A tree surgeon has been praised after helping rescue a terrified cat who had spent four days stranded up to 40ft up a tree in Darlington.

The RSPCA thanked Austin Sharp, of the Norton-based Austin The Tree Surgeon Ltd, who volunteered his time to help Larry, after the moggy embarked on a risky adventure up a tree in Northgate, Darlington.

Larry's owners, Frances McKie-Jones, her husband and two sons Theo, six, and Samuel five, had spent three days trying to coax him out of the tree.

They called to Larry and offering him food and treats and got him to venture closer at one point and put up a cardboard tube for him to climb onto, but Larry was too afraid and ran back up the tree.

After torrential rain set in and Larry still refused to come down, the McKie-Jones family called in the RSPCA for help.

RSPCA animal rescue officers (ARO) Krissy Raine and Shane Lynn arrived on the scene on Sunday (July 23) after receiving the families worried phone call.

ARO Krissy said: “The poor McKie-Jones’ were so worried about Larry, they had done everything they were supposed to and tried tirelessly to coax Larry back down. Often cats will free themselves if you give them enough time, space and incentive to move, but Larry was refusing to budge.

“He’d got himself to quite a height and was terrified to come back down. Larry was crying away up there and the family had been offering him treats, leaving food for him, putting up ladders and calling to him. But nothing, not even torrential rain, would shift him from his perch.

The Northern Echo:

She added: “When Shane and I arrived, we called in the fire brigade to help us get Larry down, but he was in such an awkward position they couldn’t get to him.

"Sadly, despite our best efforts and hours of trying we still couldn’t get to Larry, so we had to return the next morning and called in local tree surgeon, Austin Sharp, to assist us with the rescue.”

Fortunately, Austin is experienced in helping animals in these situations and was able to help save the day.

The Northern Echo: Tree surgeon Austin Sharp and Larry Tree surgeon Austin Sharp and Larry (Image: RSPCA)

Krissy added: “Austin has helped us in the past and we are so grateful to him. He always drops everything and rushes to help us and that’s exactly what he did this time. Arriving within half an hour of our phone call, Austin was straight up the tree and rescuing Larry.

“It was a very tense rescue, every time Austin climbed to reach Larry, the cat climbed a little higher, and this went on for quite a bit! Then Larry walked out onto a very thin branch and we were all holding our breath, praying he didn’t fall…”

The Northern Echo:

Thankfully after a bit of a chase, Austin was able to get close enough to Larry to coax him to a distance he could pick him up from. Austin caught Larry and carried him down to safety, using specialist equipment and a transport bag usually reserved for seal rescues at sea.

“Little lads Theo and Samuel were so thrilled to have their cat back safely.” Krissy added.

The Northern Echo:

“Larry gave the boys a big cuddle before running inside and straight to his food bowl. He must have been starving and terrified the poor thing.

“Luckily Larry was uninjured, just a little frightened from his four-day ordeal. I’m so pleased we have such a happy ending to this story, it was wonderful to be able to reunite this lovely family with their beloved cat.”

The RSPCA encourages owners to try and give their cats enough time - usually 24 hours - to come down from trees on their own by trying to tempt them with smelly treats or by warming food a little to increase its odour.

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It’s quite often the case that they're not actually trapped, but scared or unsure and they often figure it out and end up making their own way down.

Every case is different though and it will depend on the age and health of the cat, whether it’s injured or physically caught in something and the weather conditions at the time. If rescue is attempted too early, cats will sometimes go higher or they may jump from tree to tree and put themselves at further risk of falling.

Anyone concerned about the welfare of an animal can visit the RSPCA website for advice on what to do.