A calico cat is safe after a hair-raising rescue way, way up in the Upper Beach.
Startled by a racoon, the young cat scampered about 20 metres up a maple tree on Glenmount Park Road.
It stayed there, mewling, for two days.
Homeowner Gail Starasts says even a Toronto Animal Services worker was surprised to see it.
“He had never seen a cat that high,” she said.
Growing on a ravine slope, the Norway maple towers at least six storeys above Starasts’ backyard.
Animal Services told her it was best to wait for the cat to get hungry and climb down on its own. Plan B was to call a tree-service company.
Plan C, the one that worked, called for her son, Yuri Fraser.
Even as an adult, Yuri says he’s never really stopped climbing trees — the last time to rescue a Frisbee in nearby Cassels Park.
Yuri also used to work with a mason, who taught him the safest way to climb ladders and rooftops as they fixed windows, walls and chimneys.
So climbing was likely in the back of his mind after his mom found the stranded cat’s family using Facebook, and invited them to come have a look.
That’s when they found out the cat’s name, Familia. She belonged to their neighbour Kari Svenneby, and was much missed by Svenneby’s five- and 11-year-old daughters.
As it turned out, Yuri had baked a cake the night before.
So to cheer everyone up, he invited the Svennebys to have some at their backyard picnic table, where at least they could see their cat.
“Kari said let’s go home and eat some dinner first, and the girls came right back,” said Starasts.
Over cake, milk, and a game of Connect Four, they agreed to call Animal Services first thing in the morning.
When that didn’t work, Yuri decided to change course — he got a 40-foot ladder and a backpack.
They had been warned that treed cats usually back away from a rescue, but Svenneby’s daughters were convinced Familia would welcome it.
“I thought, let’s just do a scouting mission,” said Yuri.
The ladder was just high enough to get Yuri above the bare trunk of the maple tree, and into some climbable branches.
After clambering up to Familia’s branch, Yuri sat on it, took off the backpack and propped it, partly open, in a crook of the tree.
His mom watched quietly from below.
“I stood at the bottom, not saying a word,” she said. “He was speaking calmly to Familia, trying to get her to come over — at one point, I saw her hanging by one paw.”
Luckily, Familia scrambled back up onto the branch. Curious, she approached Yuri and nosed her head into the open backpack.
It was at that moment Yuri had to squeeze the branch tight between his legs and use both hands to scoop the cat inside.
The backpack meowed a bit on the climb down, but Yuri said Familia didn’t put up too much fuss.
“She was fairly calm,” he said. “You could tell she was just happy to have anybody there.”
Back on the ground, the Svennebys were thrilled. And Gail Starasts was proud to see her son save the day.
“All his practice climbing trees as a kid really paid off,” she said.