Learn About the Mosque Acting as a Cat Shelter

May 23, 2019
In this article, we're going to tell you about a mosque that has started to act as a cat shelter, and the cat problem in Turkey that made it necessary.

One of the most striking things people notice when they visit Turkey, besides its gorgeous mosques, bridges, and historical monuments, is the sheer amount of cats in its streets. In this article, we’re going to talk a bit about the problems related to that. We’ll also tell you the amazing story of a mosque that has been acting as a cat shelter.

Millions of cats live in Turkey

There hasn’t been an official census, but there are easily millions of cats in Turkey’s capital Istanbul alone. Most are strays and will sleep and hide away wherever they can. They’re always out looking for food and affection from locals and tourists. Many even choose ancient sites to clean themselves or take shelter from the cold and rain.

Locals are already used to seeing stray cats in the streets and on buildings. It’s one of the favorite animals in Turkey, and a symbol of their Ottoman culture. According to some historians, the Sultans absolutely adored cats and treated them like princes in the gardens of their palaces.

Islam (the majority religion in Turkey) is also a religion that holds cats in high regard. It sees cats as a pure animal. But that doesn’t stop them from being a problem for some residents. Apart from that, there are many other people who anonymously feed them and care for them in whatever way they can.

They leave food and fresh water outside their doors, along with boxes, cushions, and sheets. That way, the cats can go to sleep feeling comfortable and warm. Even Istanbul’s government has joined the initiative and has had wooden huts put in various points of the city. 

Shopkeepers and hotel workers also feed a lot of these stray and abandoned cats. In fact, some people even end up adopting one or two! Still, the vast majority of them are living out in the open and haven’t given up that characteristic “freedom” of theirs.

Where is the mosque that has been acting as a cat shelter?

A cat is sitting on some books.

It should come at no surprise that the cat shelter mosque is in, you guessed it, Istanbul. The mosque’s imam, Mustafa Efe, has decided to shelter them for the winter (which is cold and snowy there). The man who leads the mosque in prayers has opened its door to stray cats and allowed them to sleep on the thick rugs and in other areas of the building.

According to the local papers, Efe is known for his diligence, his good humor, and his love of cats. So, ever since the last winter, he has made these stray cats feel at home at the Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi Mosque, in the city of Istanbul.

The cats feel safe and happy there. One female cat even brought all her kittens in, one by one, and took them to a very important spot in the mosque. She carried them up to the pulpit the imam uses to give his sermons and lead people in the five daily prayers. According to him, “the cat has found the heart of compassion and pity.”

Mustafa Efe’s amazing work has appeared all over social media, and his initiative has gained a lot of respect. The many believers who pass through the mosque have celebrated his actions. A lot of them have also started bringing food and blankets, along with giving the cats affection and playing with them.

The imam is constantly stopping to say hello to his little friends or to pet them, and you can tell they’re grateful for how kind he has been to them.