Nova Scotia

A happy tail: N.S. firefighters help rescue cat from tree

It's not just in the movies: firefighters came to the rescue of one Nova Scotian family and their cat on Sunday.

'Every life matters. We will go after everything we can, and this is a happy ending'

Members of the Lunenburg and District Fire Department pose with Ruby, the cat they helped coax down from a tree in Spectacle Lakes, N.S. on Sunday morning. (Matthew Rockwell)

Matthew Rockwell had a dilemma.

His family's cat, Ruby, was struck at the top of a fir tree standing more than 12 metres tall—but he wasn't sure how to get her down safely.

"We could see a patch of white fur and got the binoculars out. And sure enough, Ruby had made it to the very tip top of the tree," Rockwell said Sunday from his family's home in Spectacle Lakes, near Lunenburg.

Rockwell said his 8-year-old son let Ruby out Saturday morning, as he often did, but they didn't see her for the rest of the day. 

She stayed up there Saturday evening, and could not be coaxed down with treats. By Sunday morning, Rockwell said they realized they needed professional help.

Community steps up

But who to call? As a former volunteer firefighter at the nearby Dayspring and District Fire Department, Rockwell had never responded to such a situation so he turned to Facebook for advice. 

"It seems funny to ask, but how do you get a cat down out of a tree and does the fire department actually come out and rescue cats?" Rockwell said.

There were several responses, with lots of people pointing Rockwell to the Lunenburg and District Fire Department, which is the closest department with a ladder truck.

Once the connection was made, Rockwell said he was impressed by how quickly the fire truck arrived, just before 9 a.m. Sunday.

Fire Chief Darren Romkey said they made sure to position the ladder above Ruby in the tree, so she would move down the tree and not up.

Lunenburg and District Fire Department work on rescuing the Rockwell family cat, Ruby, on Sunday morning (Matthew Rockwell)

But once the ladder was there, Ruby was too nervous to come to firefighters. Instead, she moved to a lower branch, and then another lower one.

Eventually, Ruby tumbled about 7.5 metres from the tree to the ground, Romkey said - landing on her feet.

Luckily, once she knew she was safe, Rockwell said Ruby relaxed and had some food and water.

Rockwell said he and his family are grateful to live in a close-knit community with "tremendous" volunteers willing to give up their Sunday mornings—whether it's a medical emergency or helping a furry friend.

While Romkey said they don't get these kinds of calls every weekend, he's seen about four or five in the last 10 years or so since the department got their ladder truck.

He also said while cats in trees might seem like a minor call to respond to, it's not a waste of resources since the crew can always use the practice.

"It's better for us to go up after the cat rather than … the homeowners. If they try to climb up the tree after, then we end up having to get people out of a tree or they fall," Romkey said.

"And every life matters. We will go after everything we can, and this is a happy ending."