The Great Tree Challenge

13 Dec

Rafa is still spending the night in our room so that our other cats are free to go in and out of the cat flap as they have always been used to. At bedtime he runs up the stairs and lies on the pillow until we climb in. Unlike the torties, he loves to be petted and stroked, just as Jaffa did. He usually sleeps in any available hollow on top of the duvet or at the foot of the bed. Very quiet, he doesn’t disturb us during the night but in the morning he likes to wake us with a soft tickle from his whiskers as he gently rubs them against our cheeks. Then he crawls under the duvet for a morning cuddle.

However, as soon as we are up and about, Rafa turns into a demon, dashing about the house and leaping up and over furniture as if he’s practising for the Cat Grand National. He has solved the mystery of the cat flap at last and now he entertains himself by zooming in and out repeatedly, relishing the sound of the flap clattering behind him as he streaks through. We are wary of letting him roam out of sight and have been keeping a close watch on him. We certainly don’t want him going out in the evenings while he’s still so young and hasn’t learned the layout of our garden or where the hazards are. The heartbreak of losing Jaffa is still very present.

But with all our caution, it seems we can’t prevent the inevitable tree climbing catastrophe (no pun intended). It’s just a pity Rafa chose one of the tallest trees in the garden for his first climb. And like every other young cat in the universe he discovered going up was much easier than coming down. And so continued to climb. At first we just had no idea where he’d gone. An hour of frantic searching followed. We called and called but there was no response. We looked around all the garden, checking trees and outbuildings, the barn and stables. Nothing! We stared in trepidation at the pond and even waded in, hearts pounding, to search the water in case he’d fallen in.

At last we were relieved to hear a faint mew coming from above. Following the sound we tracked him down to a very tall and bushy conifer.

No chance at all of seeing him there as we realised he must have climbed right up the centre. There was nothing for it but to fetch ladders and saws to start cutting away the heavily fronded branches, starting at the bottom and gradually clearing the trunk so that a ladder could be fitted against it. Two hours later we found a single ladder was nowhere near long enough. Rafa must have climbed even higher as the mewing was coming from a long way up.

Another hour and we were still hacking branches, with no sign of our kitty – only the mewing had now ripened into a loud wailing.

Finally enough branches had been removed to allow for an extension. Two fifteen foot ladders were fixed together and a very gallant ascent was embarked on by the master. By this time it was almost dark. We were flashing torches through the branches, hoping to catch a glimpse of a whiskery face. It was nearly the limit of the ladder’s reach before a movement several feet above revealed a scared ginger kitten peeping out of the dense foliage.

Rafa was eventually coaxed within reach and once grabbed, clung on with all the strength his claws could muster.

Left to his own devices, would he have eventually got down by himself? The fire brigade insists that cats always find a way down when they get hungry enough. But could we have left our little chap out by himself in the cold and dark? Of course we couldn’t.

Was Rafa traumatised by the experience though? Not a bit of it. Despite all the wailing and the worried face on the descent, as soon as he was back in the house he wriggled free and shot straight out of the cat door again. That has been closed off again now so he must be getting a headache trying to butt it open with his head. Sorry, no more unsupervised exploring just yet, Rafa. Our hearts can’t stand it!

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