This is my Istanbul

The things that shape how I experience the city

This is my Istanbul: Cats March 22, 2010

Filed under: Things — Rebecca @ 12:47 am
Tags: , ,


I am not a cat person. In the Great Dogs vs. Cats debate, I throw my support firmly behind man’s best friend. A decade of dog shows will do that for you, I guess. But in Istanbul, I’ve become a cat sympathizer.
Cats are everywhere in this city, inside and out. There’s a cultural aversion to dogs as pets that’s just beginning to abate, so the go-to small animal for Turkish families in need of a house pet is overwhelmingly cats. For expats, cats are pretty portable, and easy to find sitters for/leave to their own devices for a weekend jaunt. Outside, cats rule the streets (there’s a respectable street dog contingent as well, which will surely be the subject of a later post). Compared to Boston, which had closer to zero street cats and closer to way-too-many rats, I’ll take the Istanbul model – I’ve seen nary a rat or other vermin-like creature on the streets.
The cats of the street actually have a fairly sweet deal, for urban street urchins. A lot of people will leave out food or small bowls of water for the neighborhood cats. Many vets will give free or majorly discounted checkups and shots to a cat if you adopt it from the street. The one exception to this is spaying/neutering, as it’s considered “against nature.” It might be unnatural, but it’d also help reduce the tribble-like kitten explosion each spring and summer.
A lot of cats will congregate at university campuses or mosques, where there tends to be some sort of organized feeding and cat care system (also, less traffic, so a bit safer). The cat in the photo above, for example, is at the Blue Mosque. At the Hagia Sophia, cats wander around freely and are the subject of a lot of tourist photos, including a notable photo op with Obama when he visited the site last April. At Bogazici University, cats would wander in and out of the classrooms during lectures, and seemed to have a loose departmental affiliation.
I’ve somehow ended up long-term catsitting pretty much my entire time in the city, for a few different cats. As a result, my cat care knowledge has blossomed, and I’ve definitely grown to appreciate their blasé companionship. Cats and Istanbul are nigh inseparable, and as such they are firmly a part of my Istanbul.


3 Responses to “This is my Istanbul: Cats”

  1. mimi Says:

    Street cats (and dogs) are neutered free of charge when taken to a vet by a member of the public in Istanbul. If you see a cat with one ear clipped it means it’s been neutered.

  2. Bevi Says:

    Just found your comments page after a trip to Istanbul a couple of days ago where I broke my heart at the way the cats and dogs are treated. I spent my evening giving scraps of food from the breakfast table to the kittens. If Istanbul loves their cats so much why were so many so very hungry and no really responsibility taken? Against nature to spay an animal!!! Certainly not!!! It is a caring act towards God’s creature. I am so sad for the animals in Istanbul they are used as a tourist attraction.

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