Cats of Istanbul

Istanbul is a magical city and somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. I was expecting delicious food, rich culture, gorgeous textiles, and beautiful sun and sea. I was not expecting to find so many friendly and well-kept street cats.

cats of Istanbul

I visited places in Italy where there are many cats roaming the streets. But these Italian cats are usually shy like feral cats and you can not get close to them. Istanbul’s streets are full of cats. They are  friendly and attention seeking. They are not feral. I wouldn’t even call them stray. They may not be house pets but they still have plenty of people who love and look after them.

Throughout the streets there are containers with water and cat food that is well maintained and replenished.


cats of Istanbul

A young kitten sleeping behind the glass of a shop and two kittens and their mother sleeping on a pile of textiles  just in front.

cats of Istanbul

This cat is asking for food while I’m dining at a restaurant. I often saw restaurant workers and customers giving cats extra food from their plates.


Cats of Istanbul

Cats in Islam

Cats have a long history of being adored in Islam. They are admired for their cleanliness and are welcomed in mosques. There are many stories involving the prophet Muhammad.  He is reported to have said that “a love of cats is an aspect of faith”

One story explains that the prophet’s favorite cat Muezza, was sleeping on the sleeve of his prayer robe so he cut off the sleeve to prevent disturbing the cat’s sleep.


I was sitting outside the Blue Mosque when this cat happily approached me to sit on my lap, I felt so honored.

Cats of Istanbul


I don’t want to over romanticize these cats’ lives. I understand they may suffer from diseases, too many litters, cat fights, accidents and short lifespans. These are natural consequences of outdoor city living cats.

But judging from their demeanor, appearance and trust in humans I believe their quality of life to be happy and secure.

Cats of Istanbul

This is the gardens of the Hagia Sophia Mosque playing with the kittens.

KEDI is a documentary film that was produced about the lives of cats in Istanbul.


There were also street dogs through the city but only a fraction compared to cats.  Agencies are doing a good job tracking the dogs, vaccinating and testing them against Rabies and placing ear tags on them. I didn’t see one puppy in the city compared to the hundred of kittens therefore the neuter and release program is clearly working. I found it interesting that the dogs were not interested in people unlike the cats. I never once saw a dog approach a person begging for food or attention. Unlike the cats who were frequently approaching people. The dogs just sort of roamed and slept in the beauty of the city completely un-bothered and uninterested in the cats or people.

dogs of Istanbul Blue Mosque


I visited Istanbul on June 30th 2016, two days after the attack at the Atatürk airport. I feel lucky to have had such a wonderful and peaceful trip to this beautiful country. With the latest events happening in Turkey, the people and its future remain in my thoughts and I look forward to someday returning to this magical country.



  1. October 15, 2016 / 2:13 pm

    Very interesting! I love how the cats all look so healthy. It’s especially surprising that the cats are more friendly than the dogs.

    • October 15, 2016 / 2:46 pm

      I was surprised too. I never once saw a dog interact with a person. Not even to beg for food. But the cats were loving attention. When that cat approached me and walked right onto my lap at the Blue Mosque, it was just magical.

  2. October 15, 2016 / 1:53 pm

    These pictures are stunning! I especially love the ones of the kitites napping on the textiles. It sounds like this was a really incredible experience.

    • October 15, 2016 / 2:51 pm

      It really was, its such a magical city. Cats and textiles are two of my favorite things!

  3. October 12, 2016 / 10:09 pm

    Wow thanks for sharing this on the Pet Blogger showcase. I’m always amazed how so many other areas of the world do things so much better than we do.

    Is there a reason that the cats aren’t TNR’d? Is it because of they are revered?

    • October 13, 2016 / 6:30 pm

      They do TNR the dogs because the dogs are larger and could potentially cause more problems such as dog fights or biting people. And in general the people don’t admire the dogs like they do the cats. They are really trying to eliminate the street dogs completely. While the cats are not seen as a nuisance or problem. On top of that the scale and expensive of trying to TNR the cat population is just too large of a task to which they don’t see a problem.

  4. tamcalinyc
    October 12, 2016 / 8:07 pm

    I loved it when I was there but sadly not for enough days and if you can believe it I didn’t see any cats!!

    • October 13, 2016 / 6:22 pm

      That is very hard to believe, when where you there?

  5. October 4, 2016 / 10:01 am

    The world would be a much better place if animals everywhere were treated well :)

  6. July 19, 2016 / 12:45 am

    What a wonderful experience for you. And I really liked the trailer. I will have to see where I can find it.

  7. July 17, 2016 / 8:20 pm

    Beautiful photos ! These cats looks very happy ! Purrs

  8. July 17, 2016 / 10:20 am

    Great article and lovely piccies!

    I had a similar experience in Jerusalem in April of this year. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of street cats in this beautiful city, most of which (like Istanbul) looked well cared for and healthy, and most of them were definitely not feral, but very friendly and used to people petting them. Yes, there were *some* I saw who looked awful, mostly big fat toms with their balls still attached, hanging around those big bins looking for scraps, who were so shy that you couldn’t go anywhere near them, but the majority looked good!

    I spent a day at the JSPCA shelter (Jerusalem Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and found that they go round and TNR these cats, which they then mark by snipping the tip of the ear (just like elsewhere in the world). They generally also look after cats if they find they are sick or injured or otherwise need help. They really do an amazing job over there.

    Then there are also private volunteers, who set up cat feeding stations in places where there are cat colonies, and I didn’t see one single cat that was too skinny! :)

    I took hundreds of photos, but just a few are here in my own short article about the cats of Jerusalem.

    I do a cat photography calendar every year, and my 2017 one is going to be called “The Street Cats of Jerusalem” – when it’s ready, maybe you could feature it here. ;)

    • July 17, 2016 / 4:52 pm

      Its lovely to see people all of the world caring so much about cats. I’d love to see your calendar!

  9. July 17, 2016 / 2:12 am

    We enjoyed all the photos of the cats of Istanbul!

    Mindy & Mike

  10. pilch92
    July 17, 2016 / 12:29 am

    Beautiful kitties, I am glad they are treated well.