Why Do Turkish People Love Cats So Much?


(Istanbul For 91 Days)

In a nation whose empires fell over time, its feline creatures ruled the streets and people’s hearts throughout.

Beyond the grandeur of palaces and mosques thrives the peculiar cat or “Kedi” culture of İstanbul, enough to name the city ‘Catstanbul.’

Two cats cuddling into each other in İstanbul. (Orin / Bored Panda)

Why is the ‘cat culture’ so unusual to İstanbul? Is there a connection of antiquity between the two?

A cat relaxing at a shisha café in İstanbul.

The religious association of cats

(Anadolu Agency)

A famous saying in İstanbul goes like this, “If you have killed a cat, you need to establish a mosque to be forgiven by God.”

The cat bears a unique religious association in Turkey whose citizens are mostly Muslims.

Gli is a famous cat who lives in the Hagia Sophia Mosque. (Reuters)

Cats are often revered in Islam and are a preferred species for domestication.

Various historical Islamic sources and hadith mention accounts of the Prophet ﷺ’s encounter with cats as especially pleasing ones.

The Ottomans loved cats.

Perhaps in today’s Turkey, one wouldn’t think that cats were particularly loved (except in İstanbul’s Cihangir district).

However, in earlier centuries, the Ottomans loved cats as much as the Arabs and Egyptians did.

An animal loved at home and beyond.

The state support for cat welfare has been carried forward. In 2004, an animal protection law was declared in Turkey, along with state policies to catch, neuter, and release cats or put them up for adoption.

Turkish citizens don’t hesitate when it comes to caring for cats.

Legal action ensures that cats survive in the city without any hassle. Nonetheless, the concern goes more in-depth than institutional law.

Turkey has a cat culture of its own. The animal stands for a symbolic portrayal of the Turks themselves, a luxury-loving community.

Turkish citizen Özgür Kantemir who lives in Ankara, and owns eight cats, said in a statement, “Cats are lazy anarchists, and this might be one reason why they conform to us just fine in big cities.”

In İstanbul’s Cihangir district, cats are equaled to customers when they sit with humans and sleep on chairs, tents, and porches.

Likewise, Turkish culture cherishes the presence of cats by decorating dishes and clothes with cat imagery.

People place bowls of water and food on the streets, let cats sleep on their porches, and feel responsible for their welfare.

It seems like the four-legged animal has become the objective correlative for the lifestyle that Turkish citizens indulge in, that of luxury and queenly demeanor.

Some cat pictures from İstanbul.

Cats enjoy the sunset by the sea near the Üsküdar district. (Demetrios Ioannou)
A group of cats explores the interior of a house in the Fatih district. (Demetrios Ioannou)
A boy feeds a fish to one of the stray cats in the port of Karaköy. (Demetrios Ioannou)

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