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Cat rescuer uses 100-foot crane to bring down feline trapped in Colwood tree

By the time he was hoisted up about 70 feet, the cat “just jumped into his lap."
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Kyle Hobbs, owner of Coastal Tree Works, rescued a small cat from a tree using his truck and bucket lift. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

For a guy who is extremely allergic to cats, Kyle Hobbs has rescued dozens of feline family members over the years.

The arborist has roped himself up to dangerous heights coaxing kitties from branches — usually using oven mitts — with a cat crate dangling from his harness.

But this week, Hobbs used his 110-foot, 30-ton crane and a willing employee to bring a wayward cat to safety, drawing a crowd and plenty of cheers from onlookers.

Hobbs was lifting snowmobiles out of a backyard with the crane in the Colwood Creek Estates neighbourhood south of the golf course when he got a call from a nearby resident asking him if he could rescue a young cat who had been up in a big tree for close to 36 hours, too fearful to descend.

“I didn’t have my climbing gear with me, but I had the crane,” said Hobbs. “Using a quarter-of-a-million-dollar piece of equipment to rescue a cat didn’t seem very [logical] for a cat removal, but I had a harness …

“I said to one of my guys: ‘You want to hang from the ball and get this cat?’

“He said: ‘Let’s do it.’ ”

Hobbs’ employee didn’t want to be named, or take any credit.

By the time he was hoisted up about 70 feet, the cat “just jumped into his lap … it only took about two and half minutes. The cat had been up there for so long, it was just happy to get off,” said Hobbs.

The whole rescue took about 30 minutes, including moving and setting up the crane.

Hobbs was so focused on the job, he hadn’t noticed a crowd had gathered and vehicles had pulled over to watch the rescue. “It turned out to be more entertainment than a distraction,” said Hobbs.

And his efforts drew applause and praise.

“When you go to this length to rescue a cat, you’re a really good person,” Lindsay Wilson said in a post to Facebook. “Kyle Hobbs, you’re a true hero.”

“You make it look so easy,' " one onlooker told Hobbs.

Hobbs said the owners were grateful for the rescue and held their young cat close.

Hobbs, a Colwood resident and 37-year-old father of a baby girl, owns Coastal Tree Works and Coastal Crane Works.

He often gets calls for cat rescues and initially did them for free.

“But the more calls I get — in the summer I get a call every three weeks — I’ve started charging a small fee, usually $150 to $200 because some [rescues] can take up to three hours.”

He said the cats will often scamper to the top of the tree, where the branches are thin and not strong enough to support his weight. So it takes patience.

“It’s kinda weird I find myself doing this because I’m the most allergic person in the world to cats.”

So why do cats get stuck in trees?

According to PETMD, a veterinarian website based in the U.S., cats climb trees to chase prey, escape danger or because they’re just curious about their surroundings.

It’s easy for cats to climb, as they’re equipped with claws. Getting down is a different story.

“A cat in a tree may have trouble co-ordinating their hind and front feet when they try to back down. It’s just not a movement cats normally do,” according to Susan Bulanda, a canine and feline ethologist who lives in Maryland.

“When cats climb trees, often times it’s just too high to jump down and that’s why they get stuck,” she said.

dkloster@timescolonist.com