Cat travel week: Istanbul

September 14, 2010 • 5:46 am

After yesterday’s post on the convent cats of Mystras, Greece, I realized that I have further holiday snaps of kittehs that I can foist on you.  For the rest of this week, then, until Friday, I’ll show cats I’ve encountered on my travels.

The first dollop is from Istanbul. Two years ago I was invited to Middle East Technical University in Ankara to talk about Darwinism. (This was the biggest audience I’d ever had: over 1200 people.) After Ankara I went to Istanbul, where I’d been in 1972, to revisit that fabulous city.

Like Greece, Turkey is full of kittehs: they are everywhere in the city, including the mosques and museums.  Here’s a beautiful kitten in the graveyard of the Prince’s mosque (Şehzade Camii’), where dozens of cats roam free.  I would have dearly loved to take this little guy home with me, but he was already wild and shy, and I couldn’t approach him.

A cat resting in an appropriate niche at the Archaeology Museum, near Topkapi Palace:

And Old Softy again with his ubiquitous box of cat food.  This is in either the Blue Mosque or the Aya Sofia.  I’m not sure whether feeding cats in a mosque is a breach of etiquette.

Seduced by kittehs!  The owner of the Troy Rug store has three cats which lounge and sleep on rugs in front of his place.  I stopped to pet and photograph them (and, as you can see, to give them a snack), and you know what came next.  I returned the next day and, after strenuous bargaining, bought a small Anatolian silk rug woven with animal designs.  The owner told me the cats draw in a lot of business!

22 thoughts on “Cat travel week: Istanbul

  1. So do cats in these cities (or at least on the Greek island from yesterday) tend towards polydactyly? You see it a lot in barn cats, and I’ve always assumed it’s some recessive trait that comes forward because of the small breeding population in a barn, but the picture of you feeding the cat from hand makes it look like that cat may have had an extra digit.

  2. OK, here’s your retirement plan: partner with Rick Steves or someone like that and do a show called International Cat Feeder. It would be a sensation on cable. You’d have a rapt audience of grandmother types, and could make WEIT commentary while feeding the cats. Steves could handle the lodging angles.

  3. I also have had a lot of amusing encounters with local kittehs both in Turkey and in Greece. They seem to have some sort of Local Positioning Service to identify kitteh-addicted persons, in particular if these persons are heading towards a restaurant…Which means that I regularly share my dinners with several cats, to the slight annoyance of my human companions…:)

    By the way, the cats avoid, quite reasonably (unlike some dogs!), the crowded and motorized areas in big cites. But outside that particularly unpleasant region of spacetime, cats rule their dominions without too much trouble. Small winding alleys in small cities built on hilltops and with a harbor nearby are not perfect holiday resorts for tourists only but big feline favorites, too…

    Still, on this side of Atlantic, one can find kittehs in many intriguing places. Some of them can claim a long aristocat genealogy and an equally impressive commitment to art:

  4. My wife and I were in Buenos Aires in March, and discovered that (seemingly well-fed) cats rule the grounds of most of the museums. We speculate that they are the main control on the urban pigeon population.

    I wonder why you don’t see this so much in North America (though there is a feral colony right on Parliament Hill, here in Ottawa).

  5. Jerry: “This is in either the Blue Mosque or the Aya Sofia. I’m not sure whether feeding cats in a mosque is a breach of etiquette.”

    I’ve been racking my brain but actually can’t remember which one that vase is in. It’s been about 10 years since I’ve been to either.

    They don’t seem to have cats inside those buildings anymore, though, and that’s a pity. There are plenty outside, though.

    The animal-design carpets are usually from Hattasas, the old Hittite capital. Pictures of animals aren’t allowed in Islam, but these seem to get by because of the historical precedent.

    1. Pictures of animals aren’t allowed in Islam,

      If that is true, it would be, why, heresy! Ceiling Cat is not amused.

  6. There are tons of cats around the coliseum in Rome. They are protected by law as the descendants of cats who marched with the Roman soldiers as ratters. Supposedly partial ancestors for British Shorthairs, which are stocky and muscular. We have lots of pictures; unfortunately, we were still using 35mm film when we went to Italy eight years ago, so I have nothing to link to.

    I am so bringing cat food with me next vacation.

  7. I’m pretty sure that the third photo is Hagia Sophia; it doesn’t look anything like Sultanahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque).

    A quick search suggests that the vase is probably this one , which is Hagia Sophia.

  8. Oops. Looks like my URL went missing. It’s


  9. Jerry, I love you for doing these acts of kindness for the kitties you find on your travels. When I was in Athens I took my share of any meat(I don’t eat meat) from my meals & gave it to the street cats.

    About the mosque, legend has it that Muhammad had a beloved cat named Muezza & because of this Muslims tolerate cats better than dogs. I just wish their prophet loved all creatures.
    Thanks wikipedia!

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