QCOSTARICA – Eight beautiful and fat cats roam the Bansen park, one of the oldest area of the San Juan de Dios hospital in San Jose.
Machito and Cara de Perro (blondie and dogface in Spansih) are two of the older felines standing out from the street cats, believed to be descendents of cats that have lived in the area for the last 30 years or more, initially brought to the medical centre to control a rodent infestation.
According to hospital’s history, on occasion rats have tried to take over the 170-year old structure., the cats have been and continue part of the defence against infestation.
“Generation after generation, these cats don’t go far from the area,” says the hospital’s medical director, Ileana Balmaceda Arias.
The Bansen park is a green area, the courtyard, inside the walls of the medical centre, in the area of administrative offices, classrooms, away from the medical offices and wards.
According to hospital administration, the cats have no contact with the patients and sparingly with the staff. About the only person they do come into contact with regularly is the park’s gardener, who takes care of the excrement by the felines. Other workers are said to pay, out-of-pocket, for the food and veterinary care of the cats.
With the support of organizations such as Gatitos al Rescate, they have managed to keep the cat population under control, giving up for adoption many of the kittens born there.
Éricka Aguilar Vargas, of Gatitos al Rescate, explains that the older cats have been a problem to remove, while being successful in finding adopted homes for the younger cats and their kittens.
Cats in a hospital? The director assures that there is no risk to patients, their contact with the felines is none and also the animals receive regular veterinary care.
Balmaceda added that the cats continue to keep under control rodents that manage to get away from the pest controls. According to her, the policy is to keep the cats around, keeping a check on their population.