Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cat rescue from Tampa tree takes a bit of a village — and Facebook

TAMPA — The cries started Tuesday in Southeast Seminole Heights. One man heard and told another. A kitten was stuck in a palm, 35 feet up.

Any first-grader would know what to do, just from watching TV. Call the fire department.

"I called the fire department," said Adam Rivera, 26. "And they said they don't do that."

Hiss. Pffwhat?

For two days, Rivera and his girlfriend's brother, Joshua Holtackers, turned everywhere they could to help a cat that wasn't even theirs.

"It's not a human life," Holtackers said, "but it's a life."

They called Tampa police. Hills­borough County Animal Services. Tree trimmers. One offered to help for $250. They called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Government agencies.

Rivera traded emails with the St. Francis Society, put an ad on Craigslist and a note on his Facebook page. The first suggestion to appear: "Fire department."

Not Tampa's.

"If they know how to go up there, they can get down," said Capt. Lonnie Benniefield.

It would take Holtackers, Rivera, Facebook, an uncle, a Buddhist, a grad student, a palm tree trimmer and assorted friends, but help was on its way.

• • •

Maybe it would be different if dalmatians climbed oaks, but fire departments are not of one accord on matters of treed cats.

There's an expression among firefighters. The wording varies, but the sentiment is this:

"Have you ever seen a dead cat in a tree?" asked Ray Yeakley, spokesman for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

"They get up there, yeah, they meow, but they eventually get down on their own."

Hillsborough, like Tampa, doesn't take cat calls. It's a different response across the bay.

"We do respond to cats in trees," said St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue Lt. Joel Granata.

The agency answers all calls for service, he said, unless they're from the wrong jurisdiction.

Firefighters put on gloves and try to grab a cat if possible, he said. If not, they'll hold a waist-high tarp below and shake the branch from above.

"It's safe," he said. "Super safe. We've never had an injured cat."

Pasco and Hernando county fire departments leave it up to the discretion of the crew to decide whether a rescue is safe.

Treed cats aren't usually an emergency, Hillsborough Animal Services spokeswoman Marti Ryan said. If left alone, they find a way down.

"Cats are amazing talented survival wizards," she said.

Animal Services tells people to keep dogs away and put food and water at the base of the tree.

Rivera tried that.

It didn't work.

• • •

Rivera, who works at the iHospital on Kennedy Boulevard fixing electronics, put up his Facebook posting Thursday morning.

"If anybody has a suggestion on how to get a cat down," he wrote, "help a brother out."

His uncle saw the note.

The uncle let others know.

One of the people he contacted was Frank Tedesco, a Buddhist spiritual leader and educator.

Tedesco called Joan Zacharias, 54. She's a University of South Florida graduate student who telecommutes to a media company job in New York. She's also an animal lover.

She learned about the young man in Southeast Seminole Heights who had done all he could to help a stranger's cat.

He had called tree trimmers.

But he had not called her tree trimmer.

"She said, 'I'll pay you whatever you want if you go get this cat out of a tree,' " said Javier Ochoa of Palms by MCI Tree Care.

Ochoa finished the job he was on and headed with his crew to the palm tree at 10th Street and E Osborne Avenue. They climbed a 32-foot-ladder and plucked the kitten from the palm fronds.

Late in the afternoon, the cat landed on solid ground.

Ochoa turned away the money.

"It was my good deed for the day," he said.

Rivera had just one more good deed ahead of him. The black cat, perhaps 5 months old, would be named Moonlander.

He snapped a photo and signed onto Facebook again.

He wrote this:

"Who would like a cat friend?"

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Patty Ryan can be reached at (813) 226-3382 or pryan@tampabay.com.

Cat rescue from Tampa tree takes a bit of a village — and Facebook 03/29/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 3:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bar review: Sample whiskey, vodka, rum, absinthe and more at Fish Hawk Spirits in Ybor

    Bars & Spirits

    While craft brewing has firmly entrenched itself in local drinking culture, craft distilling is still a very niche market. Part of this is due to outdated and arguably unfair distilling laws, and part of it is because successful distilling can often be a lot tougher and more time-consuming than brewing up a few batches …

    For $10, you can sample four of Fish Hawk Spirits’ fruit-infused vodkas, as well as its molasses-based rums, tangerine brandy and more. Old whiskey barrels lend a rustic vibe to the Ybor shop.
  2. Pinellas deputy in trouble for social media boast: 'Nothing like almost shooting someone'

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy is under investigation after a photo that shows him boasting about almost shooting someone made the rounds on social media.

    A Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy is under investigation after a photo that shows him boasting about almost shooting someone made the rounds on social media. Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Spencer Gross on Thursday confirmed deputy Austen Callus' employment and said the agency is "aware of the social media post." [Facebook'
  3. ReliaQuest's benevolent hackers try to make companies more secure

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Their goal is to get in. Past a security desk, through a firewall, into a system they shouldn't have access to. Sometimes they'll look like a regular person in the lobby who innocently forgot their access badge. Most times they won't be seen at all, remotely and quietly prodding a company's systems from a …

    Angelo Castellano of Tampa works at his desk at ReliaQuest | | [CHARLIE KAIJO, Times]
  4. Watch the trailer for 'Mini Lights,' based on St. Petersburg's frightening urban legend

    Blogs

    Perhaps you've heard of the "mini lights." The tales can vary a bit, but generally, they're said to be nasty little creatures controlled by a witch that once lived near Booker Creek. They come out after dark to "get you."

    A scene from the proof of concept trailer for a mini lights movie.
  5. Democratic ad: Adam Putnam is 'silent' on GOP health bill

    Blogs

    Democrats are trying to attach Adam Putnam to the GOP’s unpopular plans to replace Obamacare.