Cats of Istanbul

I’ve just returned from two weeks in Turkey, most of which I spent in Istanbul.

The main reason I went to Istanbul was to attend a travel conference called the World Tourism Forum, where I listened to speeches and panels with leading tourism professionals and met other travel bloggers from around the world. I also wanted to explore Istanbul (I’d been once before, but only for eight hours) and check out at least one other destination in Turkey.

And there is one other big reason why I went to Istanbul: the cats.

Istanbul cats-2This might be the cutest cat in Istanbul. Or it might not be. There are thousands of cats competing for that honor.

Everyone knows I love cats. I photograph them everywhere I go, and my own cat writes frequently on this blog. But my love of cats can’t compare to the cat-love that encompasses the city of Istanbul, and in fact all of Turkey.

Istanbul cats-2-4Cat on a wall in Cihangir, Istanbul.

Istanbul’s Multitude of Cats

There are hundreds of thousands of cats in Istanbul, most of which are strays. By “stray” I mean that the cats live mainly outside and aren’t “owned” by any one person. But the stray cats of Istanbul, as a whole, are exceptionally well cared-for. Most of them look healthy and well fed (bowls of cat food appear everywhere on Istanbul’s streets), and unlike feral cats in other places these cats are usually keen to socialize with humans.

There are various theories and explanations for why cats are so ubiquitous in Turkey, most of which center around the fact that cats hold a special place in Islam. As the popular Muslim saying goes, “If you’ve killed a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God.” However, Turkey’s passion for cats seems to go beyond religion. To me it just seems like Turkish people, as a whole, really love cats. And I don’t blame them.

Although I did make time for other activities, I could have spent my entire stay in Istanbul following, petting, and taking photos of cats. I’ve compiled my favorite cat pics for this post.

Istanbul cats-2-3On our first free afternoon in Istanbul, Meruschka and I visited a neighborhood called Cihangir that is home to a charming family of cats. (The cats of Cihangir even have a dedicated Facebook group.) We met the cats on a beautiful rainbow-painted staircase, where we spent at least 45 minutes taking photos.

Istanbul cats-8420Kitten of Cihangir.

Istanbul cats-2-5Mama cat of Cihangir.

Istanbul cats-8468
Feeding time on the Cihangir steps.

Istanbul cats-8500I went a little cat-crazy in Cihangir.
 Istanbul cats-8571Cat on a cobbled street, Galata.

Istanbul cats-9817Golden cat, Galata.

Istanbul cats-8846Cats on a chilly day, Fener.

Istanbul cats-9963Cat in front of a trendy coffee shop, Balat.

Istanbul cats-9491This cat, shown with my Turkish blogging colleague Murat, crashed our Travel Massive networking event at Hush Hostel in Kadıköy. He was the sweetest most affectionate cat ever, until a pizza appeared on the table. Then he became an aggressive, ravenous, lunatic cat who is clearly used to having his way with human food.

Istanbul cats-0271Pretty cat by a pretty door, Eminönü. People leave out boxes and pieces of cardboard for the cats to sit on, since Istanbul’s streets and stone floors are cold in winter.

Istanbul cats-9661Cat and graffiti, Beyoğlu.

Istanbul cats-9624I think this is my favorite picture that I took in Istanbul, shot on İstiklal Street during a walking tour with Context Travel. You can’t tell in this photo, but the regal cat in the man’s lap only has one eye. I wish I could have gotten their story, but he didn’t speak English and I didn’t want to hold up my tour group. I could tell he was a lovely man though, with lovely cats.

I should mention that there are also lots of stray dogs in Istanbul, although not as many as there are stray cats. The dogs also look relatively healthy but not as well cared-for as the cats. I noticed that lots of the dogs, especially in central tourist areas, have tags in their ears, which I assume means they have been spayed/neutered.

Istanbul dog-0098An Istanbul dog in Sultanahmet.

I’ll probably have more to say about Turkey’s cats and dogs in future posts.

Read more about the cats of Istanbul here, here, here, and here.

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  • Reply Anita / gailtalontour Blog February 17, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Ooooh so lovely pics from the pretty cats in Istanbul. Saw them also during my citytrip to Istanbul and it’s true, everybody cares about them. We were told that even in the Hagia Sophia there should live about 7 cats. I love cats too 🙂 greetings to SA!

    • Reply 2summers February 17, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      Yes, there’s a very famous one living in the Hagia Sophia apparently but we didn’t see it. Thanks for the comment!

      • Reply UnderAnAfricanSun February 18, 2016 at 6:54 am

        I think I saw that kitty in Hagia Sophia, I have a photo of him sleeping on a bench with a snoozing tourist in the background. Love all your cat photos and looking forward to hearing more.

        • Reply 2summers February 21, 2016 at 1:09 pm

          Thanks! I wish I’d seen that famous Hagia Sophia kitty…We didn’t find out about him until after we visited there.

          • UnderAnAfricanSun February 21, 2016 at 4:46 pm

            and when I saw him, I didn’t know he was famous; haha.

  • Reply autumnashbough February 17, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    Love all the pictures! So the dogs are sprayed/ neutered and released, but not the cats?

    • Reply 2summers February 17, 2016 at 3:43 pm

      Well, I’m not sure. The tags on the dogs’ ears were very noticeable but I didn’t see any on cats…But that could have been because cats’ ears are smaller. I do think there are efforts being made to spay/neuter the cats too though, based on comments I read on the Cihangir cats Facebook page.

      • Reply autumnashbough February 17, 2016 at 5:10 pm

        Here in LA, Fix Nation either notches or removes a tiny edge of an ear.

        • Reply 2summers February 17, 2016 at 5:11 pm

          Oh, that’s possible. I’ll have to go back again and check 🙂

      • Reply Rebecca February 17, 2016 at 5:10 pm


        The tagged dogs have had rabies shots.

        • Reply 2summers February 17, 2016 at 5:12 pm

          Oh! Well I guess that’s good but I’m disappointed it doesn’t mean sterilization 🙁

  • Reply Timmee February 17, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Dogs for the win

  • Reply maike February 17, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    love your pictures. so cute!

    • Reply 2summers February 17, 2016 at 10:21 pm

      Thank you 🙂

  • Reply Jaina February 18, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    These cat photos nearly made this dog person a cat lover … nearly!

    There are a lot of stray cats around Bahrain. More dogs though. The dogs travel in packs and can be a little intimidating at night when you’re on your own. And that’s coming from someone who’s more than comfortable with dogs!

    • Reply 2summers February 21, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      Yes, dogs can defintely be more threatening than cats. Apparently there are packs of dogs in the Turkish countryside that can be like that, but all the dogs I saw in Istanbul seemed very mild-tempered.

    • Reply catji October 21, 2016 at 8:21 pm

      That happens in India – neighbourhood dogs form packs at night, lying in the road, and they are *dangerous*!

  • Reply Ruby Ronin February 19, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    This is one of the best cat compilations I’ve seen. I absolutely love it! I think when I go to Istanbul I’ll be like you.. following cats day in, day out.

    • Reply 2summers February 21, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      Thanks so much, Ruby. Glad you enjoyed it. I hope you get to go someday!

  • Reply Lani February 20, 2016 at 7:33 am

    OMG. I now LOVE Istanbul. My kind of people. It’s funny Thais love dogs – it’s a dog country. I felt like Austria was as well. Finally, a cat city! Rejoice!

    • Reply 2summers February 20, 2016 at 8:59 am

      It’s interesting how certain countries seem to favor one over the other. Brazil is a dog country as well. Turkey is definitely a land for cats.

  • Reply pamnichols March 15, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Hi there, I am a friend of Fiver’s from the UK but I recently moved to Bloem – I’ve been following your blog cos I’m a blogger too and I always planned to celebrate my new city with another blog, then I saw you were already doing it so I thought ‘oh man, she’ll think I’m copying her…’ ha ha! ANYWAY… I had to laugh when I read this one because it was pretty much exactly what I intended to write when I went to Turkey last year – You’ve actually saved me the bother eh? Shall I send you the cutest kitten photos (not the quality of yours but ‘up there’ on the cuteness factor) if you send me your email address? It was a little sanctuary in a park where these teeny weeeeeny kittens were all asleep in a tiny wooden house made especially for them. I know, right?? EEEEEEEKKK!!
    Bye for now – love Pam (hope you’re having fun with Fiver xx )

    • Reply 2summers March 16, 2016 at 9:11 pm

      Hi Pam, nice to hear from you! Fiver has told me about you and I’d love to check out my blog. Please send me a message through the “Contact Me” page and we can correspond from there. I’d love to see your kitten pics.

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