As Michelle Laughlin went out to feed her rabbits on Tuesday night, she could hear pained meows calling out to anyone who would listen.
Looking up toward the sound, she could see a small feline perched atop a utility pole with “high voltage” signs surrounding the furry creature.
While seeing strays around her rural home along Griffith Avenue in Linda is nothing new for Laughlin, seeing a cat in this dangerous situation was out of the ordinary for her.
“We have all kinds of stray cats around here,” said Laughlin. “I don’t know if this is a stray or belongs to someone.”
While cats are typically known to get stuck in a tree from time to time, when it comes to utility poles it can be a little tricky.
After listening to the cries of the kitty that night, Laughlin reached out to everyone and anyone she could think of to get the cat down.
“I called the fire department (Linda Fire Protection District) and they said, ‘We don’t do that. We don’t have the equipment to deal with that,’” said Laughlin.
She was told that there were safety issues involved with regards to the power line that the fire department wasn’t able to deal with.
She said her main worry was that the cat was near the electrical lines and could be seriously hurt or killed if something bad were to happen. The fire department informed Laughlin that the cat would just come down on its own -- which can and does happen.
Still, the situation was worrisome.
After contacting the Linda Fire Protection District, Laughlin then reached out to the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department to see what they could do and they referred her to animal control after also saying the cat would eventually come down.
After getting no solutions on Tuesday night from anyone, Laughlin again tried to contact the fire department on Wednesday morning and the same message was relayed that safety concerns would limit any attempt to rescue the cat.
Kyle Heggstrom, fire chief for the Linda Fire Protection District, said the department will typically do everything in its power to get an animal down in a situation such as this. But, because of where it was, firefighter safety would be a concern.
“The Linda Fire Protection District was made aware of the cat on a power pole,” Heggstrom said later via email. “The citizen advising us of the situation had stated it was up by the power lines. This limited our ability to retrieve the animal. We do have a policy in regards to live power lines and ladders. ... The Linda Fire Protection District prides ourselves on customer service. We do remove animals from all kinds of unique situations. Power lines are the major player in this specific event.”
After speaking with Heggstrom on the phone, he said he would go out to assess the situation himself.
Leslie Williams, with the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department, said that while Yuba County Animal Control Services couldn’t actually help bring the cat down, they would be able to take it to a shelter or for medical treatment if necessary when the cat was eventually on the ground.
Laughlin was told by Animal Control Services that they simply didn’t have the equipment to handle the situation properly. They suggested calling a tree trimming service to come help, but that would potentially mean money out of Laughlin’s pockets to do so.
Because a utility pole was involved, Laughlin then thought to contact Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to come out and possibly help.
She was told by a neighbor that the most the company would probably do is poke at the cat with a pole to get it down. This concerned Laughlin because of how high up the cat was and the ability of the cat to land safely.
After feeling like there was no hope, help finally arrived.
Shortly after noon on Wednesday, representatives from PG&E and the Linda Fire Protection District came to the rescue and were able to help remove the cat from its precarious perch.
Laughlin said it took about 5-10 minutes for the cat to come down once help arrived. In order for PG&E to help remove the cat, power to the line had to be turned off.
Laughlin was told that if the power line had not been shut off, that the cat most likely would have been electrocuted as it clung to a line as a PG&E representative tried to push the cat off.
Because the cat was so high up and the only solution was to move the cat, not actually grab it, her husband, Ricky Laughlin, and cousin, Jaimi McCartey, along with a member of the Linda Fire Protection District held a tarp underneath to try and catch the falling feline.
The cat, however, after much resistance, eventually avoided the tarp on the way down and instead landed on its side, said Michelle Laughlin.
After getting up, the cat promptly took off and vacated the area.
“I tried to track it down in the bushes but it was gone, it just darted,” said Laughlin.
She later thanked PG&E and the Linda Fire Protection District for their efforts in rescuing the cat.
“I want to thank PG&E and the fire department .. I feel they worked really well together once they were out there,” Laughlin said. “PG&E responded pretty quickly. I do want to thank them for coming.”