Home PEOPLE The CATS of Ballito...

The CATS of Ballito…

Renowned English writer Charles Dickens said, “What greater gift, than the love of a cat.” Ballito’s own ‘cat lady’ Sharon Cossey, agrees. Having dedicated more than 30 years of her life to caring for feral felines, she tells us a little about the cats of Ballito.

The feral cats that live in the parking lots of our shopping centres and in the bushes along the Ballito promenade, are part of the history of ‘old Ballito’ and they deserve to be protected.
It’s this belief that has driven the founder of Ballito’s Feline Feral Fund (FFF), Sharon, to dedicate so much of her time and energy to caring for, feeding and sterilising feral cats on the North Coast.

Having trapped and sterilised literally thousands of cats in this area over the past 20 years, Sharon and her team still feed more than 300 cats every single night.
Although she has now stepped away from the non-profit organisation due to health and personal reasons, she is still passionate about the ferals, some of which are between 15 and 19 years old.

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“When I first moved here from Hillcrest, I loved how quiet Ballito was. The area has grown though and our feral cats have gone through some really rough times owing to the development here.”

Sharon Cossey has dedicated 30 years to the cats of Ballito

The first and most important job of the FFF, she says, is to sterilise as many cats as possible. “This has always been our main focus to stop the ongoing breeding. Then, we feed the feral cats so that they don’t become a nuisance and we try and educate people about them.”

Sharon says one female cat can have up to three litters (of about five kittens per litter) every year. Her goal has always been to reduce the breeding, and the FFF does this through the TNR (trap, neuter and release) system used worldwide. “We’ve been incredibly blessed to have the support of Aloe Vet owner Jeremy Lamb from the very beginning. I don’t know how we would have managed without his help,” she says.

Clearly passionate about her beloved feral felines, Sharon tears up when she remembers some of her ‘babies’, especially the ones she has seen grown into mature cats and the ones that have been killed or injured.

“I think it’s really important that people understand our role and the role of these feral cats in our communities. We aren’t encouraging more ferals by feeding them. We are simply looking after the ones that are here (so they don’t become a nuisance to holidaymakers and locals) and we use every opportunity to trap and sterilise them.”

Sharon says the feral cats play an important role in terms of managing rodents, and while she has homed over a thousand kittens over the years, the older cats usually can’t be domesticated. “They are wild cats and they have a job to do. Our job is to look after them and ensure they don’t carry on breeding.”

It’s also getting harder to home kittens as there are so many developments and estates in the area that don’t allow cats as pets. “I can’t understand this. I think it’s incredibly important for children especially to grow up learning to love animals.”

With a number of feeding stations spread all the way from Tongaat to Zinkwazi (eight of which are in Ballito), the FFF buys over 300kg of dry food and around R2000 worth of wet food every month. The cost of sterilizing a cat (at the welfare price) is R440.
“We are always appealing for donations and volunteers. Even if you can only afford R100 a month, every bit helps. I am so grateful to Dylan Meyrick and his team from IPSS Medical Rescue who have supported us with donations from the very beginning. I would love to see more local companies and schools getting involved.

“More than anything though, I’d like to appeal to people to just be aware and considerate of our beautiful cats that live here. When you walk your dog on the promenade, remember to look out for them. This is their little home and the only interaction they have with humans.”

As she has stepped away from the FFF, Sharon is appealing to the public to continue to support members Riki Yoko, Laurie Youngleson and their amazing voluntary feeders.

Details: If you’d like to help with donations or volunteering contact Sharon on:
072 266 9171.

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