In a next life I want to come back as a cat in Istanbul. I would be living the life of a king, dominating the streets and being fed, sheltered and cooed at by people. I would be shamelessly announcing my presence and stalking restaurant-owners and fishermen. And even though those foolish humans have placed cat houses and made cozy places with pillows and sheets, I would be sleeping in the middle of the streets or doorways, on top of cars and sneak into apartments to find myself a comfortable place to rest. Oh yes, I would be living the life of a king. Because this is actually the way that most of the cats of Istanbul live and I must admit that I’m jealous of this royals ever now and then.
They are many cats in Istanbul, everywhere. Some fend for themselves, mainly in in disadvantaged neighborhoods. They are slimmed down and dirtied-up, even feral. But most of them are well-fed, clean and curious, because they are taken care of by locals. You’ll find plastic containers of food and water on almost every street corner, as well tiny cat houses to provide shelter and there are several organizations dedicated to taking care of them. When a cat becomes sick or is injured, it’s not unusual for the people to step in and bring the cat to the vet. They’ll pay for the veterinary services, but I also know about vets who help for free. Cats are a big part of the city, even of the society. I’m sure that most of them have a really good, royal life. Maybe it’s because cats have a special place in Islam, maybe it’s because locals are well-meaning, but fact is that most of the cats are adored by most of the people, even though they aren’t house pets.
Ceyda Torun, who grew up in Istanbul among the street cats while her mother worried she’d get rabies and her sister worried she’d bring home fleas, made a made a documentary name KEDi about the cats that are roaming the streets of Istanbul. She says that cats have been a part of the city for thousands of years, and so, everyone who grows up in Istanbul or lives in Istanbul has a story about a cat. With friends who have adopted cats from the streets, a neighbourhood filled with shelters and taking care of a family of five ginger cats myself, I couldn’t agree more. We all have a story about the cats of Istanbul, even those who have just came here for a visit. But KEDi is not a documentary about house cats or the strays you occasionally see in your back yard. KEDi is a film about the hundreds of thousands of cats who have roamed the metropolis of Istanbul freely for thousands of years, wandering in and out of people’s lives, impacting them in ways only an animal who lives between the worlds of the wild and the tamed can. Cats and their kittens bring joy and purpose to those they choose, giving people an opportunity to reflect on life and their place in it. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to ourselves. It’s a wonderful and adorable film, for anyone who loves cats. You can find more information about the film here