If you’re getting the feeling we loved Istanbul from our posts – you’d be right. Everything about the city surprised us – but nothing more so than the Istanbul cats! A side of the city we’d heard nothing about before visiting.
One of the hardest things about travelling is seeing the sad stray animals all over the world. Always looking hungry and abused. Not so in Istanbul. Istanbul’s cats are strays, but they are well looked after by the city’s inhabitants and it shows. Scraps and cat food are left out in discreet corners of the city and we often saw locals stopping for a pat as they walked by. The result is a city full of cats that are well feed and well loved, while being owned by nobody.
There are a couple of stories around about why there are so many cats in Istanbul. One story says that at one time, the sultan banned the killing of cats to deal with the mice and rats of the city, and since then the cats have been well looked after. Another story refers to the popular islamic saying ‘If you kill a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God’ to explain the phenomenon. But we didn’t see the same level of care in other towns around Turkey. Whatever the reason, it was great to see!
The cats can be found anywhere and everywhere, all over town. On street corners, outside apartment buildings, outside shops, inside shops, on motorbikes, in pot plants, in boxes – basically wherever they damn well please. And most are friendly, welcoming the attention of a passing tourist who wants to play for a couple of minutes.
Famously, Hagia Sophia even has it’s own cat inhabitant who we meet while inside the building, lounging around and ignoring the thousands of tourists visiting the site.
And what about dogs? Perhaps the cats have run them off, because I can’t recall seeing any during our time in Istanbul.
Disclaimer: I LOVE cats.