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FELINE’S STAY IN CATBIRD SEAT ENDS, BUT MEMORY LINGERS ON

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Climber the Cat is gone but not forgotten after spending 17 days perched in a white pine before escaping the grasp of a would-be rescuer, tumbling about 65 feet to the ground and running away.

"Eric said, `Mommy, you promised we could keep the kitty,' " said Mindy Kates, the homeowner who played reluctant hostess to Climber since she has never been crazy about cats.Her children, Eric, 6, and Alycia, 3, felt differently about the tabby, and hoped to adopt him.

"By the end of the summer, I'm sure they are going to have one. I just have to psyche myself up about cats."

Climber's sit-in drew the attention of a Lowell cable television station. But when the crew hoisted a bucket truck to Climber's perch, about 25 feet off the ground, he climbed higher.

A tree service raised another bucket on Thursday to the cat's new location, about 65 feet up. Climber dug his claws into the tree when a worker made a grab, then plummeted, his fall broken by branches and the truck.

Although the identity of the cat's real owner remained a mystery, Kates said she was visited by a neighbor who said his cat had been missing for nearly three weeks.

"He said it wasn't friendly and it would never be good with kids," said Kates. "The man said, `By the way, his name is Duffy.' I said, `Well, to my kids, he'll always be Climber.' "