Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Cats of Turkey

Rooftop Cats in Istanbul
I am a true cat lover and, in this respect, the country of Turkey doesn’t disappoint. Feral but friendly cats have the run of the streets everywhere, especially in Istanbul. All kinds of people scatter dry food and cut big plastic bottles in half to make large dishes of water for them and their imperial feline presence can be felt everywhere.

At first I assumed that they were bred for rodent control because, not surprisingly, I didn’t see one mouse or rat on the streets during the month of my stay. But I later discovered that Islam has a high regard for them and there is a saying that anyone who harms or kills a cat must build a mosque to ask for forgiveness for this transgression.

In museums the dioramas depicting life in the past almost always include a cat or kitten keeping the people company. The glass cases are full of ancient sculptures of the creatures as well.

Can cats interpret this sign? I can't!

Most of the street cats will exchange meaningful looks or possibly engage in a meowing conversation that I refer to as Catonese, their native tongue. English actually seems to make them a bit suspicious and uneasy. And, since they are wild, any attempt to pet or touch them will send them scurrying away.

When I asked a man feeding them in a park, “What is the Turkish word for cat? “he just said what sounded like kitty and I thought he was joking. Well, I found out later that the word is “kedi” and that is exactly how it sounds! 

Now, even though I am back in the U.S., I will see movement out of the corner of my eye and expect a furry feline and feel a bit let down to find only a bird or a scampering squirrel.