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Surrounded by Cats in Seconds!

cat island Istanbul Turkey
"Cat Island" in Turkey. Image by Stray Paws Clips via YouTube

Is this purradise? Imagine a place where there’s a cat around every corner, and they’re all friendly!

City of Cats 

Nicknamed “Catstanbul,” Istanbul in Turkey is home to a population of an estimated 100,000 to 1 million stray cats. In fact, one of the islands just off the coast of Istanbul, called Heybeliada, has been nicknamed “Cat Island” by locals. 

“Istanbul’s Cat Island” Source: YouTube, Uploaded: Stray Paws Clips


During the early Ottoman Empire, around 1300 AD, much of the infrastructure was crafted out of wood. This resulted in an infestation of insects that burrowed in and consumed the wood, and rodents that consumed the insects. Further, these pests carried a multitude of diseases that could afflict humans. Cats were a solution to keeping the pest population under control, and so they became important members of the Ottoman cities. 

cat istanbul
Cat guarding an old door in Istanbul, Turkey. Image via Depositphotos

Strays or Pets?

You may have noticed that the stray cats look well groomed and cared for. Fortunately, they are. Considering the important role cats have played in Turkey since the early Ottoman Empire, it’s no wonder that the cats are respected, loved, and treated well. 

cat Istanbul
A cat nap on top of a car. Istanbul, Turkey. Image by Tom PREJEANT via Unsplash

Residents and initiative centers alike feed, groom, and build shelters for the stray cats all around the city. The community treats the cats kindly and will often stop to pet a few on their daily commute. However, the people of Istanbul rarely have cats as pets. The cats are instead fellow residents of the city, with no owners.  

The Price of Freedom

Unfortunately, there are no regulations for neutering and spaying strays in Turkey, nor is it well implemented. This has resulted in an overpopulation of feral cats, with the number steadily increasing. Diseases are common among strays, and vet care is expensive, so shelters have to raise funds for the treatment of, often, thousands of cats. 

Kittens huddled together. Image via Depositphotos

Several animal rights organizations, including Help Street Cats And Dogs, have petitioned the Turkish government to implement regulation of neutering strays. The Turkish government has recently passed a law against the neglect and mistreatment of animals, so it is hopeful that other animal welfare laws may soon be passed.


YouTube video
“In Istanbul the Cats Are King,” Source: YouTube, Uploaded: The Wall Street Journal

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