Will A Cat Always Come Down From A Tree? (Full Answers)

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Having a cat stuck in a tree is a distressing experience for the cat and its owner. The animal’s pitiful meowing or yowling for help and visible anxiety only makes the situation more torturous. But surely if the cat was able to climb up the tree, it can also climb down? Unfortunately, the answer is not necessarily.

No, a cat will not always be able to come down from a tree as it is hard to use cat claws going downwards. A cat’s claws are small hooks used best to climb an incline so cats can have serious challenges coming down a tree headfirst.

Check out the rest of the article to learn much more about cats and trees!

3 Reasons Cats Climb Trees

Cats climb trees for a few different but important reasons.  The three reasons that cats climb trees are:

  1. Hunting
  2. Safety
  3. Curiosity

Cats are Hunters

Cats are skilled hunters, so if a prey animal such as a bird or a squirrel that a cat is chasing runs up a tree, the cat may try to follow. Cats have a powerful prey drive, which could drive them up a tree, and therefore, get them stuck up the tree.

Are Cats Prey Animals?

Cats can be preyed upon by other animals such as eagles, dogs, raccoons, and other local predators. For example, a dog or raccoon may chase a cat up a tree. In this instance, the cat is trying to escape from danger. Many cats feel safe if they are in a high place.

Cats are Curious Creatures

Lastly, cats are playful and curious creatures and may climb a tree just for the fun of it. Their attention may be attracted by a bird or a fluttering leaf, or something moving in the tree.

Do Cats Have Trouble Climbing Down Trees?

Cats do have trouble climbing down trees, and as a result, they often jump down or get stuck up the tree.  The proper way for a cat to come down a tree would be tail first and not head first, but this does not come naturally to cats.

It is easy for a cat to climb a tree upwards because its claws can hook into the bark and help to pull it along. However, when a cat wants to get down off something, it usually jumps from one level to another or straight to the ground. This is because declining from a tree does not come naturally to a cat.

A cat may climb up a tree in a spontaneous burst of adrenaline-fueled activity, either because it is being chased by something or is excited to pursue something. However, once the immediate danger has passed or the prey has escaped, the cat may not have the energy reserves necessary to attempt the daunting task of getting back down again.

Can Cats Fall Out of Trees?

Yes, cats can fall out of trees. However, a cat can also sustain severe injuries and even die if it falls from a high place, and it knows this. So, if it is too high up in the tree, or the tree doesn’t have any low hanging branches that it can jump down on, the cat may get stuck up the tree.

Can Cats Climb Down Trees Head First?

No, cats can’t climb down trees headfirst.  If cats try to climb down a tree headfirst, they would likely need to jump down right away.  Cats don’t always realize that they have to come down a tree tail first.

A cat must always climb with its head facing up and its rear-facing down to avoid falling. It can’t do so with its head facing down because its claws can’t be used as hooks in this position.

The margay, also called the tree ocelot, is a rare, wild cat that lives in the Mexican rain forests. It is the only cat that can climb down a tree headfirst. Their claws are specially adapted for this purpose. When a cat is frightened, it is more likely to crawl further up the tree than to try and get down.

Susan Bulanda, an author and trained ethologist who works with cats and dogs, says that a cat may have trouble coordinating its front feet with its hind feet when trying to back down a tree. It is not a movement that is normal for cats.

If a cat knows how to climb down in reverse, it will still only come down close enough to the point where it can turn and jump off the tree. Cats don’t like climbing in reverse because they feel exposed to potential threats in this position. They prefer to face challenges head-on.

Do Cats Ever Really Get Stuck in Trees?

Cats with no climbing experience, such as kittens and indoor cats, are more at risk of getting stuck up a tree than outdoor cats who know about trees. In addition, declawed cats are at a distinct disadvantage when climbing down out of a tree.

Cats can climb up quickly enough but don’t have the tools necessary to get down again.  I don’t recommend that you let your house cat roam around free outdoors, and this is doubly important if your house cat is declawed.

How Long Can a Cat be Stuck in a Tree?

There are stories of cats surviving for more than a week in a tree. However, it is not recommended to leave a cat stuck in a tree for more than twenty-four hours.

The longer a cat stays in the tree, the weaker they become due to a lack of food and water. It may eventually become too weak to climb down, and, even if it is rescued, it could die later of exposure, dehydration, or starvation.

Additionally, if the cat is in a tree for a while, it may fall asleep.  Falling asleep in a tree puts a cat at risk and seriously increases the chances of falling out of the tree.

Can a Cat Die from Falling Out of a Tree?

Cat In A Tree

If a cat falls from a tree, it can be severely injured and die. Common injuries sustained by cats after a fall include:

  • Joint damage, ruptured tendons, bruised or torn ligaments, and bone fractures
  • Internal injuries, especially to the lungs
  • Broken jawbone and shattered teeth

The higher the distance from which the cat falls out of a tree, the more likely it will sustain severe injuries or death. 

Don’t try to prod your cat into falling out of a tree if it is stuck. Pulling on branches, using a long pole to push it from its perch, or otherwise causing it to lose its balance are examples of how not to get a cat out of a tree. 

Cats are legendary for landing on their feet, but that doesn’t mean that they will escape a fall uninjured. When a cat falls, it instinctively twists in mid-air so that its feet face downwards. This is called a “righting reflex.”

The likelihood of a cat surviving a fall out of a tree depends on several factors, namely –

  • how far it falls;
  • whether any branches can break its fall;
  • whether the ground below the tree is covered in a layer of leaves or concrete; and
  • how healthy the cat is, to begin with.

If you have a cat that likes climbing trees, you should familiarize yourself with first-aid cat falls.  This will help you immediately help save your cat’s life if they fall from a tree. 

How to Get a Cat Out of a Tree

If you are trying to get a cat down from a tree, there are some actions you can take.

Putting down food and water at the base of the tree to coax the cat down could work but is not always a good idea. The cat food may attract other animals, including raccoons, cats, and dogs, which could discourage the cat from coming down.

Check out our article on cats and raccoons and if they get along:  Click Here.

It is better to stay near the tree and ensure that no other animals are hanging around. The cat may need some space and quiet time before coming down of its own accord. Give the cat around twenty-four hours to come down by itself before resorting to more drastic measures.

Do not try to climb the tree yourself unless you are strong and fit. People have been known to die from falling while attempting to rescue a cat. If you know that you can climb the tree, it is still better to have someone else with you to assist. Once you get up there, you will need to handle the cat and possibly lower it to someone else in a bag or basket.

If the cat does not know you and is already in a state of panic, it may climb further up the tree or even fall. If you don’t have a head for heights or you are not fit enough to climb the tree, people who are used to working in high places might be able to help. These include tree fellers, roofing contractors, pest controllers, and electric companies.

Unlike the stories of firefighters saving cats from trees, it is far more likely that they will not save your cat. But, again, this is due to a focus on saving human lives. 

Another solution may be to place a long wooden pole or board against the tree near the cat. It can then use it as a ramp to descend by itself. Whether this is feasible depends on how high up the cat is.

A further possibility is to use a laser pointer to lure the cat down. If the cat likes to play with the laser dot, you may be able to distract it from its fear and get it to climb down to chase the light. First, point the laser at the tree’s bark near the cat and waggle it to get the cat’s attention. Then move the dot lower and lower as the cat follows it.

You can use treats or other incentives to coax the cat down. If you own the cat, you should offer its favorite treat. Cats will generally respond to strong-smelling food such as dried fish or canned tuna. Even if it is not your cat, you can try to entice it down by drawing its nose and eyes to the food.

Do Cats Die Stuck Up Trees?

It is possible that cats could die stuck up trees, but it is far more likely that the cat would fall out of the tree before dying up the tree. For example, a cat would fall out of the tree due to falling asleep or suffering from dehydration and becoming week. 

Will the Fire Department Get a Cat Out of a Tree?

No, most fire departments will not get a cat out of a tree.  Fire departments are specialized to save human lives and property.  Unlike the stories of fire departments saving cats from trees, it is much more likely that this is not an option for you. 

How do you Get Cats to Stop Climbing Trees?

The best way to get cats to stop climbing trees is not to let your cat roam freely outdoors.  Additionally, when you take your cat outside, you should use a cat harness and leash, cat backpack, cat stroller, or catio. 

To learn more about if cats like cat backpacks, check out my article:  Click Here.

If you choose one of the above options instead of letting your cat roam freely outside, you are far more likely to prevent your cat from climbing a tree.

Why do Cats Climb Trees if They Can’t Get Down?

Cats climb trees because they are hunters, they feel safer from predators, and due to curiosity.  Getting down from the tree is probably an afterthought to a cat.  Cats take actions due to their instincts and don’t necessarily think everything through ahead of time like a human.

Do Cats Really Need to be Rescued from Trees?

Most of the time, cats do not need to be rescued from trees, and they will find their way down from the tree. But, unfortunately, sometimes cats get themselves quite high in trees and may be too high to find a way down.  You may want to find a way to help the cat stuck in a tree in this situation.

Are Cats Good Tree Climbers?

Cats are excellent tree climbers and have the claws to show for it.  A cat’s ability to climb helps it find food in the wild and shelter when they feel threatened.

Is it Normal for Cats to Climb Trees?

Yes, it is normal for cats to climb trees.  Cats are quite curious, so it is normal to find cats everywhere. However, when it comes to trees, cats may climb them while hunting, finding safety, or being curious.

Why Does My Cat Keep Getting Stuck in Trees?

Cats get stuck in trees when they climb up and cannot find a way down.  This is usually because a cat climbs too high and cannot see how it can get down safely.  The best way to prevent a cat from getting stuck in a tree is to keep your cat indoors. 

I recommend only taking your cat outside with a cat harness, cat backpack, cat stroller, or using a catio.

I recommend this cat backpack on Amazon for most normal-sized cats.  Check it out on Amazon (affiliate link) because it is quite cool and useful:  Check Out This Awesome Cat Backpack On Amazon!


Please don’t make the mistake of assuming a cat will always be able to get down from a tree by itself. For declawed cats and kittens, it may be impossible. Even adult cats, with all of their claws intact, may not be able to get down of their own accord because they have not learned to come down butt first.

If you enjoyed this article, check out a few more:

  • Are Cats Popular in England? Surprising Cat Info:  Click Here.
  • Do Siberian Cats Need Company? (We Talk Loneliness):  Click Here.
  • How To Tell A Russian Blue Cat (Quick Ways):  Click Here.

Christopher Carlson

I have an Domestic Shorthair Tabby named Charlotte. She is full of energy when she isn't sleeping most of the day. I share what I learn about cats on this site.

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