Taking a moment to stop just outside of Sultanahmet, sweat poured down my forehead as I gingerly placed my long sleeve shirt on the ground while reaching into my backpack to grab a bottle of water. Moments later when I looked down at my feet, a ginger coated cat was rolling around on top of it kicking its back feet against the sleeves and chewing on the collar while purring loudly.
I would expect this kind of scene at the house of friend; however, in Istanbul, feral cats are not ‘merely’ strays – they’re revered.
As cat lovers ourselves (in case you haven’t seen the plethora of cat cafe videos we create) this was one of the more pleasant and certainly unexpected surprises of Istanbul.
We had dreamed about wandering around the Blue Mosque and getting lost meandering through the Grand Bazaar. Our mouths watered whenever we thought of sinking our teeth into baklava or Turkish Delight. Having opportunities to pet, feed and interact with cats on the streets of Istanbul was something totally out of the blue.
There was the time when a mother cat and her kittens graciously allowed us to get close at the train station or the time when a saucy little kitty batted a slice of deli meat out of my hand while I was sitting outside to enjoy my lunch.
Over the nearly two weeks we spent in Istanbul the memories really started to mount.
Upon further research it became apparent that stray cats are highly regarded by residents of Istanbul. Islamic legend has it that cats saved the prophet Muhammad from a poisonous snake: “If you’ve killed a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God.”
Most of the strays in Istanbul looked well fed and healthy – sporting a luminous coat; however, some cats – especially in some recently condemned neighborhoods – were mangy and appeared outwardly sick.
The following is a photo essay and travel video dedicated to Istanbul’s cats:
History Of Stray Cats In Istanbul
Istanbul is a city with a rich history and culture, and it is also known for its abundance of stray cats. These feline residents have become a beloved and integral part of the city’s identity, and their story is one that travelers should take the time to explore.
The history of stray cats in Istanbul dates back centuries, and it is believed that they were first introduced to the city during the Ottoman Empire. The cats quickly found a home among the winding streets and alleyways, and over time, they became an important part of daily life for the people of Istanbul.
Today, there are an estimated hundreds of thousands of stray cats in Istanbul, and they can be found all over the city, from the bustling markets to the quiet corners of the historic old town. Many of these cats are well cared for by locals and tourists alike, with small bowls of water and food left out for them in various locations.
One of the most famous places to visit for cat lovers in Istanbul is the Cat House, which is a sanctuary that has been set up to care for stray cats. Here, visitors can meet some of the resident cats and learn more about the work that is being done to protect them.
For those who want to explore the history of stray cats in Istanbul in more detail, there are several museums and exhibitions that focus on the topic. The Istanbul Cat Museum, for example, is a fascinating place to visit, with exhibits that explore the relationship between cats and humans throughout history.
In addition to museums and exhibitions, there are also numerous walking tours of Istanbul that focus specifically on the city’s stray cats. These tours are led by knowledgeable guides who are passionate about the cats and their history in the city, and they offer a unique perspective on Istanbul’s rich cultural heritage.
For travelers who want to get involved in the care of Istanbul’s stray cats, there are also a number of volunteer organizations that work to provide food, shelter, and medical care for these animals. By getting involved in these organizations, travelers can make a meaningful contribution to the welfare of the cats, while also gaining a deeper appreciation for Istanbul’s unique culture and history.
In conclusion, the history of stray cats in Istanbul is a fascinating and important part of the city’s cultural heritage. For travelers who are interested in exploring this aspect of Istanbul’s identity, there are a wealth of resources available, from museums and walking tours to volunteer organizations and sanctuaries. By learning more about the cats and their role in the city, travelers can gain a deeper understanding of Istanbul’s rich history and culture, while also making a positive impact on the lives of these beloved animals.
Istanbul’s Stray Cats
Photo Essay Of Istanbul’s Cats
A group of cats feed on a generous bounty of food left just outside of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. If you look closely you’ll notice a timid kitten with cute eyes in the background.
A potted cat. I spotted this particular cat on more than one occasion – each and every time – in this same pot.
It’s just that kind of day! A cat yawning just outside of a small Turkish shop in Istanbul, Turkey.
The ultimate sign of respect and affection is when a cat is rolling around on the ground in front of you.
Well, why not? This easy riding cat was making itself quite at home on this motorcycle.
This white and black cat was basking in the sunlight.
In order to spot a cat we didn’t have to wander or look very far. In fact, at certain times of the day – especially early in the morning – it was more common to be outnumbered by cats.
This gorgeous cat was sound asleep on the bench as we waited to catch the Light Metro.
Nearby the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, was a designated feeding area for the cats where tasty cat treats were scattered for them.
I had to look up to spot this cute little kitty with distinct whiskers.
This gorgeous cat with a marmalade coat was likely looking for a few scraps of food or somebody to give it attention and affection.
Here is a shot of Audrey taking a photo of this hungry little kitty eating.
Although many of the cats on the streets of Istanbul are friendly they often have a bit of wild look in their eyes.
I wish more cities (countries) would take better care of their stray animals by providing food and assistance for them.
Here is Audrey petting a cute cat. It won’t be long before I convert her from a dog lover to a crazy cat lady. I’m already working my magic on her slowly over time 😉
This tuxedo cat is striking a rather regal pose 😉
This cute kitten was a little timid but let me take a photo from a distance.
Not all of the cats were friendly towards people. As I approached this cat it stood its ground and I didn’t get a vibe that it would appreciate being petted.
One thing I noticed distinctly different from Southeast Asia (where cats tended to look the same – scrawny and with stumpy tails) is that the cats of Istanbul are of all different shapes, colors, sizes and breeds.
This kitty was especially friendly and closed its eyes and purred when we stroked its head.
This cat reminded me of a scrapper I used to know when I lived on Vancouver Island. You can notice the scratch marks under its face and the feral look in its eye.
Two cats are always better than one 😉
Unfortunately not all of the cats look completely healthy. This particular cat is clearly having some health issues as noticed by its runny eye and snotty nose.
How To Help The Stray Cats In Istanbul
Istanbul, a city that straddles two continents, is a beautiful and vibrant place with a rich history, culture, and architecture. However, the city is also home to a large population of stray cats. These cats have become a defining feature of Istanbul, and many visitors are enchanted by their presence. If you are one of those visitors who has a soft spot for furry felines, you may be wondering how you can help the stray cats in Istanbul. Here are some tips:
- Donate to animal welfare organizations: There are many organizations in Istanbul that are dedicated to helping stray animals, including cats. These organizations rely on donations to fund their work, so any contribution you can make would be greatly appreciated.
- Volunteer at animal shelters: Many animal shelters in Istanbul rely on volunteers to help care for the animals, including cats. If you have some spare time, consider volunteering at a shelter. You will be helping to provide much-needed care and attention to the cats, and you may even make some new furry friends.
- Feed the cats: It’s hard to resist the temptation of feeding a hungry stray cat, and many locals and visitors alike feed the cats they come across. If you choose to feed the cats, make sure you do so in a responsible way. Use proper cat food, avoid feeding them human food, and clean up any leftovers.
- Provide shelter: During the colder months, stray cats can struggle to find shelter from the elements. You can help by providing a shelter for the cats in your neighborhood. This could be something as simple as a cardboard box with a warm blanket inside.
- Adopt a cat: If you fall in love with a particular stray cat, you may want to consider adopting them. There are many organizations in Istanbul that facilitate adoptions, and they will be able to provide you with all the information and support you need to give a stray cat a new home.
By following these tips, you can help make a positive difference in the lives of stray cats in Istanbul. These furry friends have become an integral part of the city’s character and culture, and with a little bit of effort, you can help ensure that they are well cared for and protected.
Are you a cat lover? Would you like to roam around the streets of Istanbul petting cats? Let me know in the comments below: