Do you love cats? Do you really love cats? If so, you’ll like this Turkish documentary about the many cats of Istanbul and the people who love them.
If you’ve been to Istanbul, you’ll know the special status that the many, many ‘feral’ cats have in Istanbul. I say feral as they are not ‘owned’ by anyone and live on the streets but, unlike Australia, there seems to be a collective responsibility to ensure their wellbeing. Their impact on local wildlife, namely mice and rats, is seen as positive. There are roughly built sleeping boxes tucked away and containers of food and water with signs warning of the consequences in the next life for anyone who tampers with them.
The film follows several cats with cameras set on remote control cars to follow them at cat height. The humans who love them explain their different characteristics. Some are besotted, talking of them as if they are children and attributing wisdom and personality that borders on anthropomorphic. We watch as cats fight, scale impossible heights, politely ask for food and bliss out as they are petted. Their autonomy is clear – as the narrator says, “Dogs think humans are God but cats know we are just the middlemen.”
The cats are gorgeous (yes, I am a cat person) but it is the stories of the humans that really engaged me. One man feeds multiple cats every day, fretting if he has to miss a day, and recounts how the cats help him maintain his mental health after a breakdown years before. “They are better than medicine.” A fisherman uses a syringe to hand feed a kindle of abandoned kittens and talks of the cat who drew him to a lost wallet containing exactly the money he needed after his fishing boat sank.
I learned less about Istanbul and its people than I hoped but I experienced a quiet, contemplative and benevolent side of this huge city. A contrast to the many recent stories of its danger and crowded streets.
Have you seen this film? Do you love cats? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.