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The fluffy inhabitants of Istanbul


ANAMED Fellow Laura Picht writes about the sometimes overlooked inhabitants of Istanbul: the cats…

Istanbul – the big city on the Bosphorus – is the most inhabited city in Turkey. The more than 14 and a half million inhabitants are complemented by thousands of tourists every year. As one can imagine, that leads to an interesting picture of quite diverse people living in one place. Yet, in all the statistics concerning the population of Istanbul, one important group is constantly underestimated. Besides the millions of people, there are also millions of cats living in this city and for sure they are equally diverse: Strolling through the streets you will find black, white, red, and multi-coloured ones.

But in contrast to other cities, the cats of Istanbul are not only street cats fighting for their survival. In fact, they are the secret rulers of the city. In every street, you can observe some food – on occasion even a huge mount – and water provided for them, and if they need some affection or dispersion they will surely find someone to pet or play with them. If against all expectations there is no food left one time, you should better rush to fill it up.

As you can see, the people of Istanbul love their cats and would do almost anything to provide them a perfect life. Therefore, in contrast to the usual pictures of street cats, which most of the people have in mind (poor, dirty, and peaked creatures), the cats here are well-fed and good looking. Most of the people of Istanbul do not have pets in their homes. But they still love animals and somehow regard the cats as some kind of pets just living on the streets. So, it seems to be some mutual love – while for sure the cats decide who loves and is loved by them – which improves the quality of life on both sides: humans and animals. That cannot only be seen in the food lying around everywhere, but also in little gestures like an imam opening the doors of his mosque to the cats if winter gets cold. Or a lingerie store providing them a warm and cosy place to sleep. Well, that might be a proof for the quality of their products? If it is good enough for the cat, it should be good enough for you.


Besides all that, the most impressive proof for how much the people of Istanbul love their cats might be Tombili. Tombili is a male cat who lived on the Asian side of the city. Having some talent for posing for photographs, he soon became famous in social media and therefore an important inhabitant of Kadıköy. Unfortunately, he died in August 2016. Yet, to honour him and keep the memory of that important cat alive, a bronze statue showing his favourite pose was mounted in October.

Thus, on your next trip to Istanbul, don’t forget to spend some time with some of the smallest but nonetheless (most) significant inhabitants of Istanbul, which – as real Turks – even like to drink ayran from time to time.