Grief as Swakopmund’s Cat Lady suddenly dies

Karene Brewis, the driving force behind the Swakopmund Cat Protection Society has died. Brewis has been taking care of the feral cats in the coastal town for the past 13 years. Her death has been described as unexpected and a big loss as the future of the feral cats in town, amounting to about 90 animals hangs on the brink. Food for the animals is fast running out. The Cat Protection Society’s name also changed after Brewis’ death to Swakopmund Feral Cats according to the Society’s Facebook profile.

The news of the passing of Karene Brewis, who was in her 60s, came as a shock to all animal lovers in Swakopmund. It is suspected she died of a heart attack in her apartment. “We have worked closely with the Cat Protection Society for many years and we were speechless. I remember Karene (Brewis) telling me the other day that she wishes to go on holiday for the first time in over a decade,” said a shocked Ingried Gürtel from the Swakopmund SPCA to namib times.
Brewis started her charity work in 2003 when there were a total of 93 feral cats in town. She started the Cat Protection Society and has since diligently cared for the cats and controlled their numbers. “When it came to the cats she really was an angel,” said Swakopmund resident Idonette Blignaut. Blignaut has been slowly taking over the feeding of the cats from Brewis over the past month. “She was sick and asked for help. She dedicated her whole life to look after the feral cats,” Blignaut said to namib times.
Currently there are a total of four feral cat colonies in Swakopmund. According to Blignaut the biggest one consisting of 80 cats, lives at the municipal bungalows and controls the rodent population in the Swakop River. Only three remain in the Arnold Schad Promenade, also known as lover’s lane, while five live at the Lighthouse. Another population, consisting of four cats, live at the Aquarium. The latter is being cared for by Anja Kreiner.
After the news of Brewis’s passing became public, various stakeholders met at the Swakopmund Municipality on Wednesday to discuss the future of the feral cats. “The cats are very important for Swakopmund. Imagine they all disappeared. We would have a big rat problem,” said Lydia Mutenda, Manager Health Services, to namib times. According to Mutenda it was decided at the meeting to create a new organisation which will be called “Swakopmund Feral Cats”.
“The Cat Protection Society was never registered, but it was a private initiative by an individual. We want to create a body with various people to continue looking after the feral cats,” said Mutenda. While such a body is still in the making, the feeding of the cats will in the meantime be taken care of by Blignaut.
Food for the cats is quickly running out though, which is why Blignaut is appealing to the public for assistance. “We have enough food for one more month. Then we don’t know what to do anymore,” she said. The public is called on to donate food at the Swakopmund SPCA, which will be distributing it accordingly.
Feral cats in Swakopmund have a long history. They’ve been around since before the 1900, when 30 of them were shipped to Swakopmund from Cape Town to fight a rat infestation that had caused an outbreak of typhus fever. Before Brewis started taking care of them 13 years ago, the general health of the feral cats was appalling. She introduced a sterilisation programme, to keep the population in check, and started a regular feeding programme. Most of her efforts came from her own pocket.

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