Istanbul’s most important inhabitants

Animals that live on the street. This evokes images of emaciated, aggressive animals struggling to survive. This is not the case in Istanbul. Many Istanbul inhabitants do not let animals into their apartment but are still crazy about them. They care about them as if they were their pets.

Text and photos by Jonas Armbruster

Most of the city’s cats live on the streets. Every district and mosque has its own cats, which are looked after with dedication. Again and again people stop in the middle of the path, bend down and caress one of the stray cats who visibly enjoy it. Adile regularly prays in the Big Selimiye Mosque in the Harem district. There are numerous cats frolicking in and around the mosque. “I come here almost every day and see if they’re okay,” says Adile. But she would never call the cats their own. “They belong to harem, they are free.”

One should actually think that the dogs are not doing as well. Dogs are considered impure in Islam, but they are not neglected either. “Some of my customers buy more bread than they need to give it to the dogs,” says Ekrem, who works in a bakery.

Nevertheless, the hundreds of thousands of stray dogs from Istanbul face some adversity. Hunger and thirst, illnesses and bad weather. Not everyone here has a heart for dogs. The municipalities are officially required to collect, sterilize and vaccinate the animals. But in some districts, where the population became overwhelming, according to the animal protection organization Peta, dogs are repeatedly abandoned in forests on the outskirts of the city in order to starve them there. The animal welfare organization has been criticizing for years that the forest in the Beykoz district is used as a kind of death camp for dogs.

Several times in the history of Istanbul there have been major efforts to remove the animals from the city. However, they could fight back again and again and are somehow welcome. Selim says: “I would be missing something if I didn’t have the cats in my everyday life. I’m always looking forward to it. ” The city will never really get along without its animals.