I’ve written a post about street dogs of Istanbul, and together there’s total of 150,000+ stray dogs and cats that together rome Istanbul. However, even though I’m a dog lover, Istanbul’s street cats are a phenomenon and are loved by the majority (or so it seems).
Cats are somewhat the equivalent to squirrels in New York, but multiplied. Cats are literally everywhere. I would have been more shocked, if it wasn’t for a similar culture shock when I visited Israel.
Cat House/Kedi Evi
You’ll start to see cat houses EVERYWHERE. Unfortunately, it’s very rare to find houses for dogs, I’ve only seen two.
It seems that a lot of people more or less adopt a cat and regularly feed it and create homes for them (on the street).
Houses are made out of cardboard boxes or containers and tucked away behind the dumpster, tied to fences, windows or attached to buildings. Sometimes the words “KEDI EVİ” (cat house) will be written in permanent marker across them (so the garbage man knows it’s off limits). These homes are filled with pillows, blankets or newspapers with food and water left out beside them.
I’ve found that cats are less tolerable than dogs, maybe it’s because I’m not a cat person, but I tend to find them more of a nuisance. The cats here are smart and sneaky – especially when they’re trying to sneak into restaurants or beg customers for food while they’re eating. Some customers will give in and share their food, while others will shoo them away. I’ve also seem them climb into neighbors open windowsills and windows.
Besides finding them perched on buildings, napping on park benches and basking in the sun all over the city, you can guarantee to find them sleeping on cars and the occasional unoccupied motorcycle seat.
I read that the status of cats reflects Muslim ideas about tolerance, and Western-style ideas about animal rights. It’s said that a sultan years ago, decreed cats in Istanbul to be protected since they kept the city clean by eating rats and mice. An Islamic legend has it, “If you’ve killed a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God.” Supposedly today people still protect cats with this in mind. The point – cats are loved here.