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Sad end to neighborhood cat rescue effort in Sonoma

Who can help?

Sonoma County Animal Services said that it does not have the capability to remove cats from trees. They suggest leaving warm, wet food at the bottom of the tree to encourage the cat to leave the top and come down for the food.

Pets Lifeline appreciates being informed of these situations in case the animal has been reported missing but it also lacks the resources to help in cases like these.

Sonoma Valley Fire Department said that if the rescue situation is safe for its crew, and they are not busy, they will send a truck with a 100 foot ladder and they will attempt rescue cats, birds and other creatures.


A group of Boyes Hot Springs neighbors spent several days last week trying to rescue a stray black cat trapped on the upper boughs of a 100-foot-tall redwood tree. But their hearts were heavy over the weekend when it was believed to have died and been taken by a vulture before a successful rescue attempt was possible.

For six days, neighbors on DeChene Avenue heard the young cat crying at all hours.

Elli Larrieu lives at 395 DeChene where the tree is located. She and her neighbors care for a colony of stray feral cats on the street (all of whom have been spayed by pet-rescue center Pets Lifeline).

On Christmas Day, Larrieu posted on a neighborhood website that the cat was stuck in the tree – and received all kinds of suggestions for rescue, ranging from appealing to the fire department to county Animal Services to arborists. She was frustrated to find that none of them could help.

On both Dec. 28 and 30, a captain along with a small crew from the Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue Authority stopped by but they were unable to use their tallest ladder because of a high tension power line so close to the tree.

Sonoma County’s Animal Services office told her that they couldn’t help in this instance and repeated efforts by Larrieu to find a local tree company that had a climber available or a rig of the necessary height were in vain.

On the morning of Dec. 30, Springs resident Roy Tennant stopped by to try to reach the cat – at first by free climbing and, when that failed, later with climbing equipment. He said that he got almost 50 feet up the tree before he had to turn back. “The limbs were getting smaller and I was without protection,” said Tennant, who describes himself as an experienced tree climber. “I couldn’t see or hear the cat, so I had no idea how much higher it was. And the vision of me cartwheeling down the tree from limb to limb was getting more and more worrisome.”

Another local, Steve Millosovich, tried next – and didn’t give up until darkness began to fall. His wife Wendy Lindstrom had heard about the cat and, as a lifelong pet rescuer, she and Millosovich headed over to see if they could help. Millosovich worked as an arborist in his younger days and currently works for Cal Fire. He got within a few feet of the cat and tried to tempt it with some roast turkey but the cat got spooked and climbed higher. “The trunk of the tree got thinner and thinner and it wasn’t safe to go any higher,” he lamented.

“My husband hadn’t been up a tree in a long time, but had the tree not been quite so high, he would have been successful,” Lindstrom added. “Despite the cold and the rain, he really wanted to reach the cat and was so disappointed when he couldn’t.”

Lindstrom believes Sonoma needs “a resource we could call on for times like this.”

“Other communities have organizations like Canopy Cat Rescue and Treetop Cat Rescue,” said Lindstrom. “Or an arborist who is willing to be on call on the rare cases when this comes up.”

Who can help?

Sonoma County Animal Services said that it does not have the capability to remove cats from trees. They suggest leaving warm, wet food at the bottom of the tree to encourage the cat to leave the top and come down for the food.

Pets Lifeline appreciates being informed of these situations in case the animal has been reported missing but it also lacks the resources to help in cases like these.

Sonoma Valley Fire Department said that if the rescue situation is safe for its crew, and they are not busy, they will send a truck with a 100 foot ladder and they will attempt rescue cats, birds and other creatures.

In the early morning hours of Jan. 2, Larrieu could still hear the cat crying. When dawn broke, however, it had company in the form of a vulture and there was silence from the top of the tree. The large scavenger was hovering on a nearby power line. The cat had been up in the tree for six days without food or water. While Larrieu did not witness anything grisly, by noon the cat and the vulture were both gone.

Contact Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.