MOSSEL BAY NEWS - A complaint about the feral cats in the harbour area was posted on the Mossel Bay Advertiser facebook page two weeks ago.
In his facebook comment, a Dan Carter referred to a woman who has been feeding cats from her bakkie in the harbour area for many years, saying this had a negative effect on restaurants on the waterfront.
Carter complained in his facebook post: "London Bus, Oyster Bar, Kaai 4 and the old yacht club are full of cats and kittens and the place stinks."
He said the "cats leave restaurant owners having to explain to their respective customers why the place stinks of urine.
"This is a serious health issue. [I] just watched how they ate customers' food from the service table. Totally unacceptable. Not to mention Cuff Street and the station."
Sometimes the woman's bakkie is seen in the parking area above the harbour, not within the Transnet National Ports Authority property, surrounded by cats as she feeds them.
This parking area is between the Bayside Mini Market and Coastal Plants, a nursery containing a coffee shop.
The woman's name is Gean MacLeod and she has an ongoing operation called Harbour Cats.
The Mossel Bay Advertiser called MacLeod a number of times, asking for comment for this article. She was in two minds as to whether to comment or not. After several reminders, she had not supplied comment at the time of going to press.
Last year a healthcare practitioner, who did not wish to be named, commented to the Mossel Bay Advertiser that he saw eight stray kittens in Cuff Street. He said there were strays all over town. Another member of the public said that if one drove through town at night, there were dozens of stray cats roaming the streets.
When the Mossel Bay Advertiser approached the operations manager for restaurants London Bus Company, the Mossel Bay Oyster Bar, Simply Asia and Sea Gypsy Queen, Geno Ricciardi, he had a milder stance about the cats than Dan Carter, who had complained on facebook. These restaurants are all owned by businessman Albert Wiffen.
Ricciardi said: "Right now it is not a problem, but it could be a problem potentially. I have not had a case reported of the cats interfering with customers."
Ricciardi expressed the view that the community and municipality should work together for a solution regarding the cats.
In response to the Advertiser, TNPA Corporate Affairs at the Port of Mossel Bay said management was "aware of the challenges and is in engagement with the relevant parties in this regard".
Municipal community services director, Elize Nel, said: "We know this is a health problem. Unfortunately we can't do anything about the cats which are at the harbour, on Transnet National Ports Authority private property, but where the cats roam on the parking area overlooking the harbour, at the Bayside Mini Market, we are working with the SPCA on catching the cats."
Nel noted that a specialist on the Garden Route had been enlisted to catch the cats. "Last year we caught 60 and this year, since April, 24 cats."
She said that because it required a level of expertise which could not be found easily, it was a lengthy process to catch the cats.
"We can only catch so many at a time. Often the process starts and 10 can be caught on a particular day and then the cats catch wind of what is happening and they disappear."
Nel also noted that the procedure was weather dependent. The "cat catcher" was currently working away from the Garden Route, in Hazyview, so the municipality had to wait for her to return to continue.
Well-known Mossel Bay vet Dr Frans de Graaff, of the Hartenbos Animal Hospital, jumped to the defence of MacLeod.
De Graaff works with both domestic and wild animals, taking care of stricken wild birds and marine animals brought to him. He noted that he was aware of certain bird species being eradicated by cats and said preserving wildlife was a concern.
De Graaff has been supporting the Harbour Cats project for more than a decade. He said the catch, neuter and release method which MacLeod used was proven worldwide to help in reducing the size of feral cat colonies. Euthanasia of feral cats was not the answer, he said. The neutered males in the colony kept other male cats away from the females.
De Graaff said he charged MacLeod a reduced rate for the neutering. "I have neutered hundreds of the feral cats over the years. I can't believe there has been a complaint about Gean. It is unfounded. There are few people who would do what she does and she often uses her own funds. There is not always money for what she does."
De Graaff said what truly was a problem was the fact that domestic cats and kittens were being dumped at the harbour by Mossel Bay residents. A source who did not wish to be named, who works in close proximity to the harbour, also told the Mossel Bay Advertiser domestic cats were being dumped near the harbour.
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