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Langley’s high-stakes cat drama comes to a happy finish

Oliver the cat clings to the topmost branch of an 80-foot cedar tree north of Freeland. He was rescued after spending at least two days and nights on the precarious perch.   - Roy Jacobson / The Record
Oliver the cat clings to the topmost branch of an 80-foot cedar tree north of Freeland. He was rescued after spending at least two days and nights on the precarious perch.
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / The Record

Oliver went out on a limb the day he decided he was an outdoor cat.

The limb, unfortunately, was about 80 feet up a Western red cedar tree.

After at least two days and perhaps four, Oliver was rescued by an arborist who used a rope rig to climb near the top of the tree, where, with a little cat food, he coaxed Oliver into a pillow case.

“The cat was interested in getting down,” Jim Fox, owner of Fox's Tree Service of Langley, said Tuesday afternoon. “He’s fine. He’s still in the bag.”

“He was stuck up there,” said Oliver’s owner, Laura Strehlau, who lives off Holmes View Road north of Beverly Beach. “He’d been gone since early Saturday morning.”

“Our neighborhood rallied around,” Strehlau said. “The Buddhist neighbors chanted, our Catholic friends prayed. I mentally tried to talk to him as well.”

Strehlau said 10-month-old Oliver was an indoor cat until he apparently learned how to manipulate the dog door at the Strehlau home on Emmet Place, about five miles north of Freeland on the east side of Holmes Harbor.

Strehlau and her husband, Steve, combed the neighborhood during the weekend. There was no sign of Oliver until neighbor Tina Jensen a few blocks away heard meows, looked around, and then finally looked up.

There was Oliver, clinging to the topmost branches and yowling his head off in one of several cedars lining the Jensen property.

“I said oh my goodness, that’s Laura’s cat,” Jensen said, “so I gave her a call.”

“Lots of excitement in the ‘hood,” Steve Strehlau said. “It’s more exciting than reality TV.”

It was uncertain how long Oliver had been up the tree, but it could have been most of Saturday, all of Saturday night, all of Sunday and Sunday night and all of Monday and Monday night — through rain, snow, sleet and dark of night.

You could say it was a cat gone postal.

Oliver was still up in the tree on Tuesday, continuing to voice his disapproval, but apparently unable to respond to pleas to descend.

“It should be easy for him to get down, if he would only try,” said Jensen, shaking her head. “But I’m just glad he’s still moving.”

“Come on down, buddy, you can do it,” called Laura Strehlau. Oliver yowled a reply, did a 360, but remained where he was.

What about calling the fire department? Strehlau said there was a similar incident with another cat, and the fire department declined to get involved.

That time, 2-year-old Gato got himself stuck up a 40-foot tree growing over a bank on the Strehlau property.

“That was in warmer weather,” she said. “We put some cat food around the base of the tree. He came down in about three days, apparently none the worse for wear.”

“But he never liked crows after that,” she added.

“I think they harassed him while he was up there.”

Fox has been in business since 1978, and says he gets two to 12 cat-in-tree calls per year. He told Laura Strehlau the longest he’s seen a cat in a tree was 19 days.

“He said that cat was fine when it came down,” she said.

Steve Strehlau said they would keep Oliver in the bag for a little while, then let him out at home. Perhaps they would keep him inside the house for awhile, then let him go back outside again.

“You can’t really keep him in,” he said.

The Strehlaus own another cat, two dogs and four sheep, but they have a soft spot for Oliver.

“He’s just a mutt of a cat, but he’s so affectionate, so lovable,” Laura Strehlau said.

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