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
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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.