Fact Check

Catapulted Cat

A catapulted kitten tale.

Published Jul 20, 2012

Claim:   The attempted rescue of a kitten stuck in a tree goes horribly awry, and the little feline is catapulted out of sight.



[Collected on the Internet, 1997]

There is a small rural town, somewhat northeast to the city of Niagara Falls, NY. One evening, a resident of the town called the local volunteer fire department to request assistance in removing their cat from a tree. Since this was a "questionable" call, the fire control dispatcher called the fire chief at home to ask if he wanted to respond. The chief said sure, call out the department, since it was early evening and it shouldn't be a problem for the volunteers to respond.

The fire department responded with a rescue truck which had an extension ladder. The tree, however, was too tall and willowy to support the weight of the extension ladder. Rather than send men back to the fire hall to bring the aerial ladder truck, one of the firefighters suggested an alternate course of action. Two of the firefighters supported the ladder while a third climbed high enough to tie a rope around the tree at about half its height.

The other end of the rope was tied to a trailer hitch on a pickup truck, with the truck slowly driven forward, forcing the tree to bend over. One firefighter was poised to grab the cat as soon as it was within his reach.

The knot securing the rope to the trailer hitch slipped free.

The cat was last seen airborne heading south toward the city of Niagara Falls, and was never seen again.

[Levey, 1987]

A couple Carole knows found a darling kitten and decided to keep it. A few days later, the animal climbed to the top branch of a birch tree and refused to come down. After several hours of coaxing, with no results, the couple decided to toss a rope across the branch and pull it down to where the kitten was reachable.

Nice plan — except that when the cat was almost within reach, the rope broke suddenly, and the cat was catapulted out of sight.

Days of searching followed — all for naught. A week later, one of the former cat owners ran into a neighbor at the grocery store. The neighbor was stocking up on cat food.

"I didn't know you had a cat," said the former owner.

"You're not going to believe this," replied the neighbor, "but my husband and I were sitting in the back yard about a week ago, having a drink, when suddenly this kitten just dropped out of the sky and landed in Joe's lap."

[Collected via e-mail, July 2012]

Dwight Nelson recently told a true story about the pastor of his church. He had a kitten that climbed up a tree in his backyard and then was afraid to come down. The pastor coaxed, offered warm milk, etc.

The kitty would not come down. The tree was not sturdy enough to climb, so the pastor decided that if he tied a rope to his car and pulled it until the tree bent down, he could then reach up and get the kitten.

That's what he did, all the while checking his progress in the car. He then figured if he went just a little bit further, the tree would be bent sufficiently for him to reach the kitten. But as he moved the car a little further forward, the rope broke.

The tree went 'boing!' and the kitten instantly sailed through the air - out of sight.

The pastor felt terrible. He walked all over the neighborhood asking people if they'd seen a little kitten. No. Nobody had seen a stray kitten.

So he prayed, 'Lord, I just commit this kitten to your keeping,' and went on about his business.

A few days later he was at the grocery store, and met one of his church members. He happened to look into her shopping cart and was amazed to see cat food.

This woman was a cat hater and everyone knew it, so he asked her, 'Why are you buying cat food when you hate cats so much?' She replied, 'You won't believe this,' and then told him how her little girl had been begging her for a cat, but she kept refusing.

Then a few days before, the child had begged again, so the Mom finally told her little girl, 'Well, if God gives you a cat, I'll let you keep

She told the pastor, 'I watched my child go out in the yard, get on her knees, and ask God for a cat. And really, Pastor, you won't believe this, but I saw it with my own eyes. A kitten suddenly came flying out of the blue sky, with its paws outspread, and landed right in front of her.'

Lesson learned... Never underestimate the Power of God and His unique sense of humor.


Origins:   This legend has been part of the canon

Cartoon of the legend

of urban folklore since at least the mid-1980s.

The flying kitten tale relies on its audience's ability to visualize the catapulting of the moggy. Though clearly such an incident would be horrifying if it happened in real life, we can't help but laugh simply because of the way the story plays out in the mind's eye.

Was there ever a real instance of this legend coming true? Probably not, even though these tales do work their way into newspapers from time to time.

Barbara "having a wild fling" Mikkelson

Last updated:   20 July 2012


    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Curses! Broiled Again!

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.   ISBN 0-393-30711-5   (p. 162).

    Levey, Bob.   "A Former Washingtonian Tells Why."

    The Washington Post.   1 June 1987   (p. D7).

Also told in:

    Holt, David and Bill Mooney.   Spiders in the Hairdo.

    Little Rock: August House, 1999.   ISBN 0-87483-525-9   (pp. 28-29).

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.

    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 53).

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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