While we were in Istanbul we discovered hundreds and hundreds of cats all over the place. On cars, under cars, on chairs in cafes, in parks, on piles of rugs, basking in the sun, chasing down cockroaches or simply playing with an empty Starbucks cup on the street. Cats are EVERYWHERE in Istanbul.
After our discovery of this miracle, we learned that it's well known and even has a documentary called Kedi. While we were there it was playing at one theater, but it was in Turkish and well, we don't speak Turkish. Alas, it's on YouTube and I'll be watching it tonight.
There is estimated to be one cat per person in Istanbul, and if some sources are correct, there are roughly 15 million people. Which is quite awesome. If you love cats, that is.
Cats of Istanbul: Photo Roundup
You cannot avoid the cats in Istanbul. They are literally everywhere. And before you go thinking about disease and problems that may arise from so many cats, think about this: disease ridden rats and mice must be really really afraid of venturing into Istanbul!
There is no serious effort to curb the cat population, so instead the people simply care for them. We saw bowls of food and piles of leftovers sitting out for the cats. We saw homemade kitty condos lined with newspaper and sheltered from the sun and rain. The wonderful staff at the Hammamhane hotel told us of a severely injured cat that they rushed to the emergency room where it is recuperating after an operation. They were actively seeking a permanent home for the injured cat as it wouldn't survive on the streets.
I wondered who would pay for the expenses, but it hardly seems to matter in Istanbul. The cats are protected and worshiped here, and money seems to be no object
I dare say that cats are as essential to the character of the city as is the Bosphorous and simit bread and the Blue Mosque. But then again, we didn't get to the Blue Mosque. We were too busy hanging out with the cats.