TV Talk

Hang in There: Recapping 'Treetop Cat Rescue'

The (sort of) Seattle-set reality show debuts with two episodes—and a cat impaled on a fence.

By Matthew Halverson June 1, 2015

Fence cat copy 2 v8zwum

What do I think about the show? Eh, I'm on the fence. No seriously, get me down.

Look at that cat. LOOKATIT. It’s stuck on a chain link fence, seemingly impaled on the barbs at the top of said fence, and it’s looking around like, “Where’s my food, dammit?” This is not natural, and it is proof that cats are evil.

And with that…this to your first recap of Treetop Cat Rescue, Animal Planet’s blandly—but accurately—titled new reality show that airs Saturdays at 9pm, which may seem like a horrible time slot until you remember that the main demographic is cat lovers, so… Anyway, welcome! This should be fun, in the same way that it’s fun to listen to two grown men talk to each other in only meows. Which is something that actually happened in the second episode. But more about that—and the fence-sitting cat—in a minute. 

Treetop Cat Rescue, in case you’re wondering why you’re reading this on Seattle Met, is about brothers-in-law Tom and Shaun, who live in Olympia and North Bend, respectively, and climb trees all over Puget Sound to save cats. Also, the producers reference Seattle every chance they get—the Space Needle features prominently in the artwork, and in this alternate-reality Spanaway is a “suburb of Seattle”—so just go with it.

Episode one was as dry as Meow Mix before the “moist, meatier” pieces were added—but mainly because it was saddled with a lot of table setting: For example, Tom prefers stocking caps while Shaun wears baseball hats, Thurston County Animal Services is their pseudo base of operations—call it the Cat Cave—and Shaun is a self-professed crazy cat person. “It’s not just a job, it’s something we need to do,” he says in the intro with the wide, bloodshot eyes of a man who’s clearly high on catnip. But as for the action, there’s very little. Two cats are saved (one in Spanaway and one Covington) without much drama but with lots of creepy kissing noises and coaxing intonations like, “Come back for some loves.” Yeah, let’s move on.

As if Animal Planet knew it was leading with a dud, the network gave us a bonus episode, in which we learn enough about Tom and Shaun to wonder if, by the end of the 10-episode arc, they’ll decide to give up the city life to live among a pack of feral cats. At one point, while describing the various sounds stranded cats will make—from meek, scared meows to hoarse, distressed meows—the brothers from another litter begin meowing at each other. And even though Tom looks embarrassed that he actually just did that on a show that hundreds of people will see and vows to never speak of it again, Shaun is visibly distraught that the conversation has to end. He was just about to talk about the new feather wand toy that his owner bought for him!

After Shaun completes a solo night rescue in Eatonville in which children who have gathered to watch call him weird, we move on Bonney Lake and—depending on how you feel about cats—the most amazing or horrifying result to an attempted cat rescue imaginable.

Shaun and Tom arrive at the home of Sandra, who is quite distraught. Although the cat isn’t hers—she’s pretty sure it’s a stray—Sandra is a lover of all things and therefore terrified that some harm could befall this animal that chose to scale a 65-foot tall tree most likely to better watch her and plot her death. With Tom on the ground to keep Sandra and her husband calm, Shaun begins his ascent. But as he approaches, the cat—a Siamese with a face that resembles a black pit of despair—decides it wants nothing to do with this human, no matter how well he can speak cat, and climbs higher.

Now, it’s at this moment that Shaun informs us via an interstitial confessional that one in 20 cats will jump—as in from the tree. Foreshadowing! But we find that Tom and Shaun are prepared for this kind of thing, because the camera pans down to the ground where Tom, Sandra, and her husband are holding the corners of a sheet, in which they hope to catch the flying cat, should it decide to take off. (I couldn’t quite tell if the sheet was a twin or a full, but either way let’s just take a minute to let it sink in that their fallback plan for saving an actual cat was to use a method Christopher Robin cooked up for getting a terrified Roo and Tigger out of a tree.)

It’s clear that Shaun isn’t going to get close enough to grab the cat, so he pulls out a net, tries to snare the climber without falling from his own precarious perch, and—looking strangely like a bass refusing to be pulled into a boat—the Siamese jumps. From at least 65 feet up. And when next we see the cat, there it is, stretched out on top of a chain-link fence. It remains motionless—possibly dead, possibly telepathically sucking the life force from all animals within a five-mile radius in order to resurrect itself—until, that is, Tom gets close. At which point it begins thrashing wildly, because apparently it wants to stay there? It’s a cat, so who the hell knows.

What happens next—the cat, which is feral, actually ends up getting adopted by someone in Kirkland—is really beside the point, because I just saw an animal fall 70 feet and land on the top of a fence without dying or suffering any quantifiable harm. Well played, Treetop Cat Rescue producers. I will watch your show again. (I mean, I have to, since I agreed to write these recaps, but I’d probably watch it even if I didn’t have to.) And I will pray that before this season is over, Shaun is climbing trees in a full cat costume.

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