Around Buyukada, the largest of the Princes Islands near Istanbul, you can’t avoid running into stray cats – a lot of them. Back in the Ottoman times, people lived mostly in wooden houses. These houses were getting hordes of mice and rats so cats were a way to keep the pests out of the houses. That’s why people in Turkey have such an affiliation towards cats – Istanbul, for example, is home to more than 1 million stray cats.
Nowadays, people build little houses and shelters for stray cats, keeping them safe and warm. Likewise, people put out food for the cats. On Buyukada the cats are spoiled by the many fish restaurants and tourists that feed them or leave leftovers. So most of the cats on Buyukada are well-fed and happy cats, and their numbers are only growing steadily.
However, there is a large problem in Turkey with homeless animals primarily because there is not much of a culture of thinking about nutrients – the life of a stay cat is not long, about 3-6 years. And the Covid-pandemic has only made it worse for the cats because it limits the number of tourists while restrictions have forced restaurants and cafes to keep closed, leaving less food for the cats with the result that gangs of hungry stray cats have begun roaming the streets of Buyukada.
READ in “The Cat Story – Part 2” how we in these Covid-pandemic times experienced the struggle of the stray cats and with what tragic result :((
Photos: Sila Yalazan
Text: Steen Andersen