Friends help Familia from tree

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.

Yuri Fraser leans on the towering Norway maple where Familia, a one-year-old cat from down the street, was stuck for two days before he climbed up the tree and scooped her up in a backpack. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Yuri Fraser leans on the towering Norway maple where Familia, a one-year-old cat from down the street, was stuck for two days before he climbed up the tree and scooped her up in a backpack.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

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.

Familia relaxes at home after her two-day saga in a maple tree.  PHOTO: Facebook
Familia relaxes at home after her two-day saga in a maple tree.
PHOTO: Facebook

“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.


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2 comments

With all the horrible and tragic news, it’s refreshing to read a heart warming story.
I happen to know Gail Starasts (best darned seamstress/alterations person ever!)

The first time I met her son Yuri, I realized this young man was a very soulful and sweet person, and ever since, discovered his many other skills and talents to which I can add ‘climbs tall trees to rescue cats harassed by racoons’. Yeah Yuri!!

God Bless the Beach community and all it’s lovely caring residents. Inside us all, is a hero or a heroine just waiting for the chance to help another.

Enjoy the rebirth of mother earth!
Cheers!
Joey Schooley
🙂

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