The Cat in the Tree: A Tale of One Phoenix Cop, His Neighbors and a Stubborn Kitty

Courtesy of the Sergeant Tommy Thompson,  public information officer for the Phoenix Police Department, we bring you this warm holiday tale.

Thompson did such a fine job writing this one up, we'll pass it along as is:


Last night and today a story has been running in the media concerning a Phoenix Police Officer and the rescue of a cat from a tree in his yard. There is some information that was not presented in the story.

Due to the lack of this information, the department has received negative phone calls and e-mails attacking the officer. The officer has even had derogatory things written on his sidewalk. In an effort to set the record straight, here is some information that was not presented.

On Tuesday, December 23rd, the owner of the cat contacted his neighbor, who is a Phoenix Police Officer, and told him he was staying with some friends and his cat was in the officer's tree. The officer said there was nothing he could do and believed the cat would come down on its own.

Later that night, the officer and his wife were wakened at about 11:30 p.m. to the sound of the cat owner in his yard calling, "Brutus, Brutus." The officer's wife spoke to the man and told him she was trying to sleep and needed to get up early in the morning. The man stopped calling until approximately 2:00 a.m. in the morning that same night, when the man starting calling again, "Brutus, Brutus." This time the family ignored the man.

On Christmas morning, the cat's owner came back to the officer's house and said he had called the Arizona Humane Society, but they wouldn't respond unless the owner of the property called them. The officer's wife called the Arizona Humane Society and asked them to respond. While doing so, the cat's owner called the Arizona Humane Society, because he didn't believe the wife was in fact calling them.

The Arizona Humane Society responded to the scene on Christmas day at approximately 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. to rescue the cat. The officer facilitated their attempt to rescue the cat. They did not have the resources to safely conduct the rescue of the cat. The Arizona Humane Society said the cat appeared healthy and they told the officer that the cat would come down on his own if they allowed it to do so.

The cat's owner was given the same instructions. He was told to place food and water out and the cat would come down on its own. I was told that if the cat owner had followed those instructions, the cat would have come down.

At approximately 4:30 or 5:00 p.m., still on Christmas day, the officer's wife saw a hose coming over the fence from the neighbor's house where the cat's owner lived. Someone was using the hose to squirt the cat with water, probably trying to get it down from the tree. Let me re-emphasize this was someone at the cat owner's house.

On Monday, December 29th, at about 1:15 p.m., the officer was in his house preparing to go to bed, because he was working the night shift later that night. His dog was barking at something in the backyard. He looked outside and saw a ladder leaned against his back wall and someone was climbing the ladder to his backyard. Not knowing what was happening, the officer dressed in his pajamas, a T-shirt and his socks, stepped outside of his house about two feet with his gun and badge to find out who or what was coming over his back wall.

He had no idea who the man was, because the man had not contacted the officer or his family. The officer told the man that he was there to rescue the cat. The officer told him to get down because if the man fell he would be liable.

There was a question raised about the officer's dog not allowing the cat to come down. The officer's dog is a poodle, which is a house dog. It stays in the house approximately 23 hours each day. This morning at about 9:00 a.m., Phoenix Police Officers from the Desert Horizon Precinct obtained a large ladder and with several officers securing the ladder, one climbed up the ladder and removed the cat from the tree. Brutus the cat appeared in excellent condition and was returned to its owner.

When I spoke to the Arizona Humane Society they advised that the officer was very patient and did everything he possibly could to facilitate the rescue of the cat throughout the course of this incident.

In addition, because of the large amount of attention this story has gained, which garnered complaints, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office sent investigators to look at the possibility of animal cruelty. I spoke with the supervisor, who went to the scene, and he told me that the officer had done absolutely nothing wrong and the cat was fine.

Hopefully, this information will help you understand what actually happened.

 -- Ray Stern

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.