Istanbul, the pet-friendly city
Istanbul is a magical city where all cultures, religions and flavors come together in one, where you can feel the border of Europe and the beginning of Asia. There is a kind of tension in both cultures which, in a sense, get along well to this day. Istanbul is also known for having cats all over its streets and many free dogs too. Both cats and dogs are cared for, protected and worshiped by the local population as if they were sacred animals. The municipality of Istanbul is committed to providing wooden houses where animals can shelter from the cold and heat. They are also provided, depending on the route, with water and food.
Among dogs and cats, however, we can certainly say that cats are the kings of Istanbul. After reading this, it could be assumed that Istanbul is a very pet-friendly city, which allows pets without problems everywhere, but if you decide to come on vacation with your sweet pet you have to organize everything well.
This is because dogs are not allowed in many places, such as in public transport, restaurants, hotels, etc. Therefore, you should spend a lot of time finding those few places where you can take your dog without having any problems. But let’s find out more about the link between Istanbul and animals!
Istanbul, the city of cats
They wander among the cafes and mosques indolently, accustomed to the beauty of the extraordinary city that surrounds them. They are the cats of Istanbul, respected, fed and pampered because, according to legend, it was a cat that saved the prophet Mohammed from the bite of a snake. To them, in particular to seven of them, is dedicated “Kedi. The city of cats” , the docu film that Turkish director Ceyda Torun made following them with a video camera for a long time through the alleys of the metropolis suspended between Asia and Europe (you can see the trailer in the video below).
A declaration of love for felines but also for a city that has made tolerance towards them one of its unmistakable figures, so much so that it has been the definitive “city of cats”. A unique experience, that of Istanbul, of peaceful coexistence beyond the stereotype of “mastery” which considers the animal property of humans and which recalls the equally extraordinary experience of stray dogs cared for in the wild in the north of Morocco.
There are thousands of felines that wander undisturbed through the streets of the center. They have populated the city for millennia, slipping through the gardens surrounding the mosques or lazily browsing the market shops, halfway between two worlds, the wild one and the domestic one. Also mentioned by tourist guides, they often appear in photographs and are immortalized against the backdrop of the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia.
Tombili deserves a mention among the most famous cats in Istanbul. It was a tabby cat with a squat white belly and with a strange tendency to sit on the steps of the street taking a really curious pose that could not go unnoticed. Furthermore, the friendly nature has made the animal one of the most loved residents in the Ziverbey district of Istanbul. Unfortunately, Tombili died in August 2016. The county mayor wanted to honor the memory of the famous cat by placing Tombili’s sculpture in its cult pose on World Animal Day. The sculpture was stolen a month after its installation, but after a major public outcry, the thieves returned it and it was returned to its original location (check on Google Maps if the statue is present when you go to Istanbul because they are doing some works and it has been temporarily removed).
The dogs of Istanbul from the Kingdom to the Exile
In the streets of Istanbul it is full of stray dogs. They sleep, look for something edible in the garbage, sometimes growl and bark at passers-by.
They even deserved an exhibition, located a stone’s throw from the famous Pera Palace hotel, entitled “The dogs of Istanbul from the Kingdom to Exile”. Kingdom, or “golden age”, because according to legend the four legs accompanied the army of Muhammad II in its triumphal entry into the city after the fall of Constantinople. And because, explains a historian in the video presentation of the exhibition, “the Islam of the animal-loving peoples has always prevailed, in Turkey, over the scripturalist one who considers it impure, and therefore they were integrated and treated well”. And then exile, which culminated in 1910 with the so-called “great decanification”, a theme that the writer Orhan Pamuk also talks about in “Istanbul”. Thousands and thousands of dogs are deported to an island in the Sea of Marmara. Left to themselves, without food or drinking water, they died of starvation, tearing each other apart or gulping down sea water.
“Dogs began and be seen as a sign of poverty, neglect, an oriental defect,” explains the panel at the entrance to the exhibition. And so, while Westerners plotted behind the Turks to speculate on the reuse of dog carcasses, local citizens would “strongly oppose” the deportations and would “hide their four legs in their shacks and homes.” Whether this version of events is true or artfully reworked, as the setting of the exhibition suggests, it is certain that dogs have returned to throng the streets of Istanbul. And they are really loved by people.
Visit Istanbul with your sweet pet
If you want to visit Istanbul with your sweet cat or dog, you need to plan well.
First of all, it is necessary to book in advance to verify the availability of pets on the plane, as all airlines have a policy regarding the number of pets that can travel. Remember to have your pet’s passport with all requested vaccines, especially rabies vaccines, along with an export certificate issued by local authorities, especially when traveling from the EU to a NON-EU country.
As soon as you arrive in Istanbul, the famous Turkish hospitality will extend to pets as well.
There are many parks to take your pets for a walk. We recommend two parks in Istanbul: Maçka Park in Nişantaşı and Yıldız Park on the Bosphorus. Very green, central and close to the tourist areas.
In all these places dogs must be kept on a leash.
As is usually the case with humans, sometimes our animals get sick when they are traveling. For this we recommend an excellent veterinary clinic called Anipoli in Cihangir (Beyoğlu), a very central neighborhood.
Here all the vets speak English and are very attentive. Therefore, if you have an emergency while visiting or living in Istanbul, we can recommend this clinic, which is open 24 hours a day.
The Cihangir area is worth mentioning as it is extremely pet friendly in Istanbul. It is probably one of the few places where you can easily see dogs relaxing together with their fathers and mothers while having coffee or just eating.
Among the places to drink a typical Turkish drink or a Turkish dish with your pet I would also like to mention the Cafè Journey.
I would say the most dog-friendly restaurant in all of Istanbul. They have fantastic coffee, healthy brunch, and organic food. Plus, the audience is pretty international, so you can even grab your computer and work there too.
Istanbul is a great city to visit, although it may seem a bit difficult animal to get there, but it’s definitely worth it. Password: organization!