Istanbul: A Feline’s Paradise

70 comments
Europe, Turkey
Pensive, Kennedy Avenue

Pensive, Kennedy Avenue

As I wander around the neighborhood of Beyoğlu, I point my camera and snap some pictures of the magnificent Galata Tower, then I spot a cat. I come closer, caress him until he purrs and seems really content, then I move back to the tower, before spotting another cat. I cross the Bosphorus to set foot on Asia, marveling the view of Seraglio Point where the minarets of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque seem to pierce the sky, then I see a cat. I reach her and give some strokes on her back and neck. She seems to relish every single touch, constantly purring until I continue walking.

Legend has it that one day Muhammad awoke to the sound of adhan, the Islamic call for prayer. When he was getting ready to dress himself, he found his cat – Muezza – sleeping on his robe. Instead of waking her up, he chose to cut his robe and leave a patch on which Muezza was sleeping.

Although there is no clear evidence of the story nor a reference on cat as a special animal in Islam, but many Muslims pass the story on over generations and across continents – Istanbul is no exception. Despite staunchly secular, many Islamic traditions are still carried on and practiced by modern Turkish people. As the tradition dictates, cats generally receive better treatment than other animals. It is not hard to find well-fed clean cats in Istanbul – touristy places, cobblestone alleys, seaside walkways, parks benches are some of the places where cats are easily found.

Sitting on a bench at the other side of Seraglio Point, next to Kennedy Avenue, I take my time to breathe the fresh air from the Sea of Marmara. The sun is setting and a cornucopia of stray cats are foraging for food. In this part of the city the felines are less fortunate than their counterparts in Sultanahmet area, albeit slightly. However none of them looks skinny – a molly even nurtures her spry kittens between the rocks on the shore.

A fierce-looking man stands on his big motorbike. His leather jacket and shabby bandanna attest his stern look. Just before he rides his iron horse, he grabs a small portion of food from nearby hawker. He then lowers his hand and feed the cats. This is Istanbul, where cats are special.

Curious, Beyoğlu

Curious, Beyoğlu

Rise and Shine, Sultanahmet

Rise and Shine, Sultanahmet

Celebrity on a Red Carpet, Sultanahmet

Celebrity on a Red Carpet, Sultanahmet

Dreaming, Kennedy Avenue

Dreaming, Kennedy Avenue

Young and Playful, Sultanahmet

Young and Playful, Sultanahmet

Vigilant and Gallant, Topkapı

Vigilant and Gallant, Topkapı

Furry and Proud, Dolmabahçe

Furry and Proud, Dolmabahçe

Self-manicure, Dolmabahçe

Self-manicure, Dolmabahçe

Scandalous, Üsküdar

Scandalous, Üsküdar

The Kind Eyes, Beyoğlu

The Kind Eyes, Beyoğlu

Alert, Sultanahmet (left); Chin Up, Chora Church (right)

Alert, Sultanahmet (left); Chin Up, Chora Church (right)

Blue Cat, Grand Bazaar

Blue Cat, Grand Bazaar

Avenue of the Cat-Stars, Beyoğlu

Avenue of the Cat-Stars, Beyoğlu

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

70 thoughts on “Istanbul: A Feline’s Paradise”

    • Honestly I have no idea what “ginuk-ginuk” means. 😛 But I’m assuming it has something to do with cuteness or such. So yes, it’s hard not to fall in love with them.

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    • Thanks Alyssa! Since you love European castles I think Istanbul should be on your list! 🙂 The cats are nice additions to the already beautiful city.

      Like

  1. Annie says:

    wonderful post! one of my favorite parts of pompeii was the dogs! sounds like i need to make it to istanbul 🙂

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    • Thanks Annie! I haven’t been to Pompeii, but I think I should put it on my wishlist not only for its historical places, but also for the dogs. 🙂

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    • I’m not sure about that as I didn’t see any with a neck strap. I wish I could take one back to Indonesia. 🙂

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    • Thanks again Madhu! I think I could spend the entire day just playing with the cats. They’re so fluffy! 🙂

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  2. Obviously the cutest post you’ve ever written. Now I envy you so much because you can play with all those adorable cats. Why didn’t you bring one for me? huh. Oh btw, love the last paragraph. It’s always heartwarming when I hear a story about fellow animal lover 🙂

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    • And the first comment ever from you. I can see why 🙂 One day you have to make your way to Istanbul. Those cats are absolutely adorable! Thanks for dropping by Tra!

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    • Thanks Jodi! Actually I was inspired by a well-known blogger who visited Istanbul much earlier than me. She wrote about the cats and that made me even more curious of the city.

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  3. Hi. Nice post up you have there. The cats are cute and i love your captions. I was smiling while reading it! Good job! 😻

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  4. I love the story of Muezza!! :-). The cats are everywhere in the Middle East and they are just so, so amazing. They just belong there. However, its sad to see the poor suffering and hungry, thirsty Egyptian cats (they used to be worshipped once upon the time!!) and also I saw a lot of sick, dying cats in Meknes, Maroko. It breaks my heart. I love them.

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    • Hi Katka! I didn’t know that there are a lot of malnourished cats in Egypt considering how it was once worshiped, as you said. But probably it’s also because of the hardship the country is undergoing now. There was one time when I saw pictures of slain cats in Mali, and that really broke my heart. However it won’t stop me from visiting the country one day, given the circumstances would allow me.

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      • The cats in Egypt have been suffering for a long time probably. The interesting thing is, that their faces are a bit different than other streets cats – there is even a book about it. Different breed or something. How can anyone kill them, I dont understand. 😦

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    • Hi Aggy! So are you more of a dog person? Well, as now you have a cat your love to your cat might grow over time. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!

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    • Vielen dank Julie! Have you been to Istanbul before? If you haven’t, you definitely need to put it on your list.

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    • Thanks Kirsty! The cats might not be the kings of the jungle, but in Istanbul they are the kings of the city! I love your shot of that cat sitting on a motorbike. It reminds me of the cat that I had years ago who liked to chill on my dad’s car. 🙂

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  5. I am totally a dog person, but I have to admit that those cats looks cute. I especially love the black one with white stripe around the neck. And, I suppose you experienced cuteness overload when you were there, am I right? 😛

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    • I did! Imagine yourself in a foreign city and surrounded by cute dogs. That’s how I felt! 🙂

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  6. Hi Bama, you know I heard several people talking about the ubiquitous cats in Istanbul. Not sure if they ust proliferated the last few years. I don’t’ recall seing a single one when I was there in 1999! Anyway, they look so adorable fin your lovely shots.

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    • Oh really? Maybe they did, because apparently some people didn’t notice such many cats back then when they visited Istanbul. Thanks Marisol!

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    • Actually most of them are quite tame and it’s easy to put your hands on them. They surely look well-fed.

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    • Thanks Tricia! I love cats so much and I only realized how playful their pictures can be after I returned home. 🙂

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    • Hi Erny!
      Thanks for your lovely words. I’m visiting Taiwan in a few days’ time and I just learned that there’s a town in the country which is populated by a large number of cats. If only I had more time. 🙂

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      • Halo Mbak Erny,
        Being an Indonesian myself I haven’t seen much of the country. But within a few years’ time I’m planning to set foot on more places in the country, especially in the east.

        Like

    • Thanks Mavis! When I returned to Jakarta I felt bad for the stray cats as well. They look so malnourished compared to the ones in Istanbul.

      Like

    • Hi Fahmi!
      I also read that there are also so many cats in some Greek cities and towns. Maybe you can visit both countries in one trip. 🙂

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  7. probingthecosmos says:

    this is the most adorable post ever! purrin’ around the world, one cat at a time~

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    • Aww thanks a lot Paige! I love cats so much, so when I was in Istanbul I knew I had to write a post dedicated to them. 🙂

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      • probingthecosmos says:

        Its very cool that you had the opportunity to travel there~ It was a wonderful and adorable post 🙂

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  8. Funny 🙂
    I also spot cats during my trips – it’s amazing how many parts of the World have cat colonies. Singapore, Marrakech, Istanbul, Lisbon, Barcelona…
    And cats from different parts of the World have different faces, different looks.

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    • I also heard that Athens has a fair share of cats roaming its streets. That alone is enough reason for me to put Athens high on my wishlist, apart from its ancient ruins of course. 🙂
      I really loved the cats in Istanbul as they had such thick fur, and to my surprise most of them looked quite clean.

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  9. Such a different take on the Istanbul city..else one only hears about Grand bazaar, SultanAhmet history etc. A very neat way to blend the street cats with the porcelain ware, very interesting indeed. I’ve been to this city and captured the market scene on my blog.

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    • Hi Veena. For a cat lover like me, Istanbul was a perfect place to travel. To go there without taking photos of those fluffy cats would have been a sin for me. 🙂 Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

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  10. I am currently in Turkey and noticing the huge amounts of adorable but seemingly street cats. Most friendly, I have been stopping for quick cuddles between monuments!! I love how well they are treated with food and water and have also heard the story with the robe.

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    • Hi Sofie. Istanbulites clearly treat their cats very well. I recommend all cat lovers to visit the city just because. 🙂 However from the blogs that I read apparently the Greeks also share the same love for cats.

      Liked by 1 person

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