Oh, to be a cat in Istanbul….
I’ve never been anywhere where the street animals were so healthy-looking and tolerated. Once you get to the main square here in Sultanahmet, you will see one of three dogs who seem to have claimed the space for their own. They are a bit skinny, but they doze on the sidewalks and stairs in cool shadows while people automatically adjust their courses so as not to disturb them.
It’s the cats, however, that have their bluff in. I can look out my hotel window at any given moment and see at least one cat. There are brown tabbys and orange ones. There are mostly white cats and calicos. I even saw a big black fluffy one trailing a majestic plume of a tail the other day.
It is an act of Muslim charity to take care of these homeless animals. I have often seen people putting cat food out for them. Yesterday, a guy from a restaurant stepped out and fed a whole pan of sausage to a large group of cats. They pawed at and fought over the largesse.
In addition to the food, cats also get to go pretty much wherever they want. I just passed one on my way into the hotel who had curled up in a soft sunny chair in the outside dining area. A young orange tabby that reminded me a tremendous amount of my Mom and Dad’s cat Cheeze was roaming around the tombstones in the Suliyemanye area this morning. They are ubiquitous.
The best example of the affection for cats here in Istanbul can be seen in the Obama cat. When the President visited here, a cat somehow came in with him as he visited the Ayasofya. Since he is so high profile and since he won his re-election not long after that, the idea arose that this was a lucky cat. He now has a home and food and all the petting and paparazzi he can take.
Of course, these sleek kittehs only increase my longing to my own babies back home. I’m glad to give these street cats the love I cannot give to my own pets at the present. I think everybody wins.