Atypical Cat Rescue – a Jefferson County business that does exactly what its name suggests – promises to safely extract felines frozen from fright high up in trees.
Brothers E.J. Turner, 36, of House Springs and Jason Turner, 31, of Arnold sometimes get called to rescue cats in trees after dangerously failed attempts by pet owners.
“We had a rescue last year where the wife called after her cat climbed a tree and got stuck,” E.J. recalled. “Her husband climbed up after it without any (safety gear), fell and broke his femur. It took EMTs over an hour to get him away from the site because of the terrain.
“It took us about 20 minutes to get the cat down.”
E.J. said he and his brother, both experienced tree climbers, have never been injured during their cat extractions because they take safety seriously and use tree-climbing equipment.
Atypical Cat Rescue is a side business for the brothers.
“We are both foremen for Timberline Professional Tree Care out of Fenton,” E.J. said. “We started our cat rescue business in the fall of 2018. A reason we do this is we’re highly professional and we’re tree-climbing specialists. We’re ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certified. We can identify hazards in trees, and we’re familiar with all the tree species in the area.
“We ascend the trees by ropes. We do not use ladders. We always wear personal protective equipment, which includes hard hats, safety glasses, long sleeves and gloves and our safety harnesses for climbing. We have been scratched, but never seriously.”
Another reason the brothers started the business was they saw the need when people kept calling them to rescue their cats, E.J. said.
“We wanted to help,” he said. “We’re trained at aerial rescue for saving injured tree workers out of trees. We can apply these skills to the cat rescues.”
They need to be careful during the rescues, though, since they regularly end up 60 feet or higher in trees, E.J. said.
“The highest rescues have been 70-feet, 80-feet high,” he said. “We’re always secured. The first rule of any rescue at that height is to not become a second victim.
“A lot of people underestimate the dangers of doing this.”
E.J. said that as of Feb. 4, Atypical Cat Rescue had rescued 51 cats from trees since the business started.
He said a pet owner should not wait more than a day after a cat is stuck in a tree before seeking help because the cat could begin to suffer from malnutrition and dehydration.
“People call us when they have a cat that’s climbed a tree and can’t get down and has been stuck up there a couple of days,” E.J. said. “I tell them if it’s been more than 24 hours, it’s time to be concerned. If the cat’s going to figure out a way to get down, it will usually be within the first 24 hours.”
Bobby Ridings of Festus has used Atypical Cat Rescue’s services. He called the business Jan. 29 after he became concerned about a cat – not his own – who was stuck high in a tree on Lee Avenue in Festus. E.J., with the help of an assistant, responded.
“It was stuck there for three days. It was a stray,” Ridings said. “They got the cat down safely and everything went well. We were very impressed. It’s a professional operation.”
The cat ran off after it was rescued, Ridings said, and the company did the job for free.
“The longest a cat has been stuck in a tree we’ve saved is 11 days,” he said. “The people heard about us and got us involved. They said the fire department and the police and some neighbors tried to get the cat, but it was 60 feet up in the air and in a difficult spot. We got it down.”
Cats do not always realize their limitations, E.J. said.
“The cat can climb the tree easily because of the curvature of their claws,” he said. “But, they want to climb face forward, so, coming down, they can’t get a grip. Their claws just slide. A lot of them don’t figure out they could climb down backward.
“It puts them in a state of shock similar to a human experiencing trauma.”
He said some cats do not learn from their harrowing experiences in trees.
“We’ve had a few repeat offenders,” E.J. said. “Tink out of Dittmer, we’ve rescued three times. Callie out of Rock Hill, we’ve gotten her twice.”
The company hasn’t rescued any other kind of animals from trees, although it’s retrieved some drones and remote-controlled planes, E.J. said.
He and his wife, Tia, have a female cat named Asia.
Jason and his wife, Emily, have four cats: Marceline, Blaze, Vladimir and Chaos.
“As a cat owner, I understand the connection a lot of people have with their cats,” Jason said. “I enjoy getting the cat safely down from the tree and reuniting it with its owner.”
E.J. said his five kids and his brother’s two kids do not yet climb, but they like watching their fathers in action.
“They get a kick out of seeing us climb,” E.J. said.
The brothers take turns responding to the calls for cat rescues, unless both are needed.
“We alternate,” he said. “Sometimes, if it’s a large tree, we’ll both go to corner the cat.”
He said the business has a sliding scale of fees for cat rescues.
“The rate kind of varies over how far we have to drive and the time involved,” E.J. said. “It’s usually around $100.”
To contact the business, visit Atypical Cat Rescue on Facebook or visit its website at atypicalcatrescue.com.