The heart-warming relationship between Istanbul inhabitants and their cats peacefully co-existing in cities has been the center of attention for a long time.
Turkish people not only tolerate the presence of cats – they actually like to have cats on their streets. It is not surprising if we consider that the relationship between Anatolian people and their cats has a long history of thousands of years.
The cat culture thrives in Turkey. The reporter of Reuters wanted to experience it himself, and this is what he discovered on his trip to Istanbul.
Anatolian cats are part of the local community
Local people tend to form a bond with cats that reside in their neighborhood.
They are in generally respectful and empathetic towards cats: Locals protect and care for these cats without taking away their freedom or turning them into pets. Due to their positive connections with people, cats are well integrated into their local communities in Turkey. This is in stark contrast with many Western countries, promoting the notion that unowned free-living cats do not belong outside and should be eradicated.
“Money is not an issue to some people when it comes to cats”
As Reuter’s reporter Goran Tomaseviç described: “Shop owners and locals often know their neighborhood cats by name and will tell tales about them as if chatting about a friend”.
Locals are committed to helping cats even though they know that it can cost them money:
“Money is not an issue to some people when it comes to cats. [People] take in cats with broken legs, blind ones or ones with stomach problems and bring them to the clinic. When they see that they are healed, they let them live on the street again.”
Everyone tries to help cats
Love of cats is not limited to any particular segment of the society. Even those individuals who far from being well off, still want to help cats. Take for example Necati, who makes his living collecting paper for recycling, feeds Anatolian cats with chicken every morning.
Religious people often develop a spiritual connection with cats and attribute them with favorable characteristics.
“People are ungrateful. One should love cats, not people” – says Necati while praying.
Hairdresser Esra believes that looking after cats at a nearby park helped her cope with hard times.
“I started petting dogs and cats there and buying food and feeding them,” she said. “Then I saw it really helped me.”
“Kedi” shows off the beauty of the Anatolian cat culture to the world
Ceyda Torun’s “Kedi,” a documentary about the Anatolian cats of Istanbul, beautifully captured and immortalized this timeless human-cat bond. The documentary tells the charming stories of Anatolian cats and the people who love them.
Unfortunately, the extraordinary cat-friendly culture as portrayed in Kedi film and by the Reuters reporter is vanishing. The attitudes towards cats living outside are changing in unexpected ways after policymakers and non-profit animal rights organizations turned to Western approaches which view all unowned cats living outside as a problem, disregarding the significance of these cats in a culture of this country.
Author: Anadolu Kedisi
Tomasevic, G. Kucukgocmen, A. (2018, February 8). Istanbul’s back alleys and high streets teem with cats. Reuters.