The Problem of a Cat in the Tree
Almost every cat pawrent or cat caregiver had their cat stuck in a tree. Most of the time, the poor cat is too afraid to come down on its own. So, the pawrents have to call the fire department. The fire brigade eventually rescues the cat after wasting crucial hours installing heavy equipment and towering ladders to go high up.
But here is a story based on real-life experiences of Jeroen Zwaal and cat Sushi that will hopefully help you from reaching out to emergency services next time your cat is stuck in a tree! Former social worker and now artist Jeroen Zwaal a.k.a."Zwali"from Arnhem, the Netherlands, was happy to share with us his cat-friendly method to get a cat out of the tree. According to him, all you need to do is to follow five easy steps.
Being Present, A Philosophy In Practice
When Zwaal worked as a social worker, he was inspired by Dutch philosopher and professor of Presence and Care, Andries Baart. Baart wrote extensively on the topic of ‘presence’ and ‘being present’ on which he noted:
‘Distinctive in the philosophy of presence and its associated practices is the focus on creating just and loving human relationships, particularly where people are insubstantial, poor, ”socially dispensable,” deathly ill or ”hopeless”; the professional commitment of presence-practicing mental caregivers and other human-centered aid professionals and social workers from the broad sector of care, welfare, nursing and service delivery is in the context of human compassion and loving concern.’ (https://www.andriesbaart.nl/presentie/)
In other words, philosophy of presence stresses the importance of creating deep emotional connections with those in need by staying in contact with the said person. According to Zwaal, this involves a lot of empathy, putting yourself in the other person's shoes, and staying close to yourself.
Psychosis and Expert by Experience
While living his life, Zwaal personally experienced a psychotic episode several times. He learned a lot from that. Especially how to bring, in his words, highflying tension to the ground.
When having a psychosis, tension arises in your head and ideally, you need other people to be in contact with you in order to get that tension back on the ground.
Zwaal argued that the tension experienced while experiencing a psychotic episode is similar to the feelings experienced by cats when stuck in a tree. Therefore, developing a real connection with your cat and maintaining eye contact are the keys to helping your cat become grounded again.
Getting Kitten Sushi Down from the Tree
Together with his wife and daughter, Zwaal is taking care of a tabby kitten, Sushi. Once, when Zwaal and his wife stepped into their car to drive to an appointment, they heard Sushi’s cry for help. They turned around confused, trying to identify the source of the meowing. To their shock, they saw Sushi up in a tree nearby. When they called her out to climb down, she simply froze in horror. Sushi was stuck in the tree!
With his knowledge of Baart’s presence philosophy, his experience as a social worker and as a psychotic patient, Zwaal immediately concocted a plan to rescue Sushi. Based on the current situation, he deduced the five steps which he performed to get Sushi to the ground.
Step 1. Being calm
Zwaal stood under the tree and detected Sushi’s exact position in the tree, as she was frenetically meowing for help. The first thing that came to his mind was to keep his cool. Easier said than done since his wife was panicking, and panic is often contagious. Zwaal knew then, that he first needed to soothe his wife. He assured her that everything would be alright and asked her to take a step back so that the kitten would not sense her anxiety.
Step 2. Believe in a pawsitive result
Zwaal had faith in a pawsitive result which had a positive impact on his energy. This was invaluable to the situation as Sushi could slowly feel safe due to Zwaal's confident behaviour.
Step 3. Put yourself in the cat’s shoe
The next thing Zwaal did was to imagine being stuck in a tree, just like Sushi. He tried to immerse himself in the kind of fear he would feel if he was in Sushi’s situation. On one hand, this helped Zwaal to empathize with Sushi and thus, create a shared understanding between him and his cat. On the other hand, this made Zwaal gain a better understanding of how to tackle the situation.
Step 4. Make eye contact
He soon realized that Sushi needed to feel that someone was there for her. So, with feet firmly placed on the ground, Zwaal looked up and began searching for Sushi’s eyes. He locked eye contact with her, and maintained it for as long as possible. This is important because eye contact emphasizes someone’s presence. After Sushi got comfortable, Zwaal thought of directing Sushi with his eyes towards the nearest branch.
Step 5. Pawsitition yourself strategically and talk to the cat
To further emphasize his command, Zwaal positioned himself so that the said branch was standing in between his eyes and Sushi’s. His train of thought was as follows: if Sushi got used to his presence through eye contact, the loss of it would make Sushi want to reposition herself to maintain their eye contact. When Zwaal was ready in his position, he called Sushi’s name and surprise, the method worked! In a few seconds, Sushi jumped graciously onto the branch and waited for the next move of her cat pawrent Zwaal. He started to repawsition himself again, and he started calling again. Once again Sushi moved according to Zwaal’s directions. Zwaal repeated this move several times until Sushi came down on her own without any fear or doubt. Within three minutes Sushi was back and cuddling in the arms of Zwaal.
Universal Method Based on Forming a Bond and Giving Trust
Zwaal thinks his method is universal but that it will only work when you have a strong relationship with your cat. This is because you need to be trusted by your cat so it can have faith in your guidance during a life-threatening situation.
We hope you enjoyed this story and that you found these five steps helpful. Whenever your cat gets stuck in a tree now you know what you have to do! If you found Zwaal’s method very valuable do not forget to share it with other cat pawrents. If you have questions contact Zwaal via his website or on Facebook.