One of the many cats that roam the wards at Siloam Hospital, jumping onto the beds and even helping themselves to the patients' food. Photo supplied.
Being admitted to the hospital is already a stressful matter, but for some of the patients at Siloam District Hospital, this has become an unbearable experience as the wards are constantly infested with stray cats that jump onto the beds and even help themselves to the patients' food.
This cat invasion at the hospital is not a new occurrence, though. According to the locals, it has been going on for many years and keeps getting worse by the day. The issue has attracted a lot of attention recently and has even been brought up in Parliament by an EFF Member of Parliament, Dr Sophie Suzan Thembekwayo. She recently asked the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, what steps he planned on taking to deal with the roaming cats inside the wards at Siloam Hospital.
The response to Dr Thembekwayo's question came from the Limpopo Department of Health. "[The] cats [at] Siloam District Hospital, in Vhembe, Limpopo, come from nearby households for the purpose of food. The cats increase in numbers due to reproduction. The hospital has an informal agreement with farmers from the area to periodically collect cats to assist them with rodents on their farms. The first collection already happened in September 2023. The NDoH is advising the Limpopo Department of Health to consult the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to arrive at a good solution to this problem," the statement reads.
A neighbour who lives close to the hospital and who did not wish to be named said everything started years ago when some of the hospital staff brought their pet cats with them. Over the years, the cats have multiplied and are also invading nearby households.
Mr. James Tshamaano* visited Siloam Hospital last year to seek medical attention and ended up being admitted to a male surgical ward for two weeks. He described his stay at the hospital as "two weeks of hell". "Imagine being in serious pain and then being bothered by cats playing at the other end of your bed. Sometimes they even play on top of you, and no one is doing anything about it. They pop up in the ward at any given time and have a share of our food. I hated the cats, but we ended up becoming friends in the end, just for the sake of my peace of mind," he said.
Tshamaano added that the situation was the same at Tshilidzini Hospital, outside Thohoyandou.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), stray cats can potentially pose several health hazards to humans, although the risks are generally low if appropriate precautions are taken. Potential health hazards associated with stray cats include zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, and stray cats can carry various such diseases. Examples of zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted by cats include rabies, toxoplasmosis, and cat-scratch disease.
Stray cats can also be carriers of various parasites that can cause health problems in humans, including fleas, ticks, and various types of worms. According to the CDCP, fleas and ticks can cause skin irritations, allergic reactions, and even transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Furthermore, some people may be allergic to cat dander or cat saliva, which can cause respiratory problems such as asthma or allergic rhinitis. According to the American Lung Association, cat allergies are a common trigger for asthma attacks.
Date:03 November 2023
Maanda Bele, born and raised in Nzhelele Siloam, studied journalism at the Tshwane University of Technology.
He is passionate about current news and international affairs.
He worked as part of the Zoutnet team as an intern in 2017.
He is currently a freelance journalist specialising in news from the Vhembe district.