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Turkey to ensure beloved street cats don't go hungry during coronavirus crisis

Locals who usually feed stray cats have been told to stay at home [NurPhot]

Date of publication: 6 April, 2020

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Turkish animal lovers have been ordered to stay at home due to the corona outbreak, leaving many to worry who will feed the country's beloved stray animals?
Turkey's government has urged local authorities to feed stray cats and dogs, in order to keep concerned animal lovers off the streets during the coronavirus crisis.

The move comes amid widespread concern for strays, many of which are usually well-fed despite living on the streets.

While the government has not formally imposed a lockdown in Turkey, residents have been strongly encouraged to stay at home in a bid to reduce the spread of the virus. Citizens over-65 and under-20 have also been ordered to stay at home.

The interior ministry on Sunday ordered local government officials to feed stray animals to prevent citizens from taking matters into their own hands.

"Food and water will be left at the living environments of street animals such as parks and gardens, particularly animal shelters," the ministry said in a statement according to local media.

Cats are particularly esteemed in Turkey, with local residents traditionally feeding and taking care of strays in their neighbourhood.

The Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine church-turned-Ottoman mosque and now-museum, even has its own feline mascot, a not-uncommon occurence in offices and businesses.

When an Istanbul neighbourhood mascot died in 2016, thousands of people demanded a sculpture to memorialise Tombili, the cat's signature pose.

Before Sunday's directive, Turkish citizens took to social media to speak of their horror about the thought of stray cats and dogs starving during the coronavirus pandemic.

"There are lots of cats on the side streets where there are only closed businesses," Twitter user Ozge Ozan said last week. "I haven't seen food anywhere for days. The cats are running after us [looking for food]."


Ozan called on Istanbul's central Beyoglu municipality to feed the stray cats.

"Dogs are especially hungry and aggressive because people can't go out and feed them," Twitter used Ebru Dogan said in a tweet calling for support from Istanbul's Atasehir municipality.

"We are feeding the cats in front of our door, but we are waiting for the support of municipal teams to feed the dogs."

Another Twitter user wrote to Istanbul's Kadikoy municipality: "Take the cats and dogs to a shelter. We are not able to feed them all. The animals are hungry and thirsty. Nobody can go out and feed them. These are not our duties!!"

Twitter user Tugba Baykal posted a video to the popular social media site, showing her attempt to feed stray cats on Istanbul's Moda seaside promenade.

"All of the cats are hungry, and hundreds of seagulls and crows also have nothing to eat," she wrote. "They are eating cat food."

In the southern province of Antalya, a 63-year-old retiree who has been confined to her home due to chronic illnesses called for the government to establish an emergency hotline to assist in feeding stray cats.

Muazzez Turan told state news agency Anadolu that she usually feeds around 300 stray cats a day, but due to being at high risk of contracting the Covid-19 illness, has been forced to stay at home.

"My mind was always with the cats. I didn't know whether they would be hungry or full," Turan said.

"I will sleep peacefully for the first time today" she said, after local authorities promised to feed the animals on her behalf.

Turkey has reported more than 27,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 574 deaths.


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