Istanbul’s famous locals: CATS

They come near you as if they know you for years, meowing they walk around your feet. Even when you are sitting on a bench, they hop on it, sit on your lap, waiting for you to pet them. Under all conditions, they try to interact. No other city in the world has such a high population of stray cats. Istanbul’s four-legged locals are the cutest…

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Publication date: 25 Mart 2021 Perşembe
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DİLŞAH KEFLİOĞLU

Along with its dense population, Istanbul is hosting hundreds of thousands of stray cats. One can spot a stray cat in almost all Istanbul neighborhoods which with its cultural riches, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Subject of numerous documents, foreign journals and magazines, the stray cats of Istanbul turn into regulars of their neighborhoods.

A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION

We may spot the stray cats roaming free on the streets; we sometimes see them standing before a store, sometimes lying on the bench of a bus stop, enjoying the sun at the parks, or following the amateur fishers for getting a tip. Cats have always inspired the poets and authors. They also drew the attention of literature lovers throughout history. Many poets, novels and stories are based on cats.

VIEWERS OF KEDİ BUY A TICKET TO ISTANBUL

Ceyda Torun, who took on Istanbul’s street cats in her documentary ‘Kedi’ (Cat), describes the city’s cats to foreigners: “It is a creature that comes and sits on your lap and meows for even an hour as if you have known each other for years. And it may follow you with a meow for a while even when you get off of that bank and start to walk away. Istanbul’s cats are always waiting to interact and build a connection. I have never experienced this in the rest of the world. The viewers of the film are sending me messages, telling me ‘We are getting our tickets!’”

The documentary ‘Kedi’ tells the story of seven cats of the city with seven hills. Regarded as the most viewed Turkish movie in the USA, the documentary enables the viewers to see Istanbul through the cats’ perspective and listen to the stories of the Istanbul’s inhabitants’ relationships with them.

SPECIFIC TO ISTANBUL FOR CENTURIES

Ceyda Torun emphasized that the stray cats in Istanbul have been living with the city’s residents for many centuries, adding that such interaction did not exist in any other part of the world. According to Torun, the large number of Istanbul’s cats prevented the rats’ raids that took place in Europe and the USA.

EXHIBITION OPENED

Japanese traveler and cat-lover Mayu Koga introduced the photos of the cats she took during her two-week-long Istanbul vacation to the Japanese nations’ taste. The photo exhibition at the cultural center of Tokyo’s Bunkyou neighborhood also displays images of the Hagia Sophia Mosque, Galata Tower, Sultanahmet Mosque, Taksim Square and Eminönü capture by Mayu Koga. The Japanese traveler mostly stayed at Cihangir in Beyoğlu during her vacation. The photos of the traveler emphasize the interaction of Turks with the cats.

CAT ROUTES

Including Istanbul’s stray cats in his book Kediname, Mehmet Nuri Yardım gives hints to the cat-lovers on where to find them. Informing the readers that just like the other cat breeds such as the Siberian Cat, Persian Cat, Norwegian Cat and the Bukhara Cat, Istanbul has its cat breed, the Istanbul Cat. Yardım added: “The researches and ancient sources mention this breed, it is true. There used to be cats that lived in the old wooden houses, getting along with people and considered a ‘family member.’ We may find the traces of these cute cats in numerous works of literature, history books and memoirs written in the last few centuries.”

Yardım describes the Istanbul Cat: “They are usually brownish tabby, striped cats with touches of white.” and on their locations: “In my opinion, the Istanbul Cat features the distinctive features of Istanbul which is a city of civilizations, culture and art. They frequently wander around the mosques, fountains, second-hand bookstores, madrassas, lodges and cemeteries. In a sense, they display an identity that is at peace with the history. We may regard them as the wisest of the animals. You will spot them all along the road as you head towards Eyüpsultan. Topkapı, Edirnekapı Martyr’s Cemetery and Merkezefendi Cemetery are also filled with cats. All the cemeteries at the Anatolian side are packed with cats.”

CATS ARE NEVER UNGRATEFUL!

Having written a book with the title Kediname (Cat Book) based on his cat Lokum, Mehmet Nuri Yardım says: “Cats are not ungrateful animals!” Telling that he regarded Lokum as one of his children, Yardım talked about his experiences with his cat: “She stands by you for their life even when she is fed with cheap food. She adores you, wanders around you and gives all family members joy, particularly to the children. She watches you, accompanies you and welcomes your guests. Yet, she has a personality of her own. She does not like fuss. She is proud. If you pet her too much, she responds with a rather light scratch. She shakes off her paw as if saying, ‘Dad! Enough! I am bored’ and runs away. I have never seen an ungrateful behavior from Lokum; on the contrary, she has always brought joy, happiness and peace to our home. I recommend all the readers, everyone, to adopt the cat they feed around their apartments. Then they will see how colorful and meaningful their lives will become.”

TOMBİLİ HONORED WITH A STATUTE

Becoming a phenomenal cat with the photograph showing her reclining on the pavement in Istanbul - Kadıkoy (Ziverbey), after her death, Tombili is honored with her statute located at the same point.

HAGIA SOPHIA MOSQUE’S CAT GLİ

Born in 2004 in Hagia Sophia and grabbing the attention of visiting tourists, Gli soon became one of Istanbul’s most famous cats. Welcoming the visitors and communicating with them in her way, Gli has died, aged 16.