Cat Knows Everything, In Istanbul, Too…

We have a saying; “when cities were not even named in Europe, the cats were the inhabitants of Istanbul.” Rumour has it, the first kittens has been settled in the city by the Byzas of Megara, the eponymous founder of Byzantium, the city later known as Constantinople and Istanbul.

In each street of each neighbourhood in Istanbul, you see the cats habitants. In fact we may say, each street of each neighbourhood is truly ruled by the cats in Istanbul. If I say it has become the symbol of the city, nobody would deny it.

They are the distinguished neighbours of native Istanbulers. It is not a coincidence to see water and food stations for them in front of the apartment buildings especially in the older established neighbourhoods such as Moda, Balat, Harbiye, Cihangir, Kurtuluş.

There was at least one cat watching when Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi, the legendary Ottoman aviator, flew with eagle wings from the very top of the Galata Tower and landed in Üsküdar, with the help of the south-west wind.

Or, Sinan, the Great Architect, was definitely petting a cat on his lap when he was dreaming about his next masterpiece, let’s say the Suleymaniye Mosque.

I am pretty sure that Agatha Christie was already an acquaintance of the mayor cat of Pera, when she was staying in Pera Palace when writing “Murder in the Orient Express”.

In Turkish literature, you can find hundreds of pieces involving cats in their pages; in comic books (my favourite: “Vicdan” by İlban Ertem, followed by “Kötü Kedi Şerafettin” by Bülent Üstün), in poems (my favourite: “Kuyruklu” by Orhan Veli Kanık), in anecdotes, in myths, in short stories or even as the leading role (my favourite: “Istanbul’da Kedi by Gündüz Vassaf).

They have been observing and blessing us for centuries and they are the silent witnesses of the great history of our magnificent city.

Photo courtesy of Hakan Aktürk.