EVERY morning at 4am, Jackie de Gaye wakes up, fills up her car with cat food and sets out on a drive to feed feral cats around Durban.
Her first stop is the King Edward VIII Hospital where a clowder of cats surround her as soon as she steps out of the car.
De Gaye makes over 10 stops a day in and around the Glenwood and Umbilo area where she has established feeding stations and rapports with the cat community.
“It’s a lifetime commitment, I can’t go on holidays, I can’t go away with my family. I can never ever go away, these animals would starve. I could never abandon them,” said De Gaye.
Berea Mail joined De Gaye on one of her morning feeding sessions where she visited five feeding stations.
At every station, the routine is the same. It seems quiet until De Gaye calls them out and they emerge from underneath cars or buildings to her side.
Ginger, a fat peach-stripped cat, has his own feeding station near the Coastal Technical College and eats only wet tuna.
“He thinks he’s special,” De Gaye jokingly mentions.
She said Ginger used to be a house pet and does not fit in very very well with the other feral cats.
It’s not only cats that De Gaye has cultivated a relationship with as the security guards and employees at the different firms she feeds in are familiar with her and her beat-up Toyota Yaris that’s emblazoned “Crazy cat lady” on the back.
De Gaye is a retired secretary who worked for over 26 years at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s science department.
In 2004 when the University of Natal merged with the University of Durban-Westville to form UKZN, De Gaye moved with the science department to the Westville campus.
“There was a cat at the university at gate 7 (now Howard College) and I used to feed and then it just grew and there’s just so many I am feeding now,” she said.
On top of feeding them, De Gaye also helps in sterilising the cats as a way of controlling the population.
At the beginning of the year she sets herself a goal of sterilising 100 cats and is now sitting on 80. All thanks to donations and a healthy discount at a local veterinarian, she said.
If you would like to assist, you can direct message Jackie Horsman de Gaye on Facebook or donate to the sterilisation process (money goes directly to vet) Montclair Animal Hospital. FNB 62293176121 Branch Mobeni 221026 Reference: 5601JackiesCats.
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