The Cats of Istanbul

Istanbul’s cats are quite the tourist attraction, but I had no idea they even existed till a few weeks before I got there. I’m sure they didn’t know I existed either, so we’re even. In case you couldn’t tell from my previous Istanbul post, I love the little furballs. Knowing I’d have a virtual army of them to keep me company whilst travelling alone made me happy. But when there, I was left in two minds. Well, actually I was left in about 100 minds.

Even though they’re street cats, there seems to be a general affection for them, both from the locals and tourists, although I did see one guy kick one out of his way – arsehole. But a hell of a lot of them are obviously starving. And a few looked sick. So that made me sad. Then I thought about how the cats are, in some areas, helped more than the refugees who are now very visible in Istanbul (one shop had a tip jar ‘for the cats’ and there are bowls of water and food left on the street) and I felt guilty for getting sad about cats but not humans. Then I got sad about the refugees. Then I thought, why hadn’t I been sad about refugees until a few months ago when we started being inundated with media about them? Why am I not doing anything about it? Then I thought about the homeless in our own backyards. And the poor and the oppressed. So I fed a cat. But I haven’t fed a human yet. And what about the dogs. There’s street dogs too. Oof.

After probably my most unsuccessful trip ever, I may have just been tired, hot, lonely and emotional, but after a few days I just really wanted to go home and hug my cat. Alright, and my other half too. But probably my cat first.

If you’re one of those people who hate the overabundance of cats on the internet but somehow you’ve still clicked on this post and had a read, look away now. Here’s the little guys I came across in Beyoglu and beyond…

cat 2 cat 3 cat 4 cat 5 cat 6 cat 8

cat 11

Istanbul cats

This little one was so thin I teared up. I know. Ridiculous. Shuddup. I knowwwww.

cat 10

After giving her a pat I walked off to get her some food. She saw me coming back and bounded up to greet me, then stopped short. Her eyes got all big and hopeful, probably pretty much exactly as any starving animal or human would, hopeful but not wanting to be disappointed if it didn’t happen. My heart melted. She ate all the chicken in the kebab I’d bought right out of my hand.

As well as laughing at my rambling thought processes and hormonal tsunami, a friend of mine pretty much put it all in perspective. He said “It’s sad…. It’s beautiful…. It’s life….” Yep, I guess it is.

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