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Cats of İstanbul

Cats of İstanbul

Cats have a silent but enormous value for the habitants of İstanbul. It should not surprise you to see cats in almost every street you walk along with cat foods, water cups, cat houses and blankets left in protected corners of the streets and being kept by citizens and municipalities. Many shopkeepers have their informally owned cats in front of their shops, who are being fed just outside the shops in the daytime and usually go to sleep inside the shop in the evening, by closing time. Of course, this statement has exceptions in especially more unfortunate districts of İstanbul but it is safe to say that people of İstanbul have a special relationship with these lovely creatures.

It is a common act of these alley cats to return the favour to almost every human. A cat will must probably jump beside you while you are sitting on a bank, asking for a rub, will purr and play with you almost in every corner of the city.

Cats, A Volunteering Way of Sharing Life

Cats are exceptional creatures of the habitat and urban life. All the other pets, except for the exotic ones such as snakes and lizards, which are forbidden to keep in homes in Turkey are the ones that we as humans have tamed. It is safe to say that we have shaped most of their evolution by breeding methods.

Cats are one exception to this rule. As humans have turned to permanent settlement and agriculture, small animals and pests has also gathered around these settlements in a short time, comparing to timeline of human history, which made an easier hunting ground for cats and brought them to us and created a co-existence. That is the main reason why, for example a tamed dog does not have the urge to hunt inherited from their wolf ancestors, but attacks to protect its home or human, but a cat’s first act would be running and hiding in the face of danger, but still has the urge to hunt, even with a full stomach. They are simply smart enough to discover that showing love to these comparably much bigger creatures has given them shelter and food, and humans have benefited them for protecting their grains from pests. This might even explain why cats were considered holy in the eye of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia cultures, the first farmers of human history.

History has also proven this theory right by unpleasant examples. As Pope Gregory IX’s declaration of cats as witches, thousands of cats along with their witch owners have been slaughtered. Without the protection of cats in the ports against pests, a plague surrounded Europe, resulting with the death of one third of population, an estimation of 75 million people.

Pets’ Place in Turks’ Life in History

Turks’ history begins with a nomad lifestyle in Middle Asia steps. They are one of the first nations who learned to tame horses which enabled them to be able to sustain their tribes’ economies with raiding neighbouring tribes and nations as well as sheep and goat stockbreeding. Dogs came along with this way of life as guardians of the livestock as shepherd dogs and companions of the hunters. Therefore farming was not a major part of ancient Turks’ economy and way of life, so were not the cats.

Anatolia and Trace, today’s Turks’ homeland was far more available for farming, even partly cradle of permanent settlement, which made it one of the first homeland of tamed cats. Therefore, they were here long before Turks came as colonies. In time, Turks also adapted to permanent settlement and made friends with these little creatures and made them their loving partners in life. In village life, traditionally cats have their own places in haylofts and move around the houses purring from one person to another. In urban life, many families and especially those formed by white-collar people share their homes with at least one cat. Many hermits also prefer the lovely way of sharing the life with cats. It is safe to say that cats have always taken their places in the daily life of Turks, especially in İstanbul.

Pet Ownership Rules in Turkey

Many countries have very strict policies for pet ownership, but Turkey is not one of them. For instance, you may own stray puppies or baby alley cats only by carrying it to a veterinary clinic that you may choose. As you receive this passport, by law the pet is your merchandise.

Twitter is also a very serious data source for finding a new friend to share your own. Animal lover communities always tweet about cats and dogs with basic information and pursue the state of the upkeep of the pet afterwards, sometimes even with a contract.

Please always keep in mind pet ownership requires maximum responsibility. Your friend will ask for attention, will have hygienic needs and financial cost. People need to make a long term plan before deciding to share their lives with cats and dogs.

Cats and Vets, A Sample of Tough Love

Every pet is given a passport when it is taken to the veterinarian clinic for the first time. Weight and height growth, vaccines, past diseases and current conditions are registered to this passport by the veterinary doctor and pursued by him or her for the pet’s lifetime. All information are recorded by a shared database and can be achieved by any other veterinary doctor you may need to go, for instance, you move.


Alley cats are usually taken to veterinary clinics to volunteer animal lovers, who are legion especially in İstanbul and veterinary doctors treat them with minimum costs. Sterilisation of those cats are also done by these people and method in addition to İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s and County Municipalities’ teams. Stray dogs that you may see on the streets with plastic earrings and alley cats with a little scratch on their ears mean that they gave been sterilised by a Municipality.


It is no surprise that many cats hate going to the vet. There might be a number of reasons for this, but assuming the pet does not carry a psychological trauma, the main reason for this is actually cats hate to travel at all. Cats are extremely domestic animals and hate to leave their homes. Even alley cats usually never leave their streets unless they are forced to by human effects such as developments or constructions. Positive conditioning your cat by feeding it with its favourite food or awarding it with its favourite toy after the visit to the vet may decrease this protesting attitude. Leaving the carrying box available for your cat to get in and out during the day and sleep in will also be an addition to a more positive feedback for your cat.


A cat owner also needs to keep in mind that, cats are not 100% tamed animals, and they are among us because they preferred to do so in history. That is why, unlike other tamed animals, almost all cats have a different personality and other awarding methods for better feedbacks.