My mother had a paper route when she was a little girl. For all you Millennials, that means our precious natural resource the tree was turned into pulp, and news was reported by journalists instead of Twitterers, wastefully printed onto paper that only served to smudge ink all over your peanut butter thumbs, and was delivered to your door before dawn by some sweet little kid whom you routinely stiffed and forgot to tip. My mother, in pig tails, was approaching a door when out of nowhere, a cat attacked her. Bleeding and dazed, she sobbed her way through the rest of her route and never trusted a cat again. Not once, not ever. Her fear of cats was communicated to all of her daughters in the womb. While I’m not petrified of them as she is, I do not trust them, I think they’re probably evil, and we’re firmly and avowedly a dog family. This is obviously the worst kind of generalization, allowing one rogue cat to colour our opinions of an entire species even though no cat has harmed me personally. Still, no cat has won me over, either, and they seem to actively or passively do the opposite of that 9 times out of 10.
Istanbul, then, would be hell on earth for my mother, and this documentary is therefore akin to torture for the poor woman (and I’m honestly not trying to give anyone ideas).
Istanbul is overrun with cats, who are very much a part of the culture. They don’t belong to anyone, they go where they please and forage whatever food they desire. Most (human) subjects interviewed for the film confess to occasionally being quite annoyed by them, but the cats aren’t giving anyone a choice.
The cats are fickle, too. As the filmmakers follow a couple in particular, we see that they hang around several different people, each of whom believe they are special, singled out. Lots of these people have even named the cat, not knowing that the cat is slutting it up with others who have also named her. Still, it’s kind of nice to see a whole community coming together to care for cats they don’t personally own. This shared responsibility must have an effect on the people, a unifying obligation\resentment\relationship that’s starting to sound a lot like family to me. And indeed, when you hear the people describe them variously as “a vicious housewife,” “jealous,” and “my first child” it would seem that this relationship is as fraught and complicated as any extended family.
Cats have existed on this island not just for centuries but for empires. However, times are a-changing and modern city architecture may not have a place for these creatures.
This documentary didn’t quite win me over. It was filled to bursting with cats! But if you’re more open-minded than I am, this might be just the thing for you. In fact, I already know some of you are crazy cat people, so check this out and let me know what you think.
p.s. My mom’s also afraid of buttons.