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Istanbul is home to thousands of stray cats, they are the most beloved animal in the city and if you’re visiting it feels like the city actually belongs to them and we’re just mere visitors.
There are thought to be 125,000 cats roaming free just in Istanbul alone.
Where did all these animals come from?
It goes all the way back to the Ottoman Empire. During this time, it’s believed the many ships that docked at Constantinople had cats onboard to manage pests such as mice. The creatures were thought to disembark at the capital and flourished over the years, intermixing breeds and multiplying in population.
Cats were also considered guardians for the Islamic world back then: They defended libraries from destruction by mice and may have helped protect city populations from rat-borne plagues.
They contribute nowadays a great deal to Istambul’s soul. Roaming around freely and charmingly, taking the best places at cafes and restaurants, taking long naps in any available confortable place. For me, a cat person, this is just delightful. While the cats in Istambul are not adopted formally, they are taken care of by no one and everyone, a giant community network of cat caring.