The cats of Istanbul

The cats of Istanbul… A Turkish saying goes: “If you have killed a cat you have to build a mosque to be forgiven“.

This phrase, so curious, but also so emblematic, clearly and immediately explains why Istanbul is unanimously recognized as the world capital of cats.

A surprise

A “title” but also a pleasant and unexpected surprise since I did not know about this local tradition, which I discovered in these days of stay in Istanbul. But a surprise, the strange combinations with which he enjoys playing life, which arrives a few days after my return, from another country, India where the cows roam free in the cities and are treated like gods; another tradition of great respect for animals that fascinated me to see closely and that I told you about in my post.
And, even in Istanbul, a bit like in India, respect for cats is born, even if the sources are not all in agreement on the subject, from religious background. In fact, it seems that the prophet Mohammed was what in the jargon is defined as a “cat lover” and that he frequently accompanied himself with “Meuzza”, a kitten who attended all his prayers lying on his cloak; Legend has it that during one of these long prayers of the prophet Meuzza she even fell asleep, and Muhammad, in order not to wake her up, cut off part of her cloak so that the kitten could continue to sleep peacefully.

A religion

So, the same legend also tells that one day Mohammed had imprinted the characteristic streaked color of cats through one of his caresses in Meuzza, thus also giving her an important gift, namely the ability to “know how to fall” at the base of the famous seven lives of cats.

Whether there is a religious origin or not, it is certain that cats are the undisputed masters of the city. Everywhere, and I am not exaggerating when I say everywhere, you will find kittens intent on sunbathing with bowls of water and treats that the inhabitants of the city put at their disposal along with bunks scattered among the alleys and parks. Here, in this regard, an important thing to say is that the vast majority of these cats live free, on the street, while enjoying the food generously offered by the population. It is rare for a cat to live in the house and when it does (I report what they told me) it is because the cat has chosen its family and not the other way around as usually happens.

They are everywhere

They are felines accustomed to the presence of man and therefore usually very sociable; even as a tourist you will not miss the opportunity to pamper more than one walking the streets of Istanbul.

Therefore, in addition to the incredible artistic and architectural beauties of the city, cats are one of the best subjects for a few photos in Istanbul. Whether it is to “peck” their particularly comical yawn or an equally comical pose, always be ready with your reflex cameras to immortalize this strange nuance of Turkish customs.


And I’ll tell you more … A few hours later, while looking at the photos of these days and, underground, I feel a thin river of gratitude flow towards these curious felines.
The reason? The cats introduced me to Istanbul that lives in the shadow of the main tourist attractions of the city such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque or the Grand Bazaar. It is the Istanbul of the back alleys where perhaps tourists rarely pass by. But it is also the truest Istanbul, the one that is definitely more capable of better describing this often restless people but with great pride and jealous keeper of millenary traditions.