One of the things that stood out to me during my time in Istanbul was the number of cats (kediler) that peacefully inhabited the city. Cats. were. everywhere.
Before visiting Istanbul, I knew that the city had cats because I watched a documentary called Kedi that was released several years ago. However, I didn’t realize the kindness that many of the people of Istanbul extended toward cats, dogs, and birds too. I just thought that there were some crazy cat ladies that looked after the cats. Turns out, kindness towards animal is as much of a custom in Istanbul as drinking çay after a meal with friends.
On the first day of my exploration of Sultanahmet, I watched a couple men go around and feed the cats outside of the Ayasofya. One man had a bag of sausages that he was handing out to the cats.
Many of the shops and restaurants in Istanbul had only been open for a week when I arrived in Istanbul, and the cats seemed as eager for the return of tourists as the local humans.
However, some of the cats had picked up bad habits, or developed a cattitude, during the lockdown when they had the run of the city. One particular cat was cat-spreading as he napped on a tram bench. He could have easily moved his tail so that someone could have sat in the middle section of the bench. I was about to pull a Karen and confront him, but the tram arrived before I could give him a piece of my mind.
Not all cats were as rude as this particular one. Others napped and rested in less obtrusive ways.
Some cats were not content to rest on traditional structures, like seating or the ground, and preferred to do their resting on mopeds and cars, which the people of Istanbul were happy to oblige.
And when it came to real estate, there were a variety of housing options for the cats should the elements become rainy or cold.
With many of cats’ basic needs provided for by the kindness of the people of Istanbul, cats were able to devote their waking hours to doing what they like best: watching humans and judging them. I was watched and judge by many cats as I went about my day.
When the cats got tired of watching and judging humans, they would go for a stroll and sometimes interact with other cats.
Yep, the cat is king in Istanbul. Dogs (köpekler) have it good too. However, it was clear that cats were the favorite daughters and sons of the city. Dogs were chubby and had their ears tagged, so I could tell that they were being looked after—they just weren’t plentiful and esteemed the same way as the cats.
Finally, kindness towards cats and dogs extended to the birds as well. Birds seemed less wary of humans and more curious. When I was having coffee at Topaki Palace, this friendly bird (kuş) paid me a visit.
So, if animal welfare is something that is important to you (and you like cats!), then Istanbul might be one of the cities that you should visit right meow. 😻😻😻😻