Cat travel week: Istanbul

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!


  1. Posted September 14, 2010 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    There is human etiquette, and then there is feline etiquette. Since cats are more consistent in their etiquette, follow feline manners when dealing with felines.

  2. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    Kitteh approved rugs!

  3. Onychomys
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    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.

  4. Gayle Ferguson
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Like very much! Have you seen the ancient roman cat sanctuary? I’m also fond of the cats of the acropolis!

  5. Posted September 14, 2010 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    In Middle East Technical University, some buildings belong to cats. Humans are just visitors. At least according to the cats!

  6. Hempenstein
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    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.

    • Posted September 14, 2010 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      As well as score you pot wherever you are.

  7. Juha Savolainen
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    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:

  8. Posted September 14, 2010 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    They look cute, but I hope you’ve had your shots.

  9. Posted September 14, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    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).

  10. Posted September 14, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    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.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted September 14, 2010 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Pictures of animals aren’t allowed in Islam,

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

  11. daveau
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    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.

  12. Greg Byshenk
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    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.

  13. Greg Byshenk
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

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


  14. Posted September 14, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    A while ago I did a 3-part series on the cats of Istanbul. Here is Part 3 with links to the rest.

  15. Janice Cornforth
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    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!

  16. Mike
    Posted September 15, 2010 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    I was in Istanbul roughly 2 years ago (Dec 2008). It could just be coincidence, but I think that is the SAME cat in the Aya Sofia that I saw when I was there.

    If you had a picture with the tip of its tail, we could confirm. I’ve included a photo.

  17. theshortearedowl
    Posted September 15, 2010 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    Evolution with gratuitous cats – I love this blog!

    • Posted September 15, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      Me thinks someone doesn’t know what gratuitous means. Cats are never gratuitous

  18. Monika
    Posted September 15, 2010 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has kittehs on staff, to fight the rodents. They are well cared for and in exchange the museum has no problems with rats or mice.

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