News & Politics

Hank, a DC Cat, Was Stuck in a Tree for Five Days. Here’s the Story of How He Came Down.

"Hank's Party Pack" to the rescue.

Delores Bushong was reunited with Hank after he spent five days stuck in a tree. Photograph courtesy of the Humane Rescue Alliance.

Hank started purring as soon as he was back in Delores Bushong’s arms. It had been a long time coming: the two had been separated for five days and four nights.

It all started last weekend. Late Saturday morning, Hank, an orange and white cat who was used to roaming around Bushong’s yard in DC’s Woodridge neighborhood, slipped under a small gap in her fence. As the cat explored the neighboring property, a dog came out, spooking him and sending him flying up a tree—to a branch 50 feet off the ground.

Bushong discovered Hank in the tree on Sunday morning. She called the Humane Rescue Alliance for help.The problem was, Hank had gotten himself into a tricky spot. He was too high up for any ladder to reach (Bushong’s neighbors were quick to offer up theirs). The tree’s branches weren’t stable enough to support a climb, and the position of the tree rendered a firetruck ladder useless. Days passed.

“We had to think outside the box,” says Dan D’Eramo, the Alliance’s director of field operations.

Not even the tallest ladders could reach Hank, who was around 50 feet off the ground. Photograph courtesy of the Humane Rescue Alliance.

Enter “Hank’s Party Pack.” That’s what Alliance workers called the box they filled with high-value treats and comforts. It included a flannel blanket, hand warmers, cat pheromones, cat food, cat nip, and pieces of Bushong’s clothing bearing her scent.

On Wednesday, with the help of Casey Trees, a local business that Bushong—a lover of both trees and cats—has volunteered with, it was go time. Using tools typically used to trim branches, the team was able to shoot a hefty rope high up in the tree. Somewhat miraculously, it landed on a branch that was both right above Hank and thick enough to hold its weight. Using a makeshift pulley system, they positioned the basket of treats beneath the cat. Hank jumped in immediately.

Bushong, who has lived in DC since 1970, says the help of her community was remarkable. Over the five day saga, she counted at least 40 people who came to help (she’s now working on thank you notes to all of them). Happily, she hasn’t noticed any differences in her furry companion since his return, even though he’d gone days without food, water, or regular sleep.

On Thursday, the day after Hank’s big rescue, Bushong got to work covering the gaps in her fence with chicken wire. When she went back inside, Hank sidled up to her—he wanted to go outdoors.

“No way, bud,” Bushong told him. “You’ve used up way too many of your nine lives.”