One thing you notice immediately when walking around Istanbul is the horde of stray cats. They are EVERWHERE. It’s kind of like being in an episode of The Walking Dead except instead of zombies, you’re being overrun by felines.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against the fur balls. Heck, I have one of my very own back at The Gulch. But Istanbul takes feline fever to a whole new level.
Everywhere you look, there’s a cat. Or two. Or three… On the street, in and outside of buildings, on rooftop ledges, under and on cars, in the parks, lounging on sidewalks, reposing on tree limbs, curled up on a cushion or in a box. Every scenario imaginable.
If Dr. Seuss ever came to Istanbul, he would have written a book about a gazillion cats, not just that one troublemaker in a hat. Cats. Cats. In a box. On some rocks. Some are tan. Some are brown. See them smile. See them frown.
I turned to Google for some answers and found this interesting article. The writer seems to think there’s a religious reason behind all the cat care. But, as a Turkish commenter pointed out, Istanbul has only gone hyper-religious in the last three or four decades, yet the love affair with stray cats has been going on much longer. So, if Islam ain’t the main thing spreading the cat love — what is?
Being a practical person, I think a large city residing on a big body of water operating a very busy port lets the cats mate like rabbits because it doesn’t want to be invaded by rodents. Afterall, which would you prefer? Rats or cats?
That question was answered in Istanbul long ago. The vote was tallied and the cats won by a landslide! They are free to roam, meow, fight, eat and mate at will. As a visitor, all you can do is just stand back and watch the stray cats strut.