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The Lifestyle of Cape Town Cats

Cats are the same wherever you go!
They have one general rule and that
is to walk all over their humans.
Caramel and Snowflake will show you how it's done

South African Tails of Whiskers in the Heart of Cape Town Suburbs

ginger and white cat sitting at gate

Last updated February 13th, 2020

So there I was on the other side of the world, enjoying breakfasts on the beaches, sunset mountain hikes and whiskers on my face. Yes, cats featured frequently on my vacation and their omnipresence was welcomed. While the Chirpy Cats spent many expeditions in a snowy catio back home in Canada, I did a fair bit of hobnobbing with Cape Town cats from all walks of life! From pampered little furry darlings living the good life, to the UWC Campus cats, cat cafe cats and TUFCAT Sanctuary cats!

The Lifestyle of Pampered Suburban Cats in Cape Town

In North America, videos showing domestic cat encounters with wildlife such as mountain lions in their backyard quickly go viral. But in a quiet suburb of Cape Town in South Africa, a cat named Caramel keeps a watchful eye on the front gate of his home. In fact, he’s quite obsessed with whoever or whatever happens to be lurking on the other side of his garden.

At first, he took issue with the neighbor’s cat Rocko the cone-head (because he was wearing the cone of shame) who seemed to taunt him from the other side of the gate. Caramel would often be found batting fiercely at that gate, guarding it for hours, as if to say “I will get you one day, Conehead!”

ginger and white cat stares at the gate
“I can hear them, can you hear them?”
Caramel the ginger and white cat scratches at the gate
“Open the door and let me out!”

So one evening after supper, Caramel batted at the gate again. What was he after this time?

Was it Mr. Conehead teasing him again?

Was he about to have an epic staredown with a caracal and become a Youtube sensation?

Perhaps, as caracal spottings, though rare in the Southern suburbs, are not uncommon in the nearby mountains. But there are no other wild animals such as raccoons, coyotes, skunks or any of the suburban wildlife found in Canada or the US.

No, the object of Caramel’s obsession was nothing like a scene from the animated movie “Over The Hedge,” but a family of helmeted Guineafowl often found on nearby fields and parks in the suburbs. And they do make a huge ruckus when they happen to pass by! They’re part of the suburban landscape and even have their own traffic sign, “Guinea fowls crossing.”

helmeted guinea fowl western cape
The object of Caramel’s frustration, a flock of noisy helmeted guinea fowl. Sorry Caramel, this is not on the menu tonight!
Caramel the cat staring sideways in front of gate
‘What? No bird tonight?”

Wild beginnings

Born to a feral mom, Caramel is a much-loved pampered cat, ruling his human family with love and biscuits. My sister found a litter of five kittens and their mom in her shed one day. Mama and the kittens would hiss when she tried to approach them so she would leave food out for them. One day Mama cat decided it was time to relocate her kittens and poor Caramel was left behind. We don’t know what happened to his mom and siblings but with patience and care the little kitten’s hissing turned to slow blinks. He started trusting my sister enough for her to give him gentle pets on the head. The kids begged her to keep him and that was the end of that!

A cat’s habitat

My 6-year-old nephew had a school project entitled “Your Pet’s habitat in 3D.” Like many South African domestic cats, Caramel is allowed outdoors. His indoor/outdoor lifestyle was recreated in miniature, presented in a shoebox display, showing his yard as well as his indoor space. His presentation included how the cat domesticated itself and came to live in harmony with humans.

Caramel took that one step further and decided to literally occupy his makeshift miniature ecosystem when the project was done. Well, cats are the same wherever you go; a box is a box and its space needs to be filled with every available inch of fur! After all, it’s his habitat!

Snowflake returns home after a three-month secret expedition

Snowflake the Snowshoe cat lives a happy life with her two fursibs, Jack and Misty. Adored by her human siblings, this gal rules the roost in her house so the other two cats have to watch their steps and avoid crossing her path.

Snowshoe cat looking pretty
“Hello there, if your name is Misty or Jack, you know where to go! To everyone else, cuddles please!”

But one day this big girl with her matching big cattitude mysteriously disappeared and left her family frantically searching for her in tears. The kids were devastated. Three months later she returned home, a shadow of her former self. No one knows what happened to her but she returned unharmed, though terribly emaciated.

Slowly she began gaining back her strength and weight and eagerly sprung back into her role as team leader, more robust than before. My cousin and her kids are still puzzled as to how she survived for so long and without the comforts of her home. Was she being fed by someone? Did she have to hunt or scavenge for food? We will never know the details of her ordeal, but we know one thing is certain: Slowflake’s large presence is deeply imprinted on her two fursibs Misty and Jack as well as her human family.

“This is for the birds ….. and for me too”
“If your name is Snowflake, turn around and take a hike! Oops, don’t tell her we said so!”

I was happy to share moments with these suburban house cats. Some moments were brief but special too such as the encounter with Archie the zen cat. He relaxed quietly under the massage table, offering his gentle purr therapy as my cousin worked her magic on my sore muscles after a hike. After the massage, he looked at me judgingly as if to say “Next time wear proper hiking boots,” and then proceeded to investigate the breakfast fruit platter.

Archie the cat rubs up against a fruit platter
The fruit platter gets Archie’s interest. Sorry lad, no chicken here

While I sat there socializing with old friends, family and cousins the cats were always there, not just in the background doing their thing, but fully present as part of the families with whom they share their floofy paws.

What about the TUFCAT cats?

In my next post, I will update you on my visit to the University of the Western Cape Campus, the home of TUFCAT, the feral colony of cats. I caught up with former cats and the amazing chief cat herder, Patrick. I also got a chance to visit the TUFCAT Home for Life Sanctuary in the beautiful Cape Winelands region. And as if that weren’t enough cats, I also visited South Africa’s first cat cafe!

The TUFCAT University of the Western Cape Feral campus cats
Breakfast time at the University of Western Cape campus!
The TUFCAT Sanctuary in Villiersdorp
Chanel and her friend eager for a photoshoot at the TUFCAT Home For Life Sanctuary in Villiersdorp, Western Cape.

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About the author

Chirpy Cats

We are a clowder of cheeky chirpy felines sharing our space with two humans who adore us. We love to share tips on helping cats live enriched lives with their people and other fun cat stuff.


Leave a comment
  • We’re glad to hear you had kitties with you while on vacation. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been a very good vacation….beaches and beautiful sunsets only go so far…
    The Island Cats recently posted…New StuffMy Profile

    • It seemed like a miracle when she returned. My cousin told me the kids would just randomly burst out crying for months, and then she returned. Happy tears all round 😉

  • Some very nice kitties and humans too.
    Dads first Heart Cat went on walkabout for over a year. He finally saw her under one of the old work trucks on his property. She was out sunning herself one day and he snuck up behind and grabbed her. She went crazy as he held her by the scruff and carried her into the house. Once he put her down she just walked into the kitchen, had a sniff of things and ate a meal. That was that like nothing happened. She was not thin and when he moved the truck he saw why. There were bones and feathers and lots of bits. She was a ferocious hunter and thats how she got her name. Ming the Merciless. Siamese Queen of Conshohocken
    Timmy and Family

    • Oh wow, Ming the Merciless sure was one special cat! Missing for a whole year and right there under his nose! Thanks for sharing that story Timmy 🙂

    • I so agree! My sister and I wanted to go over and let them know that they shouldn’t let him out with the cone. 🙁
      Not sure if they were new to owning pets, were not thinking, or just didn’t care.

  • Thanks for sharing ….
    Your posts makes me smile and feeling so happy….¡¡¡¡

    Marcos, from Spain.

  • The return of a missing loved one is such a wonderful thing. We can but wonder what had happened and if it was natural or not. Shoebox copies of a home sounds a very good idea. Did said cat go to school to do a show and tell also as that really would have been perfect.
    ERin recently posted…It’s Still All Gone at the Palace!My Profile

  • I had to laugh at Caramel wanting the guinea fowl someone is determined eh?

    Snowflake’s story is a miracle. I would have spent weeks worrying myself to a standstill about her.

  • Those are some odd looking birdies that Caramel found, but I bet they’d be tasty!

    Thank the heavenly stars that Snowflake found her way back home. Maybe she got accidentally locked in somepawdy’s outdoor shed or barn. Mom said that happened to her family’s Siamese cat when she was a girl. The kitty came home with coal dust on him, but he was OK.

    CONCATS, Miss Yas, for your certificate of excellence awards from CWA! I hope you win MUSES at the conference! Purr purr purr.

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