Thứ Tư, Tháng Sáu 19, 2024
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HomeSorted by levelC1 - AdvancedIn Istanbul, fat cats are a good thing

In Istanbul, fat cats are a good thing

[Reading level: C1 – Advanced]

Turkish affection for street cats and dogs has blossomed online – and occasionally pits local people against the government.


Sprawling on doorsteps, on café benches, inside hamams: stray cats and dogs are everywhere in Istanbul. Some 130,000 dogs roam the city; at least 125,000 wild cats prowl its streets. The prevalence of strays across the city is nothing new: “The dogs sleep in the streets, all over the city,” Mark Twain wrote after a visit in 1867 to Istanbul. “They would not move, though the Sultan himself passed by.” More recently their presence has taken on a new, more modern twist.


The popularity of animal photos on social media – combined with a desire for a glimmer of good news in Turkey – has boosted the renown of these creatures both at home and abroad. There are at least half a dozen Facebook pages dedicated to the strays around Istanbul. One, “Cats of Istanbul”, has nearly 70,000 followers; its canine cousin, “Pups of Istanbul”, a more modest 20,000, attesting to the pointlessness of competing with cats on the internet. One particular photo, of Tombili, an obese feline who was papped leaning casually against a step, so tickled its fans that a bronze statue (pictured, with original) was put up in his honour after he died. The craze has also moved from the little screen to the silver one: in February “Kedi”, a feature-length documentary about cats in the city, opened in New York. It is now being released across America.


Many Istanbulites treat these strays as their grandparents have done before them: butchers leave out scraps; in winter locals build small huts for the cats to sleep in. Since 2004, following European convention rules, towns have had to neuter and vaccinate the dogs; almost all are fitted with electronic chips that record their health history. This is expensive: between 2009 and 2016 the central government spent some 19m Turkish liras ($5m) in municipalities on animal welfare. Cats seem to cause less trouble, although in 2005 Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president, who was then the prime minister, successfully sued Cumhuriyet, a secular newspaper, and its cartoonist, after it depicted him as a kitty caught up in a ball of wool. The cartoonist in question is currently under arrest, one of the more than 100 journalists who have been rounded up since a failed coup last summer.


Authorities have taken drastic, and unpopular, measures to get rid of the creatures. In 2012 the government tried to introduce a law that would have consigned street dogs and cats to remote, deserted areas referred to as “nature parks”. It was shelved after an outcry from animal-rights activists and dog lovers. Thousands marched in the streets. Last week several women wearing animal masks in Alanya, a coastal town, tried to file a petition “as cats” against the killing of around 50 of their fellow felines – to be told that only humans could file petitions. For now, anyway, a cat can always dream.






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