In Istanbul, Cats Are Sacred — Here Are Photos of the City’s Cutest Strays
As my plane began its descent into Istanbul, the Bosporus coming into view, I started fantasizing about all the architectural and cultural landmarks I’d photograph during my trip.
One of the most exciting parts of my job as a professional photographer is discovering new places through my lens. And in Istanbul, I couldn’t wait to capture the visual dichotomy between tradition and modernity — the Byzantine domes and spiraling minarets juxtaposed against trendy cocktail bars and cutting-edge art galleries. But after a few days exploring the city’s labyrinth of cobblestone streets, I found myself enamored by an altogether different subject: Istanbul’s stray cats.
Lounging regally on Turkish towels in the Grand Bazaar and perched on marble stoops at the Hagia Sophia, the furry felines, whose population is estimated to exceed one million, can be found everywhere you go. The following photo essay are shots of the friendly creatures, taken around the city.
After marveling at the soaring ceilings of the Hagia Sophia, I lowered my gaze and noticed a cat perched regally on a marble stoop. She seemed totally serene despite the swarms of tourists surrounding her. I did a little research and found out that her name is Gli and she's been a resident of the museum for 14 years. In that time, she’s risen to feline stardom: Barack Obama paid her a visit in 2009, and in addition to having her own blog, she’s amassed an Instagram following of 13,000.
As I walked around the bustling Kadıköy-Moda neighborhood, I almost walked right past these two cats cuddling outside a convenience store. I couldn't resist stopping to photograph the heartwarming scene.
This cat was dutifully perched atop a stack of vinyls in a record store in Beyoğlu. It was as though he was the shop's security guard.
On a walk post-dinner, I noticed this woman giving scraps to a stray. I later found out that this is standard practice in the city and that most residents don't mind sharing their leftovers. You could argue the cats develop palates as diverse and sophisticated as their human counterparts!
While shopping on İstiklal Caddesi—the main boulevard of the hip Karaköy neighborhood—I happened upon a group of shouting protestors guarded by swarms of police. My eyes wandered beyond the immediate commotion to a cat sitting in the middle of the road. Her presence offered a sense of calm amid the chaos.
After a few days in the city, I developed a habit of looking for a stray every time I stopped by a restaurant. At this particular eatery, I spotted this little guy hiding under an empty table. He didn't beg at all, just sat and timidly observed his surroundings. I trust someone rewarded his good behavior at least once during the evening.