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Little old ladies love cats. Cats like climbing trees. Cats don't really like climbing off those trees. Now that's some serious emergency situation.
Other times it is used to illustrate that the story takes place in such a peaceful lovely town where this kind of thing is the biggest emergency anyone can think of. In this latter case usually firemen come to help the old lady.
This is Truth in Television, if not as common as media would have you think. By the by, if your cat does go up a tree (or on a roof), call a tree service or your local animal control department/shelter/what have you. The fire department has better things to do. Like, you know, putting out fires. If you do call these agencies, they'll tell you to leave it--it got up there, it will find its way down when it gets hungry.
Anime & Manga
- Nyan Koi. Junpei and Kaede's first meeting involves her trying to rescue a cat from a tree and using Junpei as a landing pad.
- Chi's New Address. Yohei's friend Ryu gets Chi down from a tree, and gets over his fear of cats as a result.
- The first episode of Strike Witches has Yoshika try to rescue one of her friend's cats from a tree.
- Invoked in the chapter name of Hinagiku's first appearance in Hayate the Combat Butler, though that time she's returning a baby bird to it's nest, she later does rescue cats from trees. Rescue in this case is a matter of opinion though, since she's afraid of heights, so she becomes stuck in the tree as well. But at least she has the ability to summon someone who will help her escape (with the cat), as opposed to the cat being alone stuck up in the tree.
- The first Astro City story has Samaritan rescuing a cat from a tree on his way to another emergency, and castigating himself because the thirty seconds he spent comforting the kid almost cost someone's life.
- Garfield occasionally gets stuck up a tree. In one episode of Garfield and Friends, after a while of nobody rescuing him, he lures Nermal up there by telling him humans think it's cute. His plan was to be rescued as an afterthought, if nothing else. The firefighters, news vans, and crowd of people soon gather around... and proceed to ignore Garfield, rescuing only Nermal and dispersing with scarcely a trace. Jon himself later rescues Garfield... but makes the mistake of gushing over Nermal's cuteness, prompting Garfield to climb down the ladder himself and leave Jon stuck in the tree.
- One version of the Legion of Substitute Heroes' origin has them attempting to find heroic tasks suitable to their power level. One discovers that he's too late to rescue a hypercat from the spacetree, as Brainiac Five has already done it. ("He lives next door.")
- It's been something of a Running Gag for years to show Superman rescuing cats from trees, showing that the most powerful man on Earth is still a nice enough guy to take the time to do it.
- In Pleasantville the only thing the firemen do at first is rescuing cats from trees. They are initially helpless when facing a real fire.
- In The Incredibles in the Batman Cold Open, Mr. Incredible gets the cat off the tree and stops a pack of criminals at the same time.
- Superman rescues a little girl's cat from a tree during his first movie.
- In Suburban Commando, Shep helps get a little girl's cat down from a tree by bending the tree branch downwards...then she says it's not her cat. He releases the branch, launching the cat into the air.
- Done a second time later on with the same girl, this time it was supposedly her cat, the cat jumps off and the girl gets thrown (only to be caught by Shep, who didn't want to see the girl get hurt)
- In one of the Police Academy movies, an old woman asks Tackleberry to get her cat out of a tree. Tackleberry obliges by shooting the cat out of the tree.
- In Doctor Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts, Maya Dolittle, who can talk to animals, rescues an old lady's cat, but the cat refuses to leave the tree as long as the old lady stops giving him baths.
- Fuck you, Mr. Bitey!
- Roxanne has an example of the second type, except the firemen-in-training are incapable of even doing this. C. D. comes along and gets the cat down with a can of tuna.
- In the Inspector Gadget movie, Chief Quimbly refuses to take his new cyborg inspector seriously and assigns him to easy good-publicity missions, including rescuing a cat from a tree using his telescoping arms.
- The climax of Winnie The Pooh and Tigger Too involves Tigger bouncing up to the top of a tree and being unable to get down, and as a result the Narrator steps in to get him down by literally tilting the book so he slides down the page he is on!
- After leaving the OSS, Juni takes on neighborhood jobs for pay, including saving cats in trees. (A bit of trivia: the cat Juni rescues in that scene is his actor Daryl Sabara's own cat!)
- In the children's book The Fire Cat, the title character is rescued from a tree by firemen at the beginning of the book, is taken in by the firemen, and eventually helps to rescue other cats from trees.
- The magical pest exterminator Love Interest's first appearance in Tom Holt's The Better Mousetrap has her being employed to rescue a cat from a tree. When she breaks her neck, The Hero (who is employed to save her life to prevent an insurance company from paying out) ends up playing a brief game of Xanatos Speed Chess with a magical device known as a Better Mousetrap, which keeps finding new ways to get her killed. If memory serves, The Hero solves his problem with a chainsaw.
- In episode 1 of the UK version of Who Wants to Be a Superhero, in the final round auditions before Sam and Mark chose the 13 who would enter the lair, the kids were given a task of building a contraption to get an old lady's cat down from the tree. Safely.
- The Andy Milonakis Show puts an interesting twist in the "cat up a tree" scenerio: instead of a cat, it's John Stamos that's stuck in a tree.
- Used as a dating ploy by Hilda on Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: she convinces Salem to plant himself in a tree in order to get a date with a firefighter.
- A cat is stuck in a tree is part of the trading sequence in one of The Legend of Zelda Oracle Games.
- Neverwinter Nights 2.
Daerred: I found an old lady and rescued a cat. We each got an apple.
Shandra: Well, if it had been the Captain doing it, the cat would be lost, the tree burned down, and the old lady would be traveling with us now.
- Flash game African Detroit Cop: the list of crimes committed by Eddie.
Arnie: "You've crashed two police cruisers, set someone's house on fire...shot a cat out of a tree...and that's just today."
- Stuntman: Ignition. In the trailer for the film Aftershock, the first scene features firemen trying to get a little girl's cat out of a tree.
- The first dispatch mission you can send recruits on in My Sims Agents involves a cat up a tree.
- In The Sims, if you had the Superstar and Unleashed expansion packs, you could read a story in the tabloid paper saying a movie star had gotten a cat down.
- Sim City 3000 had a news ticker headline: "Tree stuck in cat. Firefighters baffled"
- In Mitsumete Knight, this situation can happen during a date at the Tree-Lined Path. Most of the girls will get a favourable impression if you volunteer to get the cat down.
- In Okage: Shadow King, Stan decides to get a start on terrifying the townsfolk of Tenel into submission by a display of his awesome power by rescuing a trapped kitty.
- Hero Smash allows you to both rescue cats from trees (if you're a hero) or chase them up trees (if you're a villain).
- A quick way to gain some points in Nightshade is to coax "Tibbles" off of a telephone pole and return him to an old lady.
- The single most demanded player request in the beta test of Champions Online was a chance to rescue a kitten stuck in a tree. You can rescue a lost kitten in the tutorial mission, although its not stuck in a tree.
- Subverted in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal #716.
- And in this Perry Bible Fellowship.
- Appears in this Buttersafe strip.
- Hark a Vagrant shows us how Wonder Woman deals with this!
- Shows up in Rescuing Dara. But it's not a cat, it's a Teddiursa.
- The Werewolf of London, Ontario exhibits the dangers of saving cats from trees in this strip from Spinnerette.
- During the World Split arc of Ink City, Tigger is chased up his tree-home by a bunch of Audlings. Ichigo attempts to save him by ramming the tree with her katamari to shake them loose, much to Tigger's dismay. Ultimately, he's forced to make a Leap of Faith to escape, with Ichigo clearing a landing strip for him.
- Mocked mercilessly in the Whateley Universe when Generator proposes using Person of Mass Destruction Tennyo as 'Radioactive Condor Girl', claimng that if Radioactive Condor Girl tried to save a cat in a tree, the cat would get irradiated to a cinder.
- Rescuing cats from trees is discussed as a thought exercise in explaining how video games usually present moral choices in Zero Punctuation.
- The Dad bear does this in Berenstain Bears while campaigning for mayor.
- Parodied by Futurama in Less Than Hero. Leela becomes a superheroine and comes to the aid of a distressed alien whose cat is stuck in a tree. After she gets the cat down safely, its owner promptly eats it.
- Rita, from the Rita and Runt segments of Animaniacs once got herself stuck in a tree.
- Kim Possible: After a Lock and Load Montage of Kim donning her supersuit, played up as if she were preparing to take down Drakken once and for all, Wade tells her the mission is a cat stuck up a tree. This hardly seems like "a supersuit job", until it turns out to be a puma.
- The Powerpuff Girls rescue a cat from a tree. It's Running Gag because it's the same little old lady with the same cat every time. There's also the occasion where the cat was the episode's Big Bad. He ended up in a tree, stuck, but nobody came to help him because he was a Bad Kitty.
- Batman the Brave And The Bold has Blue Beetle doing the 'rescuing the cat from the tree' bit.
- In Fairly Oddparents Cosmo turns himself into a cat and gets into a tree on purpose to make Tommy (Timmy's older brother who only exists because of a wish) rescue him.
- In Arthur, Buster Baxter becomes a local hero by rescuing a cat. Actually, it was attracted to his fish-flavored ice cream, and thus wasn't saved at all, which Arthur and co. brutally exploit when they set up a chance encounter with a robotic kitten just so Buster will fail.
- They did this because he became a total egotistical jerk once the incident was popularized and he was lauded as a hero.
- Sent up in Ruby Gloom when Scaredy Bat has to try to rescue Doom Kitty from a tree. Scaredy is so terrified of heights (among other things...) that Doom ends up rescuing him.
- In Superman: Doomsday, Supes rescues an old lady's kitten, only to tell her (rather forcefully) that if a real emergency arose, he couldn't deal with it because he was saving her kitty. Actually, it was Supes's clone.
- In the Family Guy episode "Brian Goes Back to College", Peter and the gang as The A-Team rescues a family's cat from a tree by shooting out the trunk of the tree until the whole tree collapses. The cat flees in terror, and the family is not amused.
- Darkwing Duck was a victim of the "whirlwind of claws" variety of cat rescue.
- Spoofed in a Justice Friends short on Dexter's Laboratory. The Infraggible Krunk is seen trying to get a little girl's cat out of a tree... by throwing things at it.
- In Recess, Spinelli was accused of throwing a rock in a dirt-clod fight. She maintains her innocence the whole time, finally admitting she couldn't have...because she was rescuing a kitten from a tree. When nobody believes her, she reveals that it happened to be Ms. Finster's kitten. After she gives the specifics, everyone realizes she's telling the truth.
- Parodied in an episode of The Simpsons, in which a fireman puts cats up a tree due to a disease that is thought to be transmitted by them.
- Invoked by Rainbow Dash in an episode of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, with Rarity's cat, Opal, in order to get the then-despairing Rarity out of her house.
- The MGM short Officer Pooch has a Dogface policeman continuously saving a kitten who keeps getting itself chased up a tree by a dog.
- In Tex Avery's Three Little Pups, the wolf/dogcatcher puts on a cat hand puppet to lure out Droopy, who sets out a wind-up toy mouse - the cat puppet abruptly chases it wildly, runs into a bulldog, hisses in fear, and streaks up a telephone pole, dragging the wolf behind it all the while.
- Teen Titans The Titans East have arrived in the city and are making themselves notable by rescuing people, foiling bank heists, and preventing a train from careening over a cliff. All except for Speedy. While his teammates use their powers to rescue people in dangerous situations, he saves a cat stuck in a tree. Stupid kid couldn't even get his name right afterwards!
- Parodied on Phineas and Ferb, in the episode "The Beak".
Buford: Help! My nerd is stuck in a tree!
- In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible is asked to rescue a cat just as he is supposed to intercept a fleeing robber. He picks up the tree and shakes the cat out, then slams the tree in front of the robber's car.
- If you put this into the Large Trope Collider along with Rage Against the Author, the folk song "Railroad Bill and the Kitten" pops out.
- There are some comical posters with images of cats hanging from a tree branch and messages that read "Hang in there, baby."
- Parodied in the Street With a View project: see here.
- Rescuing cats from trees (or tops of telephone poles, chimneys, etc) is pretty standard fare on Animal Planet's various animal-rescue reality shows. Acknowledged as a genuine life-and-death emergency rather than a gag, particularly when power lines are in close proximity.
- One of these involved the cat being stuck up a extremely tall palm tree and requiring a trained tree surgeon to climb the tree with his equipment and grab the cat.
- There was at least one case in Romania when a stray cat somehow got into a distribution transformer - the firemen laughed when called, but the electrical company sent immediately people to release the poor animal, since they knew exactly what damage to expect if the transformer got shorted out.
- In another case, a stray cat got into a distribution transformer (not as "climbed a pole", but more like "stepped down into it" the transformer being in a basement) and the transformer shorted out and blew up, taking the animal with it.
- Fire departments have been known to refer to non-emergency calls as C.I.T. (for "Cat In Tree") reports.
- A reverse case, which doubles as a Crowning Moment of Awesome for the cat .
- In Rescue 911 one fireman mentioned that he always told people "How often have you seen a cat skeleton up a tree?" when asked to do this. As it turned out the cat in question had its head caught in a hollow branch.
- The Zoo Neuwied once had a cheetah stuck in a tree. For cats they are not terribly good climbers. Rescue involved hay bales as emergency cushion if it fell, a hydraulic platform from tree services, and sedative. The lower branches of all trees in the cheetah enclosure were removed to avoid repeats.
- There have been a number of cases where the cat got stuck up the tree/on the telephone/wherever, and then decided to take a leap from the top of the object. Numerous times it's just as someone's coming up for the rescue. Luckily, there are only rarely injuries, since cats have a natural ability to survive falls up to a certain point. (a few stories...any higher and they will get hurt.)