Anyone who’s got a soft spot for cats, is quite vulnerable in an environment with a lot of street cats present. On the one hand, it can bring about beautiful pictures, but whomever is looking further than the end of his own nose, there is also a flip side to the coin: hunger and disease among the animals.
During a cat sit on Buyukada, a five square kilometer island in the Marmara Sea, (close to Istanbul) I witnessed this every single day. Traditionally, the island is a refuge for wealthy Istanbulites during hot summers. These days, it’s filled to the brim with day-trippers, mostly Turks and Gulf Arabs. During my stay they were riding around the island on bikes decorated with flowers, or horse carriages called ‘fayton’. The latter have meanwhile been abolished and replaced with an electronica variety. The phenomenon had been criticized for the longest while due to the allover bad condition of the horses, but was no longer tenable after an outbreak of the horse plague.
However, with the exception of the odd little bully in the making, I mostly witnessed empathy. One of the images that stuck with me, is that of a girl sitting on a wall drinking from a bottle of water. As soon as she incidentally made eye-contact with a cat sitting next to her, she started pouring water into the cap. There were signs of compassion everywhere: in most streets there were bowls of food and water to be found. Host Tugba did her rounds on the island on a daily basis. She knew exactly where all the cats lived, and gave every single one of them a portion. Occasionally we were kindly asked not to feed the cats: they were already taken care of. Obviously, she also fed the cats living in her garden: I renamed them the Front and Back Garden Posse. Around feeding time, things could get quite heated, as twice a day the inhabitants made a ravenous impression!
Driven by compassion, Tugba ended up with nine house cats. She had moved to the island with only two. Taking care of her household was quite easy during summer, as the cats lived mostly outside. I can only imagine the amount of work all cats using the litter and sleeping on the furniture all day long brings about! There’s no surprise that the last cat was named ‘Yeter’, the Turkish word for ‘enough’. If she’s succeeding in sticking to her intention, only the future can tell.