Why Are There So Many Cats in Istanbul?

why are there so many cats in Istanbul?

In my last photoessay on Turkey’s biggest city, I wistfully recalled my many hours of wandering the cobblestone streets of Istanbul, my camera and imagination in tow.  Everywhere I walked, there were cats. After weeks in the city I wanted to know: why are there so many cats in Istanbul? I wondered enough that I put together a post because with the sheer volume of cats in the city I couldn’t be the only one.

At the beginning,  I wondered if it was just me because I do seem to be perpetually followed by cats. But I quickly realized that there was, to be fair, such large amount of cats in Istanbul and they would be hard for anyone to avoid. That said, my cat-magnetism (catnetism?) reached even higher levels. Whenever I walked outside my guesthouse, two cats would creep up to me immediately, flanking me on each side and following me down the road. This didn’t seem to happen to other guests, either. The staff at my guesthouse started joking that I must bathe in fish oil.

Their suspicions deepened when I returned to my room after a long day of exploring Istanbul, only to find a cat sitting contentedly in my shower.

(I went and got someone from the guesthouse to come and take a look, as I doubted they’d believe me. The cat was very confused at the two humans laughing so hard they had tears pouring down their faces.)

why are there so many cats in istanbul
Cat in my shower at Agora Guesthouse, Istanbul

But it wasn’t just my cat-magnetism; Istanbul is a veritable cat factory. The next day, I looked out my window, and spotted a green tarp was covered in felines. They were there almost every day until I left. No matter how many times I checked the tarp, a different set of cats (two, or three or more) would be gazing back at me, as if to say “what did you expect? We’re just hanging out until you leave and we can jump in your shower again.”

cats are well cared for in turkey
Cats in Sultanahmet, outside my guesthouse

It’s not just Istanbul. There are many cats throughout Turkey. In Istanbul’s main tourist areas they were mostly well-fed and clean, and almost all were affectionate. When I walked further out, they slimmed down and got more skittish.

But one constant remained: regardless of their friendliness, there were cats everywhere.

No, Seriously: Why Are There So Many Cats in Istanbul?

In 2019, The New York Times estimated that in Istanbul alone, a megacity of 15 million people, there are thought to be 130,000 dogs and 125,000 cats roaming free.

Why so many cats? Per a 2017 article in The Economist:

Turkey is not unique among predominantly Muslim countries for honouring its cats, which are considered ritually clean animals in Islam. In the hadith, the collected sayings and actions of Muhammad, there are numerous examples of the Prophet’s fondness for cats. By one account, Muhammad cut off his sleeve when he had to rise for prayers so as to not disturb a feline that had curled up on his robe for a nap. In another tale, the pet cat of Abu Hurayrah (literally “father of the kitten”) saved Muhammad from an attack by a deadly serpent. Muhammad purportedly blessed the cat in gratitude, giving cats the ability to always land on their feet. Cats were considered guardians in other respects for the Islamic world: they defended libraries from destruction by mice and may have helped protect city populations from rat-borne plagues.

Looking through history books about Islam, many mention the prophet’s love of felines and while variations on the foregoing stories exist, the overarching affection for cats has been consistent.

cats in Istanbul: Kebaps and kittens, a perfect smile.
My usual dinner companion for the kebap cart in Sultanahmet.

At the beginning of the introduction to Lorraine Chittock’s photography book Cats of Cairo, Annemarie Schimmel notes:

“When the British orientalist E. W. Lane lived in Cairo in the 1830′s, he was quite amazed to see, every afternoon, a great number of cats gathering in the garden of the High Court, where people would bring baskets full of food for them. He was told that in this way, the qadi (judge) fulfilled obligations dating back to the 13th-century rule of the Mamluk sultan al-Zahir Baybars. That cat-loving monarch had endowed a “cats’ garden” where the cats of Cairo would find everything they needed and liked. In the course of time, the place had been sold and resold, changed and rebuilt; yet the law required that the Sultan’s endowment should be honoured, and who better than the qadi to carry out the King’s will and take care of the cats?”

Cats in Sultanahmet
Park cat is pensive in Sultanahmet.

Kedi and More Kedi: Cats in Today’s Istanbul

Indeed, a popular saying notes “If you kill a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God.” Wandering the streets of Istanbul you will see many small containers by the sides of buildings, and discreet food rations doled out by its inhabitants.

While the cats are not adopted formally, they are taken care of by no one and everyone, a giant community network of cat caring. Even the World Basketball championships boasted a feline mascot, a blue-and-green eyed “Bascat” after the long-haired Turkish Van. And the popularity of the cats in Istanbul has not gone unnoticed by those on social media. Someone started a Hagia Sofia Cat account on Instagram, among many others. It now has 119,000 followers.

Unlike elsewhere in my travels, no one glared at me if I tried to feed then. I was the recipient of a big talking-to by a restaurant owner in Morocco; my feeding the strays would merely ensure that they returned time and time again. In contrast, when I went for chicken wings and couldn’t finish my plate, I tried to surreptitiously slip the cat underneath my chair a morsel of food. Seeing my furtiveness, the owner walked over and, a smile on his face, dropped the cat below a full drumstick to enjoy.

Cats in Istanbul
At a chicken wing stall near the old Spice Bazaar.

As of October 2023, there is now even a Cat Museum in Istanbul, dedicated to the “Turkish ancient city’s feline companions”. Per a writeup by Andalou Agency, the cat museum was founded by Sunay Akin, a Turkish poet and author. During his speech in at the opening festivities, he said that creating generations that “pass on the concept of conservation, love of nature, animals and humans” to future generations. But why cats? “Because in the history of civilization, the closest animal to humans has always been the cat,” he said. He spent 15 years collecting materials for the museum.

For those visiting the city: the cat museum is located in Besiktas Municipality at the Ciragan Service Building, on the city’s European side. It brings together cats from the history of fairy tales, toys, games, and comics.

Not all Idyllic for Animals in Turkey

Of course, it’s not a purely idyllic life for the animals of Istanbul.

As I already mentioned, walking the poorer parts of town will open your eyes to the less fortunate of  Istanbul’s strays. Catfights in the dead of night are quite common and there are problems with the sheer volume of the strays in town (unless they are spayed they will, of course, beget more cats). Furthermore, until 2004 there was no formal animal welfare law in place, and even with the current law (Animal Welfare Act No. 5199) offenders are only subject to fines.

And as this article about dogs in Istanbul notes, canines are treated with much less affection and care, although that is starting to change. An October 2019 article from the New York Times quotes an Istanbul dentist who notes that municipalities around Turkey poisoned dogs in the late ’90s and early 2000s. According to the article, things changed because the killings of dogs finally provoked demonstrations and public pressure, assisted by the rise of access to the internet, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Curious cat at the Blue Mosque
Curious cat at the Blue Mosque, coming to say hello.

In positive news, however, Turkey introduced a new law that would make it a crime punishable by jail time to mistreat, torture or leave animals without food or water. The law is in its infancy right now, but those interested in supporting it can go and sign this online petition. It will be interesting to see how, if passed, the rule will be enforced.

Cats in Istanbul: near the Grand Bazaar
Dismounting cat.

In early 2023, the city of Diyarbakır built 200 wooden houses and placed them at buildings, workplaces, gardens, and parks to provide shelter and better living conditions for stray animals during the cold weather season. The city even plans to start a workshop for woodworking, to help locals contribute to the cause.

cats in turkey
Diyarbakir’s Yenişehir Municipality distributes 200 houses for street animals amid the cold weather, Diyarbakır, southeastern Türkiye, Jan. 17, 2023. (Source: IHA Photo)

A 2017  documentary about cats in Istanbul, Kedi, also helped showcase a day in the life of a cat in the city and raise awareness for the street animals in town. While the film features lovely cinematography and copious cat scenes, it also ends somberly, warning that modernization of Istanbul is pushing out both people and cats as the city expands. Here’s a great writeup from the Paris Review called The Alleycats of Istanbul, both about the film and our love of animals.

Additionally, lots of viral videos of animals in Turkey have helped get their plight out into the world: a tram stopping to wait for a stray cat to finish drinking water from the ground, a shopping mall letting dogs sleep inside, wrapped in blankets, during a snowstorm, an imam petting cats in a mosque, and my favourite, a cat at the top of an escalator refusing to move despite being in the way.  There are even statues of street animals in some cities.

Per the New York Times piece, animal welfare has become a political issue:

“The issue became so popular, now politicians cannot afford to alienate animal lovers any more,” he said. “Normally, they never agree on anything else, but they were all on the same page about the street animals. This must be a historic moment.”

A Few More Istanbul Cat Photos

As for my trip, I met, petted and cuddled with many a cat during my weeks in Istanbul. As a celiac, I can’t eat wheat flour and breads in Turkey (and thus kepab sandwiches and shawarma sandwiches) were off limits. But the platters of meat were giant-sized and I couldn’t finish them off. Trying to communicate my allergy was laughably impossible, so I would instead order the sandwich, grab a fork – to the confusion of the restaurant’s staff – and eat only the meat and vegetables. But what to do with the meat-soaked bread? Why, give it to the cats, of course!

They were … confused.

Cats and bread
Cats and bread: not the best combination.

From cats that look like dictators…..

Dictator Cat
Not the friendliest-looking of cats.

…to adorable kittens in boxes around town, the history of Istanbul is not complete without considering a feline presence and they are firmly wrapped up in my memories of the city.

Kepab cats in a box, Istanbul
Kepab cats in a box, Istanbul
Kepab cats in a box, Istanbul, Turkey
Kepab cats in a box, the back view. These guys sat there each day, with the box safely stored at night and repositioned every morning.

As my guesthouse noted when I departed last month “we look forward to welcoming you back to Istanbul – and the cats will too.”

If you’re heading to Istanbul, this 2019 guide from Roads and Kingdoms is a great place to start, and then follow it up with a stomach-grumbling list of top foods to eat in town from Migrationology.

And for more cat pictures from what the Daily Sabah calls “Catsanbul,” see their long feline photoessay here.

Don’t worry, dog lovers: there’s a dogs in Istanbul documentary for you too.

Dowoof, a London-based, documentary film company that has won Oscars and BAFTAs has released a trailer for its 2021 documentary about stray dogs in Istanbul, titled Stray. The film appears to dovetail with Kedi, and features three dogs – Zeytin, Nazar, and Kartal – as they roam in search of food and shelter. Per the film’s landing page, “Stray seeks to shed light on Turkey’s societal convulsions through the observations of Zeytin and her companions —both human and nonhuman.” Directed by Elizabeth Lo.

The trailer for Stray is below, and you can find more info on the Stray website, or Instagram.  


Addendum: Since the post has gone up, I’ve received emails from Turks thanking me for the explanation, and others telling me it’s all creative thinking and not accurate. While I did research the the post and the Economist (I assume) fact-checked their article too, I wanted to excerpt from one of the emails for the opposing view:

Some of my colleagues do not hesitate to tell such city legends or stories about cats-in this case- which helps this misconception to grow further. Please do not forget that Istanbul has the most religious population only for the last 30-40 years. Never before was such as dense distribution. Just remember the Rums, Greeks, Armenians, all other minorities, they all loved and fed cats along with us. If you have been to Athens, you will be surprised to see so much dogs and cats on the streets. As I personally lived in Italy for a considerable time, I may say that all the missing cats in “centro” would meet you as you go to suburbs and small villages.

149 thoughts on “Why Are There So Many Cats in Istanbul?”

  1. I love your post! I’m a cat person as well. The Islamic lore about the prophet Muhammad and the cat is interesting. Probably explains why cats are everywhere when I was in Granada, Spain. :)

    1. Spain is not islamic! It’s catholic with a strong sentiment. And they are not particularly fond of cats I would say the opposite actually. Whatever lore about the prophet does not apply

  2. Just returned from Istanbul. I saw a restaurant owner feeding cats some offcuts – one of the (non-Turkish) diners asked ‘Why do you feed the cats?’. He said ‘Because God is watching’, which I think is the best explanation anyone can have – and also which reflects on your comments about the Prophet, the qadi and so on.

    1. Frances Jo Whitesel

      Thank you for the reply…if more people would read this article and those people who hurt animals read this and realize they are responsible for their actions…and accountable for them when they leave this earth maybe just maybe they would think twice…Humans are not superior beings all of us…human and other species have to learn how to live with one another in harmony and treat each other with respect

  3. Hi . Love u article . I was wondering why so many catsup instanbul . I am a Muslim & from MALAYSIA . It is true that the prophet (Pbuh) loves cats & it is nice to know that Istanbul takes care of them . In malaysia we don’t do the same, I wish we would.

  4. Pingback: The Cutest Stray Cats in Istanbul | Katie Aune

  5. Lovely article. Unfortunately, I think there must be some kind of cat flu going around as we saw 3 cats in different places with snot dripping down their noses and I have never seen this anywhere else before.

  6. just came back from Istanbul yesterday, I had a very similar positive experience by feeding, petting and taking care of street cats while I was staying in Sultanahmet. As a cat fan, I was very pleased to see locals feeding them and smiling at me with my bag pack and cat food ready for distribution at every corner of the streets while visiting the old city. From the information given by locals, the authorities do their best to take care of the stray cats and dogs.

    Thanks to Jodi for a wonderful article and pictures.

    Muriel (from Switzerland)

  7. Pingback: Çok güzel! Our week in Turkey! | the long distance truth

  8. true or not, i love this post! The pictures I took of the stray animals (mostly cats) during my time in the baltic countries and on through Greece and Turkey never fail to bring a smile to my face. i wish it had been the same of the numerous strays I encountered in South America! Either way, as an animal lover, I’ll always value a bit of humor and recognition to our feline friends!

  9. i came to live in istanbul from london seven years ago. on the surface, the street animals seem well cared for, however the real story is very different. deeply saddened by the sheer volume of cats, those injured either by human cruelty or reckless driving, diseases like FIV, Calcivirus (those ‘flu like symptoms you saw that often kill)in cats and Parvo and Distemper in dogs, i created a street animal rescue group on facebook.
    for the last two and a half years we have rescued and looked after hundreds of animals, arranged adoptions in and out of Turkey, found lost animals,and spayed and neutered those in our care.
    to see the situation for yourselves, you are welcome to join our group Cihangir Cool for Cats… we are now heading towards a thousand members in countries all over the world.

  10. Many of my family members have visited Turkey, and I’ve heard endless stories of how they met so many (friendly) cats in Istanbul. My parents told me, they went to several restaurants to buy food, specifically just to feed the homeless cats. However, when they mentioned to the restaurant owners the food was for the cats, many of them gave them food for free! It turns out a lot of the Istanbul restaurants keep food aside JUST for the purpose of feeding the cats. Another lovely cat story: One night, my dad saw an elderly gentleman put cat food out in a deserted park and nearly 20 cats came to eat. My dad asked him how often he does this. The gentleman said that he comes every night to feed the cats, and he told my dad, “These are my cats.” =)

      1. I think the main reason why the people in the City are so friendly to cats is that they keep the vermin population down, especially near the restaurants.

  11. A great article and some information. I was in Istanbul in February. While I loved the city as whole and all of its sights, the feline community almost diverted my attention. Many times, in various locations in the city I encountered cats. Some were quite personable and seemed to be very aware of the tourist trade. For me they became a revered part of Istanbul.

  12. Very nice article. I remember Istanbul from visiting many years ago. I was so impressed with the friendliness & kindness of the people…how nice to know it also extends to feline residents as well.

  13. Hi jodi
    I find your lovely post, When i wonder what do foreigns think about cats in istanbul,
    As a istanbulites :) as a cat lover and as a religius man i want to write about this phenemenon. Firstly there is a lot of story in islamic litarature about cats , dogs and other animals. (If you want to learn i can share) But cats have always diffirent place from the others. In islamic tradition you may feed a cat in your home even you and your cat may eat meal in same dish. Because cats known totaly clean animal(every single moment they clean themselves) . On the other hand we do not say the same things about dogs. Religius persons may only feed a dog in a garden if they need. Even most of religius person don’t touch dogs (because of uncleanliness) . Also cats have a bad name called in turkey. generally people who don’t like cats called them “thankless” and we say them cats are only thankful to god.

    1. Jodi, thanks for sharing this post about Cats. Now I think I need to plan a trip to Istanbul :)
      Also have you heard any stories about why Cats have 9 (or 7) lives? If so, please share.

      Selman, can you please share the stories you mention (see your comment below) here or with me personally? Perhaps Jodi would help us connect – as I would love to learn.

      “Firstly there is a lot of story in islamic litarature about cats , dogs and other animals. (If you want to learn i can share)”

    2. Hi Selman,

      Can you please share more share islamic stories about cats and dogs, specially cats i mean. Religiously i do agree but i heard there are sayings of Prophet Muhammad too about cats, are these true and authentic?

  14. Just read the article excellent and your pictures brilliant helped answer a nagging question whilst sitting here in Turkey :-)
    Thank you

  15. I am in Istanbul now and love seeing all the cats. When I returned to the hotel from my outing last night the doorman was petting a very contented looking black and white cat. I bent down to pet him also and the doorman asked me to put my hands together, almost as if clapping which I did. The cat stood on his hind legs and putting his front paws out kind of did a little beckon movement. I petted his head and he immediately began to nuzzle my legs. I told the doorman I was sorry I didn’t have a reward for him, I wish I had some food. He laughed as another doorman walked up and together they said not to worry; he just ate and is well fed. And to be honest, I could tell. It made the perfect end for the perfect day.

  16. Just returned from istanbul and was wondering too see many cats in the narrow streets of Kumkapi. The article provided lots of new information.thanks for sharing this stuff

    1. I too, just got back from Istanbul. I loved your article and the comments as well. I plan to return to Istanbul, not for the touristic sites this time, but for the cats. I’m amazed to see strays who clearly trust people so much. On the other hand, I’ve read about the work of some people who care for the wounded and diseased ones, and I’ve read of the tragic history of Istanbul’s dogs, and I feel deeply concerned for them. Also, how is it possible that all these stray dogs could be pushed away to the forrests outside the capital to fend for themselves without human help? This is a strange place with a marvellous exchange between cats and humans, but there are also a lot of animal abusers, and people who keep dogs on leashes in their gardens without ever taking them for a walk or paying them any attention. Cats and dogs all are God’s creations.

      1. I to am a big time animal lover…especially cats. The problem with this kind of reverence for an animal is that instead of being appreciated and respected for the animal that they are, no more and no less, they are connected, (or disconnected, as is the case of dogs in the Muslim faith), to some either very good or very bad aspect of the religion. Cats were the favorite of Muhammed, and dogs are seen as filthy, which translates to either the masses treating these animals too well…as is the case when you feed stray cats without vaccinating spaying and neutering them to the point that they become a nuisance to humans and and a health hazard to each other. Or, treating them horribly…as dogs are treated in most Muslim countries. Lets treat ALL animals with respect…this way we can care for our strays responsibly, keeping the populations in check so they are loved by everyone.

  17. We arrived in Istanbul this morning and like the rest of you, I was amazed to see so many cats. So many! I was near Izmir last October so I know that cats are treated well (I too have a lovely story from when we ordered fish at a restaurant in Kusadasi and asked if we could share with the cats…the server laughed and said “of course! He needs to eat too!”) we also saw many well fed dogs in that area but certainly not in Istanbul – they are scrawny and clearly unloved. I think I will get a bag of food tomorrow so my children can enjoy feeding the lovely city cats here in Istanbul :). What a city of friendly people. We had so many people offer to help us today as we lugged children and suitcases from airport to tram to Taksim. A Syrian lad was especially kind and offered so many tips and suggestions whilst we sat on the tram. Love these people.

  18. Mary Sue Butch

    I loved visiting Turkey (which I did many years ago, before 9/11) and would love to go back but for all the turmoil in the Middle East. When I was there I also made an effort to bring a little food for the street cats. Some of them have interesting patterns different from the typical cats here, and I would have loved to bring one back with me. I wish they were better protected, though.

  19. I like your article about the cats in Istanbul, as I’m married to a Turkish man I have been living here in Istanbul for 2 years, and I want to add that not only the cats are being taken care of in Istanbul also dogs, but the cats are more common inside the city, while you can find more dogs in the suburbs they are all very friendly living side by side with the people, where they find care from the locals and the government.
    I wanted to send you some photos for the dogs in my area , but I couldn’t add them here.

    1. Thanks Jan! You can’t add photos here but you can send to me at jodi @ Legalnomads .com if you’d like! I’d happily see animal photos from Turkey :) Thanks for the comment!

  20. Well, I do see the connection with Islam and cat-love, but having seen other parts of the world that westerners would call ‘muslim’, I don’t agree that it is the religion that makes people of Istanbul love cats. I am not comfortable with generalizing cat love to ‘muslim countries’. I am sure Jesus also supported compassion towards all beings and there are quotes in the Bible. But it still sounds ignorant to refer to a huge number of people as “Christian countires’. There are huge cultural, political, economical differences between these countries as there are billions of diverse muslims living in them. Istanbul hosts a big chunk of Turkey’s extreme seculars (not the ideal spot/best example of of a’muslim city’) As an ‘Istanbulite’ and a crazy cat lady, I witnessed tons of incidents where religious residents of this huge city treated cats like shit. I also know radically religious people so compassionate towards felines that you would cry. I also know tons of non-beliveres who selflessly dedicate their time and energy to cat care. I wish this superficial plague of generalizing would keep out of cat love. Istanbul has million years of history and Turkish culture has deep roots in hospitality and is known for being remarkably considerate of animals. Plus, in these neo-liberal times we live in, a huge and strange urban formation like Istanbul has so many other infra-sucture problems that relate to the cats’ lives in this city. I’d recommend you go and research into that if you really want to know why there are so many cats in Istanbul. Cheers,

    1. Hi Nil,

      While I can see you are very passionate about this topic, it is unfair to say that I ought to do research when several external pieces are cited in this post. If you have articles that disagree with this, by all means add them to your comment. This piece was the result of discussions with Turkish friends, reading articles and books, and of course my own very many photos of cats.

      Like you, I always hope that animals are treated well regardless of the breed or kind. Happy to read other articles you might have!


    2. It is really interesting to see someone who’s unaware of her/his society’s realities. I was born in Istanbul and raised here and the very reason why I like cat is the religion Islam and Prophet’s love to cats. And it is the general opinion of the society as mentioned in the article. I guess you should visit Istanbul as a foreigner to understand the society in which you have been living …

      1. ironically, the districts where cats are being taken care of the best are mostly the least religious ones… the islam thing might be true in your case, but istanbul is the only city with such a massive cat population in turkey, let alone other countries with muslim majorities. all the people in my social circle are either irreligious or non-practising muslims, but almost all of them are also obsessed with cats, how about that? the love towards cats in istanbul is cultural thing and has very little to do with religion.

        and jodi, i respect your views and appreciate your work but as far as i can see, most-if not all- pictures were taken in rather conservative areas of istanbul in the old town. if you happen to visit istanbul again, you may wanna see districts like kadıköy(especially moda and fenerbahçe), cihangir, bebek, ortaköy, arnavutköy(the one in bosphorus) etc. and then you’ll see that it’s not about islam but culture.

        1. Hi Toprak, thank you for the comment. I have been to those districts of course — I spent over a month in Istanbul alone, and it would be quite a limited month if I simply stuck to Sultanahmet ;) I was not suggesting that only Muslims care for cats — of course that is not the case, as cat lovers around the world demonstrate handily. I wanted simply to discuss an aspect of the cat situation in the city that my readers might not have thought about.

  21. I lived in Istanbul for 5 months and am aware of the enormous amount of street cats. Although the community do feed the cats, it is still an issue. I never found out, but in your time there did the question of ‘where these cats go in winter’ ever come up? Without a warm place wouldn’t a lot of these street cats freeze to death in the snow?

    1. Hi Kelly, I’m not aware of where they go but I was there in the late fall and they were outdoors still. I suspect there is nowhere for them to be offered shelter and, like many cities, they take it where they find it.

      1. They go warm places like other livings. They go metro stations, they go apartments shared areas. Some people repel them, some not. and, they are clever. They look for warm places and memorise there, and use theres in next times.

  22. Duncan and Rosalind Stuart

    My wife and I have visited Istanbul twice and found the people to be so friendly and helpful, we just love them and all those lovely cats are so friendly, we had one little kitty that kept jumping on our lap near the Sophia Hagia mosque and was almost begging to be helped, we always get a large bag of cat food when we arrive and spend days just looking for the less fortunate kitty’s and make sure they get food and clean water, but this one little fellow would always run to us when we called, so finally we took him to our hotel, and he stayed with us for 3 days, I went to the pet store and got a tray and some litter and put it in the bathroom, he used it without any training and never made a mess. The hotel staff were s o kind and allowed our “extra” resident, then we finally got the veterinarian to give him the need injections, and he came back to Canada with us ! Now he is a healthy loveable companion which we subsequently found is an Egyptian Mau, and he is the cleanest, and most amazingly intelligent cat we have ever had, and is so loyal and very much loved. We had no problem with the Vancouver authorities as long as he had a certificate to prove the various injections had been administered. So now he is a Canadian Egyptian Mau named “Bobo” . Just love Istanbul and all the cats – our favorite city.

    1. Hello, thank you for the lovely comments. I’m happy to hear about your lasting souvenir from the city! Good to know that it was possible to bring him back, and enjoy your time with Bobo!

  23. My wife and I are planning a trip to Istanbul. We both love cats, so I wanted to know which particular area of Istanbul has a lot of cats. We want to get a hotel right by it. I heard of an area called Cihangir. Is the cat environment similar to it around the blue mosque or near the grand Bazar?

    1. Hi Usman, I have not been in a few years but either way you will likely be visiting the Sultanahmet area and can see many cats there during the day, even if you are not staying there :)

  24. I live in a different city of Turkey. Once I visited İstanbul, I was having breakfast in a coffeeshop. A cat jumped onto a chair near me. Later I found out that it had given birth to a number of babies on that chair safely among people. She was feeling so safe for her babies among people so she came there for giving birth and was completely comfortable with us holding the babies. It was a lovely scene.

  25. As a director for a nonprofit TNR group I am always looking for ways to inform the public about cats so we can help them live better lives. Kedi is playing in our town right now unfortunately not yet a big success. I loved this movie. I felt the corners of my mouth go up all the time and could totally relate to the state of worship for cats evident among these Turks who cared for them. What a comfort to know cats are respected.

  26. Love this article. Our hobby is travelling to photograph cats. So far, Kotor, Montenegro has had the most, but they were very unhealthy and it was quite sad. This will be our first trip to Istanbul in September and we can’t wait. Just using street view I can’t help but find cats on most streets.

    1. Thank you Kirk! Love your site as well – a catstravaganza is something I can get behind. I’m sorry to hear about the state of the felines in Kotor, but I suspect you will be happy with the healthy cats in Istanbul. Note, however, that elsewhere in Turkey the cats also seemed better cared for than in my travels generally, but nowhere near as comprehensively as in Istanbul.

  27. Jodi, We are traveling (from our home in Florida) to Istanbul for the first time next month. In reading preparation I came upon your story. I am so excited! We just this week adopted our 10th senior cat from a shelter. We always have two. Almost every time we travel we buy food to give stray cats, and yes dogs too. In Portovenere, when we tried to purchase sardines for a hungry kitten, the shopkeeper GAVE us the fish, as another commenter said. We will certainly do our part to love and feed Istanbul’s cats! Can’t wait to meet them! Thank you for that lovely story!

  28. I am a Muslim. However, here we go abusing sayings. I love my garden, but do I let it get overgrown? I love my children, but do I have a houseful? If one loves animals then spay and neuter them and control the population. Keep the cat population clean and healthy. I was in an air BnB in Istanbul and the cats were jumping on the roof and copulating every morning. It was annoying after a while.

  29. If I were you I would have been creeped out in Turkey. I generally find cats cute and creepy. But don’t like them much, since the time one scratched me when I was a kid! Exploring a new place with cats around you is certainly an experience. I didn’t know so much about the importance of cats in Islam before.

  30. Thank you very much for the article. It has written very well.

    It is useful to correct only a few missing points. Turks’ love of animals cannot only be associated with Islam. Also, you cannot see the same view in other Islamic countries. Besides there is a huge secular group in society.

    The Turks’ love for Islam is based on the Central Asia they migrated to and the Shamanism they believed in. Turks used to worship nature before Islam. it was the first society to tame horses.

    Therefore, love for animals, Turk’s first beliefs come from haymaking and worshiping nature. The foundation of love for animals has a history of nearly 1000 years.

    Thank you very much to all readers.

  31. Istanbul (or any other cities in Turkey) is densely populated city. When you pay enough attention, you would see overflowed trash cans in front of multi-story apartments. Those trash cans are generally full of left over food which is an easy food for the street cats and dogs. Those overflowed trash-cans allow uncontrollably increase cat and dog population in the cities. It is a typical problem of a third-world country. You would never see a single dog or a cat loitering around in an urban area of a well civilized country. It has got nothing to do with Turkish people loving cats or dogs. Similarly, it has got nothing to do with Islam. In fact it is not ok in Islam having a dog at home. There is an hadith (islamic saying) says that: “When a dog enters home all the angels in that home go away”. There are a very few people in Turkey cares about dogs and cats and they started to adopt them. In reality, %99 of the people do not care about these animals. It is a fact that in rural areas animal cruelty (rape, torture) commonly exist. In addition to, wild animals, rare animals are being hunt by the ordinary people for nothing. Consequently, we can’t say that Turkish people love cats on the street. It is a problem of a bad urbanization and a bad culture.

  32. Just found out this article after googling “turkey and cats” :)

    Interesting story about Istanbul which had me wanting to travel there as soon as pandemic ends.
    Well, I’m surprised that some cats look confused with bread, because my cats do love breads. Everytime they see me eating or bringing bread from dining room to bedroom, they look at me with betrayed-looking gaze and run to try to take a bite as if they want to say “how dare you eat that and not share with me?!” They even bother to eat the crumbs on the floor and ask for more. I know that’s not typically their foods (I ask vets about this and they say just give them a little piece once in a while since carbs are not on their diet), but I just want to tell all Turkish cats out there, you’re missing out so much fun if you’re not eating bread lol

  33. I was told a story by a turkish man while on a visit there. The gist is that a true believer will be bitten on the heel by a cat and become the next incarnation of the spirit of attaturk. We were sitting outside of hagia sofia at sunset which added to the story .

  34. Really enjoyed this piece! I was looking for the answer to this question, so thank you for writing a detailed post about it.

  35. Very plausible explanation, Jodi. I lived in quite a few Arabic countries and I was always surprised by the number of cats in the streets and the absolute lack of dogs. I came across your article while reading about cats per capita in Europe. Apparently, Romania (my country) is second only to Hungary with 226 cats per 10000 people. I believe this speaks a lot about the emotional gap waiting to be filled.

  36. Iolanta Zakhrova

    Hey Jodi!

    Cats are really an cutest animals all time!

    I think you will also fall in love With UAE, there are lots of stray cats around the city along with that lots of attractions to visit + offers.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top