Want to live like a local in Istanbul? Take care of your neighbourhood cats.

We should have added ‘cat food’ to the Istanbul shopping list. Because if you’re planning on settling into the city for a while, the first thing you need to do is to adopt a neighbourhood cat or four and leave food out for them.

Everyday, as we explored the streets around our apartment, we would notice the same people leaving out treats for the same neighbourhood cats. Most people leave dry food spread out on newspaper, but the generous soul above spoils his felines with a bag full of fresh meat. The cats of Istanbul are lucky cats!

We got into the habit of saving our leftovers in plastic bags to take with us whenever we went out to leave for some of the skinnier kittens we’d see who obviously hadn’t yet found such generous friends.

But why are there so many cats? It’s estimated that Turkey has over two million stray cats and by what we’ve seen, most of them live in the inner city areas of Istanbul.

But it’s not all good news stories for the stray animals of Turkey, if you go to the FaceBook page of He’Art of Rescue, you’ll see some horrifying images and stories of animal abuse — it’s not for the squeamish animal lover, that’s for sure.

The work that they do for injured animals is extraordinary — from raising money to help injured animals to getting them resettled with new owners is fantastic. While we didn’t have time to help out organisations like this in our limited time in Istanbul, we like to think we did our bit by feeding and watering these felines — apparently dehydration is a problem for them too.

So if you’re an animal lover and heading to Istanbul, you’re in for a treat, so given them some treats!

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