Istanbulites care for street cats as if they were their own, as they are already a symbol of the ancient city.
As reported in an article published by The Economist, Turkey is also home to a very specific cat breed, the “Van” cat, who’s strangely fond of water. Tradition claims two of those were aboard Noah’s Ark. When it finally landed on Mount Ararat, the cats jumped into the water and swam their way to the shore.
These traditions might explain why Istanbulites have always cared for stray cats. While Western Europeans feared and vilified felines, the citizens of the Ottoman Empire would instead care for cats both personally and through charitable institutions, as cats were the perfect guardians for libraries and deposits of grain, but would also protect the city from rodent-transmitted plagues. In fact, when walking around Istanbul, one commonly bumps into bowls of cat food and water the neighbors spontaneously fill one day after the other, just to keep their neither feral nor completely domesticated cats well fed and happy.
If you want to read the article The Economist published on a recently released documentary on Istanbul’s thriving street cat population, click here.
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