the tree. The cat released a slow meow, but didn't move.

So Chuck fetched a yellow rope from the truck. He handed it to Jerred, who tried to lasso the cat.

But the rope wouldn't catch on anything.

So Black went inside her house and brought out a Ziploc bag with three chicken wings. She took one out and gave it to Chuck. He tied it to the end of the rope.

"He hasn't eaten in five days, so maybe that'll work," Edwards said.

Jerred tried luring the cat.

"Here, kitty, kitty," Black said.

The cat fidgeted, but even chicken wings didn't do the trick.

Then, someone suggested grabbing a chain saw.

Chuck headed to the truck. Michael moved down the ladder, grabbed the chain saw and cranked it up. He handed it to Jerred.

Black handed out cans of Sierra Mist soda to the workers and her family.

Beck stood outside on a cordless phone, still calling for help.

"I don't want you cutting the branch down if I can find someone with a bucket truck," he said.

But by then, desperation had set in. It had been five days, and nothing else worked.

So Jerred, carefully balancing his thin frame against the tree, started cutting. Seconds later, the cat, still clinging to the branch, fell onto the driveway.

Gasps cut through the afternoon silence as the cat took off toward a wooded field on Genward Road.

It didn't even bother to stay for dinner.

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at 727 869-6229 or


Cat rescue video

Watch the video at links.tampabay .com.


[Last modified March 19, 2007, 22:09:24]

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