A rousing end to Rio’s two-week tree adventure


Marita, Jessica and Elizabeth were reunited with Rio, the tuxedo cat who had been trapped in a palm tree for the past two weeks.
Photo: Delivered

A Whanganui moggy has used up one of his nine lives and has been given a new nickname after being rescued from a Phoenix palm in Gonville, where he was trapped for over two weeks.

The chipped cat Rio was plucked from the tree this morning and reunited with its owners after a rescue mission that has attracted the entire community.

No one knows exactly how Rio got stuck in the tree, but Animal Rescue New Zealand’s Jodie Hawira – who helped free the cat – has a theory.

“Now that we know it’s definitely not feral – because a cat that’s feral would usually try to go up there and eat the chicks of the birds there – but now that we know it’s a domestic and family cat, think that a dog may have chased it.”

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Phoenix palms have annoying barbs on their leaves, which makes the descent from Rio a challenge.

Those barbs, which are poisonous, meant Fire and Emergency and the SPCA couldn’t help taking her down.

Instead, an arborist, two cherry pickers, a drone operator and enthusiastic locals tried to lure the cat down.

Jodie said that eventually a neighbor, Eddie, finally cracked it.

“He set up this cage” [with fresh meat and clean water] on some planks and then he went back into the MEWP and nailed it in there and also fastened it with cables so it was really secure.

“And then last night at about eight I took them down a torch so they could really see if the cat was there and when I got there I could see the cat was in the cage and I was just so happy.”

She said it appeared that Rio, who had been nicknamed Phoenix in the meantime, was unharmed from the ordeal.

“It’s very healthy, especially after being in the tree for two weeks, but yes, it’s in good health, definitely want to cuddle.”

Trieste Neilson runs the specialist cat rescue organization CHARM.

She reunited Rio with her owner Brad Larsen.

“I called him and asked him if he missed a cat named Rio and he said ‘yes we are’ and I said I have Rio here and I told him she’s actually very famous.”

Brad, who was recovering from surgery, was surprised to learn that Rio had become a celebrity in the area.

“We lost track of her three weeks ago when we got a new puppy shortly after we got a new puppy and she wasn’t too happy about that so I think she went out for a while and then got herself stuck in a tree, alone around the corner really.

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“And because we hadn’t been on Facebook or reading the paper for the past few weeks, we were totally oblivious to all the drama going on with our cat.”

He said the family was overjoyed to have three-year-old moggy back home.

“We have a few children, including three young daughters who absolutely love Rio and are so upset at the thought that she was gone and might not come back.

“So there’s a bit of a reunion at home now and we’re overjoyed.”

Brad said a family conference was planned to consider adding Phoenix to the Rio name in some way.


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