The Cats of Turkey

Van Cat in Selcuk

It’s no secret both David and I love our kitties. When we travel, we’re always on the search to get our fix because we so miss our three cats back home. Turkey was heaven for us. Every time we stepped outside it took less than 2.3 seconds to spot a cat, and most of the time they were friendly, willing recipients of a head scratch or belly rub.

Turkey even has its own breed of cat, the Van (in top photo). This one, complete with one blue eye and one green eye, typical of the breed, spends her days in a shop on a walking street in Selcuk goes home with the shop’s owner at night. According to the man, she’s “famous” (there was a sign up about her and her sister who had recently been killed by a car). We never came across another Van cat on our trip, and certainly not one roaming the streets. Perhaps if we’d traveled in the eastern part of the country, near lake Van where they are from, we would have seen more of them.

Some of the first cats we saw were at the Blue Mosque:

Cat at Blue Mosque
Kristina, getting her kitty fix at the Blue Mosque.

Cat at Blue Mosque

Cat in Istanbul

It’s been theorized that Turkey is a cat lover’s paradise because the koran lists dogs as “unclean” and does not say the same as for cats. There is also a myth that Mohammed himself loved cats and cut off a piece of his own cloak (or vest depending on the story you read) rather than disturb the cat sleeping on it.

Istanbul Kittens

Regardless of this, there are cats everywhere in Turkey and even the ones without homes seem very well cared for. In fact, I saw a mama kitty with 3 kittens who had blue thread on her side where she’d had a wound stitched up. Even though she was feral, someone was taking care of her ( photos above).

Cat in Istanbul

It’s not uncommon to find cats hanging out looking for a handout in outdoor restaurants. I happily shared my meals more than once with these guys (above and below).

Cat in Istanbul

Cat in Istanbul
At a cafe in the Topkapi Palace.

And sometimes they shared their meals with others…

Cat in Istanbul-Chicken
This meal is for the birds…

We often saw bowls of water and food set out for the cats, and unlike in cities like Bangkok (which also has a huge cat population), I didn’t notice a predominance of deformed or crooked tails.

Kitten in Istanbul
I wanted to take this baby home with me.
Cat in Istanbul
Ready for a ride.
Cat in Istanbul
Sleeping in Sultanhamet

Sometimes we found cats in some surprising places…

Cat in Istanbul-Trunk
In a shop window

There were quite a few literary cats…

Cat in Istanbul-Books

Cat in Istanbul-Books

And even one up on an awning over a shop:

Cat in Istanbul

Ephesus and Selcuk had no shortage of these beauties either, lounging on stones and mosaic tile floors which have been there for millennia. Most of the cats at the ruins seems to be some mix of calico.

Cat in Ephesus

Cat in Ephesus

Cat in Ephesus

Cat in Ephesus

Cat in Ephesus

Cat in Selcuk
This big boy seemed to rule the outdoor area in the Selcuk museum.

We did see a few dogs while we were there, but very few roaming stays. The one or two dog/cat interactions we saw always resulted in the dog backing down, usually with a shopkeeper coming to the (unneeded) resecue of the cat.

If you want more kitty photos and further detail on the history of cats in Istanbul, read Legal Nomad’s excellent informative post on the cats of Istanbul.

Dog lover? Check out The Road Fork’s Wild Dogs of Turkey (there are a few kitties in there too).

20 Comments Add yours

  1. I have to say it…. I think your specialty is cat photography. You should have closed up the case and taken that cat home.

    TIP: When you get to Dubrovnik, you’ll see cats all over the place 🙂

    1. Thanks! Good to know Croatia is cat-friendly too!

  2. Grete says:

    Wow! All of those kittens are unbelievable adorable… I want them all:)

  3. Wandergirl says:

    Aww. I miss having a cat around so much! My husband is allergic – I don’t know what I was thinking! 😉

    1. DavID says:

      Wandergirl, I suggested in a comment that fortunately failed to be published that you investigate Rex cats.

      I now see from Lei’s comment on that Rex and Spynx cats could be worse than others but that there are verified hypoallergenic cats.

  4. LOVE this post! I, too, am a cat fanatic and am always on the lookout for cats when travelling. It’s amazing how one can go thru some countries and see almost no cats! I don’t recall seeing any in Peru.

    I’ll definitely have to get to Turkey now that I know it’s a cat haven.

    1. Doreen- You should go! We had such a great time and the food is fantastic (more on that coming soon).

  5. sharon Miro says:

    So pretty…I am so glad there were kitties there..I think I may have photographed some of the same pretties when I was there!

  6. Myra says:

    You should make a Kitties in Turkey calendar – those pictures are splendid! The first kitty sleeping in a box of books looks just like my childhood kitty Missy, who was the most loving, snugly sweetie-pie.

  7. Great post! I’ve also taken tons of photos of the Istanbul kitties and everywhere else we’ve traveled in Turkey. The cats are just so photogenic or just lazy enough to wait for you to take a photo too. 😉 Glad you enjoyed your time in Turkey.

  8. deniz says:

    Great photos! i love petting the cats in Turkey. We used up half our water bottle in Ephesus, sharing it with a kitty 🙂

  9. Haha, Turkish cats seem so much cooler than Australian cats (why is that?). Great photos. I especially love literary cat 🙂

  10. Royce says:

    You can post thousands of cat pictures in this post and I will gladly check out each one. That is how I love cats.

  11. Dan Hefty says:

    Great fun. We were in Isanbul last fall and are returning in three weeks. The thing about the cats we noticed was the”Mosque cats” that sat at the base of the mihrab in both the Hagia and the blue mosque, they looked like they had been there for hundreds of years, sort of keepers of the buildings. The cats at both places also looked very related, but cats can pull that off. Thanks for the fun read.

  12. Corinne says:

    I love Pamuk..the white kitty from the rug shop in Selcuk. I knew the male before he was killed as well. Van cats are so playful and fun. The shopowner loved showing them off. It was a great marketing strategy. Come look at my cat photos, watch my kitty be playful…oh yeah, and you might want to buy a rug, too. I swear Pamuk was a trained rug model, she would lay out on the top of the rug just so…you couldn’t help but want to buy it. Great photos.

    1. Thanks! Great story (albeit sad) too.

  13. Those are some happy cats. Love these photos!

  14. Amanda says:

    As if I didn’t want to go to Turkey badly enough! I’m a complete sucker for a kitty and search them out wherever I go. I too have a wide selection of travel cat photographs – I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  15. Anadolu Kedisi says:

    ”Turkey even has its own breed of cat, the Van”
    It’s same like other cats, but for some reason people imagine that white cat (with odd-eyes) is a special breed. It isn’t!

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