A cat sleeping in a shoes shop in Istanbul

Istanbul Cats: The Adored Princesses Of The City

Istanbul has its princesses and they are the Istanbul cats. They are part of the city’s life and culture. Istanbul is the city of happy cats.

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Why Istanbul Loves Cats

Why there are so many cats in Istanbul? Cats have been treated with respect by the residents of Istanbul since the time of the Byzantine Empire when Istanbul was called Constantinople.

A cat among blouses and pullovers in a clothes store in Turkey

In the busy harbor sailors and merchants from near and far brought many diseases along with their cargo. Rodents, especially rats and mice,  spread diseases quickly in the densely populated city, and diseases could quickly turn into epidemics. What was the natural enemy of rodents? Cats. Cats killed the rodents in the markets and homes and kept Istanbul safe from deadly outbreaks. Here’s the origin of Istanbul’s love for cats.

There is a popular saying about cats in Turkey: “Kedi nankördür”, which translates to “A cat is ungrateful”. It reflects the common belief that cats are independent and not as loyal or affectionate as dogs. However, despite this saying, cats are highly respected in Turkish culture and Turkish people are cat lovers.

Islam And Cats

There is a legend that the Prophet Muhammad was saved by a cat. According to the legend, a snake got into the sleeve of the Prophet’s robe while he was sleeping. His kitty saw the snake and killed it, thus saving Muhammad’s life. In Muslim countries, following the Islamic tradition, cats are revered as clean and loyal animals that protect their owners.

A cat house in the streets of Mardin in Turkey

Why Does Turkey Love Cats

Turkish people are famous for their love of animals. They believe that pet cats are guardians of their homes. Cats are seen as a symbol of independence and good luck. Cats are considered almost sacred animals. Turks like cats and their love for the felines is shown not only towards cats in Istanbul. Cats throughout Turkey are treated with love and respect. You can see little cat houses on the streets everywhere in the Turkish countryside.

In the picture below you can see a cat at the Ephesus Archaeological site.

A cat at Ephesus ruins

How Many Cats Are There In Istanbul

No one knows the exact number of cats on the street in the metropolis. According to some local animal welfare organizations, there are between 100,000 and 150,000 stray cats in Istanbul.

However, it is important to note that Istanbul residents are involved in feeding and caring for stray cats. The people of Istanbul feed them, give them water, and shelter them when it is too hot or too cold outside. Restaurant owners leave small containers with food and water for the city feline residents.

Almost every neighborhood has its well-known local homeless cats, i.e. its local cat celebrities. 

A cat resting on a bench in Sirkeci train station in Istanbul

Istanbul Is The City Of Cats

In Istanbul, cats are everywhere. The felines are roaming the streets of Istanbul, sleeping in train stations, crossing the Bosphorus on ferries, taking the tram, or guarding metro stations. You may see many cats decorating shop windows or sleeping among the goods on the shelves. Cats of Istanbul walk among the city’s landmarks like Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque. They even enter mosques.

No one will ever chase a cat away in Istanbul.

A cat sleeping over the merchandise in a souvenir shop in Istanbul

Istanbul Cats Law

In 2004, an Animal Protection Law was passed in Turkey. The new law promotes the welfare of pets and the care of stray animals and criminalizes cruelty and animal abuse. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment for extreme cruelty to animals, including stray cats. 

Municipalities are required to take care of street animals and cat populations. Istanbul municipalities set up feeding stations with cat food, provide medical care, and build shelters for street cats and dogs.

You can feed Istanbul’s cats by inserting a coin at the feeding station at Sultanahmet Square. It is near the fountain if you’re heading towards the tram stop.

Cats Feeding Station at Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul

Throughout the city, cats are treated well. Turkish cats are loved, taken care of and healthy cats

Istanbul Cat Cafe

Of course, there are cat cafes in Istanbul where you can have your drink while enjoying the company of cats. Here are the most famous Istanbul cat cafes:

My favorite one is Cafe Naftalin K. It is located in the colorful Balat district, near the Bulgarian Iron church. The exact address is Balat, Yıldırım Cd. No:27/A. 

To wrap it up: Cats in Istanbul are loved, cherished, and well cared for. They have become an attraction themselves, adding to the city’s irresistible charm.

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