Feral cat feeders rise with the birds, Newsline

Durban – Yellowwood Park residents Pauline Tribe and Rose Magic have spent the last 10 years getting up in the early hours every morning to feed feral cats on the beachfront.

Confirming they had not missed a morning in a decade, Pauline said this week that they were up by 2.30 every morning and, once ready, headed to their first feed in Shepstone Road, before another feed at Hoy Park and then on to the promenade, where they feed in nine spots. The total number of cats fluctuates, but is more than 70. The pair have to be done by 7.30am to get to work on time.

“Yes, we are there every morning without fail, we couldn’t let any of them down. When we get home in the evening, we tend to the cats in our care at home which are often sick or injured in some way. We have supper and the next two hours or so are spent preparing food and water for the next morning. We try to get to bed by 10pm,” said Pauline.

“It started because we both liked walking and would meet up to walk on the promenade, where we came across a group of four or five cats more than 10 years ago. They were crying, so I went to the local Spar and got them some biscuits. They ate and ate, so we carried on feeding them. You could say we were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she quipped.

Feral cat feeders rise with the birds, Newsline
Marley is on the cover of the new Petals ’n Paws calendar being launched to raise funds for feral cat organisations around Durban. Picture: Brendan Bromfield

They currently have 11 cats which they are caring for at home, with Pauline saying “three were thrown over our fence”.

One of Pauline’s cats, Biskit, is being featured in the new Petals ‘n Paws calendar, which is being launched by Compass Medical Waste as a community service initiative project to raise funds for feral cat organisations around the city.

The feral populations were particularly hard-hit by the hard initial lockdown, many colonies abandoned by the normal workforce who had to stay at home, and volunteers at feral cat organisations worked long hours to feed all the different colonies.

Pauline and Rose have worked with the St Francis Carers of Abused and Abandoned Feral Cats for the last six years, and founder Sherryl Bradfield described the pair’s dedication to the feral cats as “amazing”.

Biskit was first spotted about six years ago after being dumped in a parking lot. She was about seven months old and heavily pregnant.

The volunteers gradually got her to trust them and they were there to help when she gave birth to two kittens, Pretzel and Pasquale.

Then Biskit went missing about six months ago and Pauline said they were frantic. They searched up and down the beachfront, eventually finding her cowering in the dunes.

“She was very scared and skittish and we had to go there every day to feed her, so we decided to take her home with us. Being originally dumped in a car park, she had owners, so she’s not a true feral cat and she’s such a loving girl,” said Pauline.

Meanwhile the St Francis volunteers have called on cat lovers to support the calendar initiative, saying their funding has been hit hard by lockdown and that she and other volunteers often used part of their own salaries to feed the feral cats. Their organisation’s monthly bill to feed the cats exceeds R10 000 and a team of five volunteers (including Pauline and Rose) feed the cats, while another team of five are involved in feeding and trapping for sterilisation.

Another cat lover supporting the new calendar, Barbara Blom, rescued her cat, Dennis, from an alley off Davenport Lane in Durban.

“He was filthy and emaciated. He’s quite a hellcat and the feral comes out, but he’s very sweet and he loves to eat,” said Barbara.

Dennis joined her family, which includes two other cats and a rescue dog, Harry, who was found tied to a lamp pole with a plastic shopping bag around his neck in Berea Road 10 years ago.

“He was traumatised at that time, but now he has this aura of calmness,” she said this week.

The A3 wall calendar costs R150, and the funds will go to St Francis Carers of Abused and Abandoned Feral Cats, the Triumphant Animal Welfare Fund, Nine Lives Cat Sanctuary, Feral Cat Rescue, Hope for Rescued Kittens and Pawfect Nation.

To order a Petals ‘n Paws calendar, email [email protected]

The Independent on Saturday