August Namibian; FERAL cats have invaded the Windhoek Central Hospital, forcing the management to keep bags containing amputated body parts in cages. FERAL cats have invaded the Windhoek Central Hospital, forcing the management to keep bags containing amputated body parts in cages.
The health ministry has had to capture some of the cats that are even very hostile to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
Acting senior administrative officer in the domestic services department at the hospital, Elton Eiseb, confirmed the presence of feral cats, also referred to as ‘red bag’ cats that live on the hospital grounds, particularly in underground water drainage systems.
The ‘redbag’ cats are more daring than domesticated cats, which come from the nurses’ homes and doctors’ quarters. The name ‘red bag’ comes from the fact that these strays target bags used to dispose amputated human body parts.
The cats are drawn to the hospital by the taste of amputated human flesh that is kept in plastic bags before incineration. “We have since found other ways to dispose of these bags, and there is no way these cats can get near the bags,” Eiseb said, explaining that the bags are now kept in cages beyond the reach of the cats. He said they have, luckily, not experienced any attacks on people by these cats.
He said it is not possible to completely remove all the feral cats from the hospitals, but their aim is to reduce their number.
“It is true there are stray cats on hospital grounds, and the institution has made arrangements with the SPCA to have them safely removed,” acting health spokesperson Manga Libita said.
Apart from being a nuisance, Eiseb said the cats present a health hazard because they are not vaccinated. “The cats we refer to as ‘red bags’ are not easy to catch as they only come out at night to look for food,” he added.
While state hospitals at Keetmanshoop and Lüderitz say they are not experiencing any problems with cats, the Oshakati Intermediate Hospital and the Onandjoke hospital claim to be experiencing a similar problem.
It could, however, not be established whether these are also ‘red bags’, or ordinary stray domesticated cats. Three patients at the Windhoek Central Hospital, who did not want to be identified for fear of victimisation, said they had seen the cats running around, and feel that they do not belong there since they may carry diseases.
“These cats are all over the place. This is unhygienic. This is not a veterinary centre, but a hospital for human beings,” one patient charged, adding that they are disturbed by the growing population of the stray cats.
Sylvia Breitenstein of the SPCA said although cat diseases do not really affect human beings, the hospital may face a problem should any of the stray cats be infected with rabies. She said the cats will be attracted to flesh because they are predators and will eat anything that is meaty to survive, especially because they do not have owners who can feed them.
Breitenstein concurred that getting rid of the cats fully may not be possible, hence the plan to sterilise them so that they can stop breeding.
She said the cats are creating a sort of community and keeping other feral cats out, and this helps to prevent an increase in the population on the hospital premises.