These cats didn’t have the sad and furtive demeanor of strays, either. Most seemed to be quite healthy and well-fed. The reason, according to our guide in Istanbul, is that they are the Sultan’s Cats.
“Many years ago a sultan decreed that the cats in Istanbul were to be protected because they ate rats and mice,” he said, pointing to a particularly handsome tabby outside the Blue Mosque. “The people were to feed them and not harm them. And even to this day, the people still obey the Sultan’s order.”
I later learned that there’s an Islamic story of a cat killing a poisonous snake that had approached the Prophet Muhammad. This led to the popular saying: ”If you’ve killed a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God.”
So here’s to the Sultan, his cats, and to the people who still care for the feline citizens of Turkey.
Read more on Spiritual Travels: The Cats of Istanbul
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