Turkish delight …

I saw a wonderful documentary last week, about street cats in Istanbul, where hundreds of catsthousands of them roam freely, and have for thousands of years. In the film, Kedi, we meet seven of them.

To be perfectly honest, much as I love cats, part of me wanted to see the film and part of me didn’t. I hate to see animals (or people) suffer and I was afraid these pussycats would look mangy and sick, that they’d be neglected and hungry, sad and desperate for companionship. And it would have broken my heart to see that.

But I didn’t have to worry. These seven cats looked healthy and cared for; and they were. The folks who live or work in the various neighborhoods where the cats hang out feed them, love them and really look out for them.

One kitten had an eye infection and her human guardian angel gave her eye drops every day. Another group of kittens had no mother and he fed them milk, with a syringe, several times a day.

In another part of the city, a cook who cared for numerous cats was asked how he could afford the Vet bills. He laughed and said that all the villagers had running tabs at all the Vets’ clinics — inferring the bills just never came. One woman who was interviewed said that she cooked 20 pounds of chicken every day, for her feline friends. 20 pounds, every day!

One beautiful grey cat had been “living” at a cafe for about two years. One of the waiters explained how he just showed up one day. He never wandered into the cafe, when he was hungry he’d scratch on the window until they fed him. He was chubby so they put him on a diet and instead of giving him meat, which he preferred at first, they gave him smoked turkey and emmental cheese, because they wanted him to be healthy.

The cats come and go as they please. Their human friends put no restrictions on them. They’re welcome everywhere, in their shops and restaurants, in the markets, in their homes (for as long as they want to stay). And they don’t just feed them and make sure they have water to drink. They hug them and pet them and kiss them and cuddle them. And they all admitted that the cats help them, as much as they help the cats.

All of the folks who were interviewed said that they respect that the cats are creatures of the outdoors and it would be inhumane to keep them locked up inside — they’d been roaming way too long.

To a person they worry about them, like they worry about their family members. To them, the cats are extended members of their families.

My favourite line from the film is: “If you can’t love an animal, you can’t love people.” How true is that — especially now, when we seem to be losing our humanity. When compassion and kindness and generosity of spirit is in such short supply. When we treat each other so horribly, so disdainfully, so disrespectfully.

There’s a moral to this story, that’s for sure.


21 thoughts on “Turkish delight …

  1. My son recently acquired a cat… she just turned up one day, looking healthy and well fed, but determined to stay. Within a week he had a cat flap in place so she can come and go as he was worried about her being outside in the cold. She is well fed, wanders in and out and has taken up residence in my son’s heart. It doesn’t take much for such a bond to form.

  2. We visited Istanbul and met lots of these cats, the kids were in heaven, the most memorable event though was our visit to the Princes Islands, on the boat ride home the ferry stopped at a smaller island and we were intrigued to see about 50 cats all fighting for a front row view on the pier, clearly waiting for something and knowing the due time of arrival. And then she emerged, an elderly lady who passed her package to one of the waiting stewards, the cats all followed her as did the steward with her prize, clearly it’s a daily event, she comes on the boat to feed them all and they turn up on the pier at dinner time! Fabulous.

  3. Fransi, you might remember that my step-father and I went to Istanbul while I was at tattoo. We saw so many happy cats noshing on fish heads and cream. I’ll see if I can dig up some of my old photos.

    I worry terribly about Turkey these days – such a glorious and compassionate people and culture, currently facing great internal and external conflict. I know they will emerge healthy and well, I just hope that it doesn’t take decades.

    • So great to hear from you. Of course I remember that trip you took and how much you loved it. I remember all your trips, they were always so interesting. I’ve had 3 trips cancelled to Turkey. I have always wanted to go and now I wonder if I ever will. I hope I can and, like you, I also hope they do well and that their nightmare is over soon. Hope all’s well with you too. Would love to see you for a proper catch up. Have you seen the movie, btw?? It’s still on, you must 🙂

    • They sure are characters and make great companions. Mine aren’t aloof, at least not with me. But they do need their alone time 🙂

  4. Love this! I’ll have to look this movie up. Cats are such great souls. You make me think of the Japanese Maneki Neko. Legend has it, there was a samurai who stopped to pet a cat who had pawed the air at him. Petting the cat made him late to his appointment and threw off attackers who were waiting to kill him. There’s also a dear story about the Prophet Muhammad cutting off a sleeve of his robe so as not to disturb his cat, Muezza, who had fallen asleep on it while he prayed. Cat behavior is constant across cultures. 🙂 Have a terrific day!

    • Lovely stories, thanks for sharing. You have no idea what lengths I’ve gone to so as not to disturb one of my sleeping cats lol. Hope you find the film, it’s really wonderful. You have a terrific day as well 🙂

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