The climate is nice. They can survive the winter without having to crawl into a steamy sewer like rats. Though many cats sleep under cars (especially if the engine is still warm).
Most cities in these areas are not heavy on traffic, the city roads are narrow and designated for slow-driving - giving the animals an opportunity to move around with not much noise and danger.
Old people in the neighborhood feed them and play with them. I would say it's as nice for them as it is for the cats (they get to have a hobby, go out etc). People at cafes and restaurants (especially the ones with outdoor seating) might put some food aside.
People growing up in such an environment learn to like the cats, and give them some attention or feed them themselves. (I grew up loving stray cats, and animals in general due this culture). Was surprised to see how much having a pet is a "business" in the states (higher rents if you have a pet, mandatory chips, pet salons everywhere, eugenic like focus on perfect looking breeds etc).
And the elephant in the room. Careless people adopt them, decide it's too much work and then let them roam free. Or decide that neutering them is immoral or too expensive or something...
If you wanna see some more of Instanbul's cats -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0dJ4zrTopU (no affiliation)
I agree it doesn't have much to do with religion, IMO main two reasons are:
1) there doesn't seem to be any on-going effort to keep number of strays under control by the city.
2) many people feed strays as it's considered animal friendliness, often there will be at least one person in your neighbourhood who leaves food & water for animals.
You might think it's nice to see a cat or two in the streets, though it can get a bit crazy when you see 5-6 big and aggressive dogs appear in your street every day because someone feeds them, yet complaining about this would be considered heartless, and it's very likely the local government won't do anything about it either.
So, getting well fed and without any predators in a generally forgiving climate, strays easily get to survive and breed, and since neutering them all would be expensive and requires some level of organization from the state (which doesn't seem to happen) their numbers get to ever increase.
You can't just reason about cats by arguing about dogs. You might as well say the same thing about squirrels and raccoons at that point. I for one would think it's nice to see a stray cat or two (or six) in the streets, but I wouldn't want to see a stray dog. They're just different animals.
There was this inner courtyard somewhere, baking in the sun, with a huge pile of what we thought were dead cats. Like a rugby melee type of thing, but just laying down motionless. I mean, it was so hot we could not imagine how those critters could just lay there not moving.
Then we noticed some of them were lazily moving their tails. They were not dead, they were sunbathing.
Yeah, I got surrounded by a pack of 7 or 8 big dogs around dawn on the Golden Horn once. Was frantically swinging my backpack and screaming at them as they approached. After 30 seconds or so, a man noticed and threw some food to distract them so I could get away. They probably were just hoping I would feed them but it was still fucking terrifying. Felt like it activated some sort of primal fight-or-flight instinct passed down through millennia of humans being cornered by wolves.
Also keeping the dogs in a neighbourhood well-fed is quite easy and cheap. That will rule out any aggressiveness.
Learnt it the hard way when I interrupted a fornication session between three strays.
What benefit does letting cats run feral have for settled humans? Rodent control. Even before they knew the public health benefits of that, they knew the benefits towards granary stores.
Now that cats aren't the only method available to control rodents, cities that don't have a cultural or cultural/religious reason to revere stray cats understandably don't and those that do, do.
Religion plays a role, culture plays a role, biology plays a role, history plays a role: everything plays a role (yes probably even the cuteness of cats).
The Roman (Rhomaion) identity was decoupled from the Latin language by the Early Byzantines.
I came here just to say that: Athens is absolutely loaded with cats, especially strays. I think this is regional cultural, not religious.
edit: the city of Istanbul has a program where they drive around and neuter and tag stray dogs. it seems to work pretty well. I used to be in istanbul every year and had the same dog friend that lived by my hotel. he was the best. miss him dearly.
Jakarta has so many stray cats that it's legitimately concerned they're going to bring rabies back to the city.
During the Covid lockdowns, I saw numerous articles about how stray cats weren't getting fed properly in KL
Every city has stray cats, it's just Muslim majority ones tend to have way more than you'd otherwise expect. Especially in developing countries that don't have sufficient animal control resourcing. Those cities also tend to focus their animal control efforts on getting dogs off the street, as Muslims are typically incredibly adverse to them (I saw 0 stray dogs in Jakarta the whole time I lived there, compared to Bangkok for instance where I couldn't walk to the end of my street without seeing at least 5 of them). If everybody all of a sudden decided they adored squirrels, and started carrying squirrel food around incase they ran into one, and started feeding all the squirrels that hung out around their home/place of work every day, you'd expect the squirrel population to explode too.
the big difference comes from socioeconomic state of the neighborhood i think
The reason Isreal has so many cats is because the British imported a lot of cats in the 30s, and just let them loose to control rat populations. The reason they’re still there is because animal sterilization is a very controversial topic in Judaism.
(We are doing our part and have 2 at home.)
Edit: Found it - City of the Wildcats (narrated by David Attenborough)
Cats as street animal is just perfect, they are clean, they keep the rats at bay, you almost don't see any rats or mice in Tel Aviv comparing to places like NY. Also if you want a cat at home you can just pick one from the street.
* Istanbul is an extremely large city, pretty much like LA, so chances are there is something to do for everyone. Your favorite band may show up some point within your life time, you don't feel isolated from int'l community.
* Weather is pretty nice, not too warm, not too cold, you experience 4 seasons. But it's a little too warm for me, but I like it a lot colder than other people.
* People are overall pretty great imho, although certain neighborhoods can be worse, too conservative etc, but overall it's fine.
* There are certain places, e.g. Prince Islands, that are simply gorgeous and I'd love to spend rest of my life there in peace.
* City is pretty secure; not like super secure that I'd go out alone drunk at 3AM without thinking, but I think it's still more secure than cities I lived in the US (maybe except Boston?).
* EDIT: I should also add that it's a very crowded city. It's densely populated and about ~15 million people live in "the city" which is like this multiple set of downtowns, very close to each other and span two continents. You might like this but I think this makes everything very messy.
* EDIT: Nightlife is pretty ok I think? I'm not a huge club person, but I've visited many bars (especially those in Kadikoy) and I really miss them, there was something about them.
* Not very tidy, clean like European cities. I think it's still orders of magnitude cleaner than LA or NYC but e.g. compared to Boston, it's less nice. Architecture etc are pretty banal. Living spaces are usually like condos and nothing exciting.
* Political climate is as bad as it can possibly be. Although some parts of Istanbul are extremely liberal -- feels like just another European city -- Turkey is currently a very fucked country, led by a dictator, and I personally wouldn't live there at the moment. But you know, politics change.
* Not a very developed tech scene. I know some interesting startups and was able to closely work with some of them; so there is definitely some interesting stuff happening, but absolutely not like any major city in US or Germany.
* Everything is extremely unstable, Turkey is "developing" very fast e.g. what is a gorgeous park today can end up being a horrible tourist hellscape a year later because economy relies so much on tourism. Everything is in flux, and things are done without thinking about aesthetics etc. Almost everything is half-assed. E.g. Taxim Square was a really nice and historic place when I was there, but somehow they managed to rebuild and fuck it up last few years.
* Bad traffic, but that goes without saying for most major cities. Drivers are definitely bad, but like you know, you adapt.
* EDIT: A majority of people are cigarette smokers. Not 420 friendly (since cannabis is highly illegal) but it's possible to find it if you know a guy who knows a guy.
Also the cats/dogs seem to mark their territory. It's the same group of cats/dogs at any particular restaurant and they survive on the workers giving them the leftovers.
Here is one in a cafe nearby ;) https://imgur.com/a/a4RqkWV
But as soon as you you get to other cities it’s less fun. As a person that likes to jog in the morning I had stop and turn around and slowly walk away too many times. Some angry, mentally unstable, dog would block the way. Sometimes they chase you. I have seen other runners being chased and bitten by dogs. Especially in the morning they get aggressive. I have also seen packs of dogs attacking normal dogs in leaches. Of course they also carry rabies.
According to my wife stray dogs were not so common when she was young, but the population has exploded since then. She and her mother also dislikes them.
It doesn’t help that there is almost no one working on the problem. I know Istanbul has some organisation that will vaccinate and neuter stray dogs. Otherwise locals seems to have some twisted sense of animal wellfare going where they believe putting a domesticated dog on the street is an ok thing to do, since other locals will take care of it. Never mind they get malnourished, get aggressive and are obviously completely unstable mentally. A broken leg, an infected wound? Who cares, as long as they can roam around free and multiply as much as they want.
I have no idea how this became the norm but I really hope it will change!
Realistically though, an overpopulation of any domestic/ semi animal, particularly when they are non-native is not great. These cats almost certainly spread out into the surrounding countryside and wreck havoc on native/ natural populations.
Cats are great... in moderation and properly spayed so they don't spread.
Some shelters are also kill shelter. If the cat doesn't get adopted, it will be put down.
Sometimes I wonder if we would accidentally make cats extinct.
As long as there's a few breeding pairs out there, they can repopulate quickly. You would have to go to a very deliberate effort to make them extinct. Or accidentally destroy everything they would eat - which, given that they will eat pretty much any animal they can take down, would be a serious global extinction event.
Cities dating to the industrial technology revolution similarly keep old machines around in their yards and surrounds, with affection and reverence for their blessing.
In new cities, dating to the information technology revolution, they bow their shoulders to their screens, genuflecting, and swiping up, down, right, left.
I like the old way better.
>Turkey is not unique among predominately Muslim countries for honouring its cats, which are considered ritually clean animals in Islam.
Which I can confirm is true in many cities in North Africa. They're efficient and cheap pest control that manages itself with very little input. You could argue that the cats themselves are pests, but at least they're nicer to look at than rodents.
I think it's inhumane how cats are treated basically everywhere else! In Istanbul, cats are loved, fed, petted, and live a pretty great life. In almost every other city on earth, they're picked up and sent to shelters where they live in cramped cages until someone happens to adopt them or they're killed.
Which sounds more humane?
Is your claim that people in Turkey are so uniquely, extraordinarily committed to their street cats that the lives those cats lead are similar to the lives of pet cats in other countries?
The overall picture I got is that the cats of Istanbul do seem to be uniquely loved and well-treated compared to the street animals of other countries. They are welcomed, not seen as nuisances. They are immediately loving to people, not skeptical and skittish. They seek affection (and food), not just food.
So either cats and kittens are dying of accidents, disease and a lack of food, or they are neutered by humans. Like... it's not as though cats will have fewer litters if they get a college education and a career outside the home. A female cat will have 1-2 litters of 1-5 kittens every year, that's just how their lifecycle works.
"Until there was nothing left" sounds dramatic. Can you point me to any wildlife conservation campaigns that introduced cats to control other invasive species? All I can think of are the feral cats on Hawaii, that are described as "among the most harmful invasive species globally".
"But the decision to eradicate the felines from Macquarie island allowed the rabbit population to explode and, in turn, destroy much of its fragile vegetation that birds depend on for cover"
I found them pretty cute when I watched the video. (Recommend it for those who haven't seen it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpG0z-npFIY)
There are some people that aren't nice to songbirds in Istanbul, though .
I asked my cats, and they agree.
Even my dogs agree because the cats do.
EDIT: How do I format links on HN?
had hoped for one to be offered in an arte.tv docu the other month .. excellent photography and filming tho.