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Rachel Belle

Two Local Brothers Climb Trees to Rescue Stuck Kitties

A pair of local brothers have turned their love of climbing and cats into a novel business rescuing kitties stuck in trees. (Canopy Cat Rescue photo)

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When Judy Chapman's 18-year-old cat, Coffee, went missing from her Duvall home, she was very, very upset.

"He was my husband's cat and my husband passed in 2007. So there's a real emotional thing with this because the cat would not leave his lap when he was sick."

She barely slept for three days, spending most of her time out in the yard looking for Coffee.

"Believe it or not my cats don't come to Kitty Kitty, you have to sing the Meow Mix song. I'm out there in the front yard yelling, 'Coffee!' and singing 'Meow meow meow meow.' And I stopped and I was just kind of looking around and I heard this plaintive, 'Meow!'"

Finally she found Coffee, stuck way up high in a tree across the road. But who could she call for help? The whole cat-in-a-tree-firefighter-rescue thing smacks of 1950's sitcoms. So she hopped online and found Canopy Cat Rescue, run by Shaun Sears and Tom Otto, two brothers who have found themselves in the cat rescue business.

"We didn't realize there were so many cats that get stuck in trees," says Tom, who lives in Olympia. "You think occasionally, here and there, but it's sometimes three calls a day."

They get calls from people like Judy who are often frantic and desperate for their services.

"He got him down and he's not going back out," Judy laughs. "I mean he doesn't want to go back out!"

Shaun and Tom aren't full time cat rescuers. Shaun is a mountain guide on Mount Rainier and both do wildlife camera work with Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other agencies, and have worked climbing arborists. But they both really love cats.

"One of the biggest rewarding things for me is you get the cat in the tree and and the cat's shivering, cold and you can feel it go from shivering to purring in a couple minutes," said Shaun. "You feel that and that definitely makes it worth it for me."

Shaun explains how the rescues are done.

"We use a big slingshot called a Big Shot and we shoot a line up into the tree and via that line we pull up a climbing rope. We climb up that and then access the tree as high as we can and then swing on over to the kitty."

Both brothers have wives and kids and other jobs, but they are so dedicated to the cause that they'll drive over an hour, day or night, to save a cat.

"I certainly would show up at somebody's doorstep at 3 in the morning to get their cat," says North Bend based Shaun. "Once the phone rings, I pretty much treat the cat like it's my cat. So I kind of envision, what would I do if this was my cat stuck up in the tree? It wouldn't matter what time of the day it is. I'm going to go up there to get my cat down."

There is only one time that Shaun hesitated.

"A lady on Mercer Island, the cat was missing for about a week. So she called me and, unfortunately for her, it was right as the Seahawks game was starting. That is one of the few times I'm unavailable. I was on my way to a sports bar and I was so looking forward to watching it. She was like, 'Why do you need to watch it, anyways? It's gonna be a blowout!' And I'm like, 'You hope that it's gonna be a blow out!' I said, 'Yes, your cat is more important than the Hawks game. Let me watch at least a little bit of the game and then I'll come and rescue your cat.'"

In the end, Shaun rescued the cat just in time to see the Seahawks win.

As far as cost, these do-gooder brothers will leave that up to you. They decided to ditch their flat rate for donations.

"We really just want it so people that maybe are on a fixed income, who would be reluctant to call, should just call," Tom said. "It's not about really making money. It's about helping people and cats."

And Tom and Shaun certainly do make a lot of cat lovers very happy.

"It meant the world. It really did," Judy said about Coffee's rescue. "They're my kids! They're little people that you've lived with for 18 years."

Check out Canopy Cat Rescue's Facebook page to see all the adorable kitty rescue photos taken by Shaun and Tom.

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