What is it like for cats in Iran?

No idea 😉 That is not quite true. I am always interested in finding out about cats in countries other than in the group of countries that we call “the West”. For me, the West is Europe and North America but everyone has their own interpretation. We shouldn’t forget Russia, which has a big relationship with the domestic cat and a lively cat fancy but it is in the West where you see the most well developed relationship between cat and person. I hasten to add that “well developed” does not necessarily mean the domestic cat is better off in America than, say, Iran.

Cats in Iran
Cats in Iran. White Persian. Photos: Main background picture by Hamed Saber. Picture top left by Fulvio’s photos. Picture top right by seier+seier. Persian cat picture copyright Helmi Flick.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

I have been provided with a glimpse of what life is like for the domestic cat in Iran. I won’t quote the source in case it causes a problem for her/him. Currently Iran has a nasty government – actually a dictatorship – which spies on its own people and restricts freedoms while walking over human rights. What about the rights of cats in Iran?

My source provides a snapshot answer. I have made one or two corrections to her English. This person writes good English but not perfect. A lot of Iranians speak and write good English – admirable.

There are a lot of beautiful cats in public places in Iran. Sometimes people feed them and sometimes their food is only garbage. But they do not belong to anyone.

I think those cats aren`t purebred but most of them are really beautiful. Of course cats have a better situation than dogs in Iran because of Islamic regulations . I don’t know how many people have a cat in Iran but they must not be a lot. I think those few people prefer to have PERSIAN cat . because they think PERSIAN cats are originally from Iran (Persia is the old name of Iran) – my English language is not good. I hope I was able to answer your questions correctly…

That glimpse does tell us quite a lot. Iran is called “the Islamic Republic of Iran”. So firstly, right away we can say that the Islamic faith encourages Muslims to treat cats nicely. You probably know that this is because the prophet Muhammad kept a cat or cats and he loved cats. That is a very fortunate turn of events for the cat! Hurrah. All of us who like cats and animals can at least rely on the fact that the teachings of the Islamic Faith promotes good cat welfare. I have a page on that subject with some detail: Islam Faith and Cats.

That bodes well for the cat in Iran. Secondly my source, gives me the impression that most Iranians don’t keep a cat. Most cats in Iran are probably going to be what we would refer to as “community cats”. These are feral and stray cats that are relatively tame that are fed by shop keepers etc. I am speculating that that is the way it is for cats in Iran based on what I know about other countries such as Morocco where cats share people.

Finally, she makes, the not unexpected point that there are not many purebred cats in Iran (cats of a specific cat breed as opposed to moggies, random bred cats). Note: these cats would not be considered purebred in the West because they are not registered with a cat association as there is no cat fancy in Iran. However, they are probably more purebred that Western Persians.

If a cat is a member of a cat breed in Iran it will be the Persian for the reason she states, namely that the Persian cat is named after the country called Persia which, as we know, is Iran. However, in truth, I think you will find that the history of the Persian cat is vague and people aren’t sure about the origins of the Persian cat. For example, the Turkish Angora may be the forerunner of the Persian. Also selective breeding in the West has totally distanced the modern Persian from its heritage and origins so the discussion is academic. Anyway, that is probably besides the point because if people in Iran believe the Persian originates in Iran they will be more inclined to adopt a Persian cat.

Of all the cat breeds, the Persian is the most popular in non-Western countries (excluding Russia). India is another example of a country where the Persian is almost the only purebred cat. The Persian’s popularity in these countries is due to the fact that it is one of the original cat breeds with a very long history starting in the Middle East and which was, for many years, the most popular in America.

I think we can bring up a vision in our minds of what it is like for cats in Iran: most people don’t keep a cat. Almost all cats are moggies and they are wandering cats. Some people, perhaps the better off people, keep a Persian cat. It is probably white. I wonder if the dictator, the so called elected 6th president of of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has a white Persian cat?

26 thoughts on “What is it like for cats in Iran?”

  1. Hello again. I just wanted to correct my misinformation in my previous post. As the matter of the fact there is animal rights in Iran which is being enforced by the government, at least for the recent years. I realized this after watching a person being arrested for torturing dogs. So sorry for my mistake.

  2. Hello, I am Iranian myself and currently living in Europe.

    Having lived in Iran for most of my life, I can not express how much I missed watching cats in streets. Actually that was how I find this website! Although wide variety of wildlife can be found in Iran, Besides birds and insects, cats are almost only land animals that you can see in cities. But there are also lots of them in rural areas. There are many reason for this. Lets first discuss the role of religion.

    In my opinion kindness toward cats and animals in general does not come from the tradition of the prophet of Islam but rather comes from unambiguous direct Islamic command which condemn harming any domestic or wild animals without a legitimate reason (such as saving human lives against animal attacks, sanitation, providing foods and clothing and etc.). Even in case of self defense it is forbidden to torture the wild animal (it is advised to kill the animal quickly). Also saying “In the name of god” as a barrier against any unclean emotion such as anger or cruelty is the first and integral part of Animal slaughter for providing Hallal food(The only permitted food for Moslems).

    However due to Islamic guides some animal are considered Najess (the term used for describing extreme cases of dirtiness) like dogs and pigs and contact with these animals should be avoided, otherwise extra process of cleansing might be needed. On the other hand animals such as cattle, sheep and cat does not belong to this group. Furthermore eating any carnivores land animal (among few vegetarian animals like pig) is forbidden in Islam.

    As for the culture in Iran, first one must note that Persians (inhabitants of Iran) are more reserved about touching and petting animals than your average western country. Although Persians are famous for their hospitality, Keeping domestic animals as pets in not so much widespread in Iran. That being said, cat is considered to be one of the most clean animals due its habit of self cleaning (and also defecating only in special places). Moreover keeping cats around cities and rural areas is one of the best natural defense against rats and other disease carrying animals.

    As for the environment, Iran is a warm country full of deserts except for its northern areas. cities and villages are situated far from the jungles and wild areas. Therefor there is almost no natural predators for cats like hunting birds or wolf in areas where people live. Also animal control, constantly keep dogs away from cities because of religious instructions. Also having no serious rival animal (birds are not real match for them) cats can feed and roam freely in cities as long as they are aware of each other.

    As for the animal rights, … well although there is some sort of plant rights in Iran (for example one would be fined by the government if he broke a tree), sadly there is no official animal right which is being enforced by the government in Iran a government which violate human right left and right. However I must emphasize that people almost never harm cats because of their hospitable culture and religious preservation. In addition cats do not much to bother or annoy people where as dogs might chase and bite people outsides of towns (a behavior that to my surprise I have never seen from any dog in Europe). Personally I have never seen anybody harm a cat in Iran.

    So there you can see why the population of cats is so high in Iran. In cities because there are so many cats in the street it does not make so much sense to choose a few to keep as personal pets. Instead some people occasionally feed and pet them in streets and public parks. This maybe also the reason why unlike western cats in Iran cats do not show intense love or hate towards humans. They are some thing between feral and domestic cats. They too are somewhat preserved against human touch. they do not get too close but also they do not flee from humans and they never get territorial.

    In northern rural area of the country however there is a different story where each cat select a human house for a while and change it from time to time. There cats and human get closer to each other but situation still is not quite like becoming a pet. In these areas because of the different weather people cook and consume more foods and have much more to spare. So it is common to have guest cats for dinners and suppers. These cats spend most of their time freely in the nature and come inside houses for food and company. In these part of the country usually houses are like condo and composed of one roofed larger part and a smaller well confined interior. So it is safe and clean to keep the cats in the outer part of the house.

    I am a cat lover myself but I have never owned one. I am thinking of buying one here but I also do not think it is fair for the animal to always stay in an apartment. Anyway, I hope this have been useful and you had enough patience to read to end, if not please forgive me. Also feel free to use this content any way you want.


    • Many thanks Ali for your long comment which I found very useful and interesting. It is important that people in the West has an understanding of cat ownership and the relationship of humans to cats in the Middle East. I have been to Iran in 1970 when it was a very different country. I sense that Iranians are often pro-West in their attitudes.

      I’ll publish your comment as an article today.

  3. Hi.This is Samar from Iran.thanks for your interesting web. I love our street cats. they are generally located in the parks and live together like a tribe. people are used to feed them specially when It’s cold. when we go to the park and call them ,they gather together and compete for pat.send you puctures from our cats.

    • Fantastic to hear from you Samar. I really love comments from countries other than in the West. I have been to Iran but that was in 1971.

  4. I have a cousin living In iran who is looking after feral cats as well as persian cats ..9 at home at present.. She hasn’t got much money and the cost is crippling her..she rescued them.. I’m wondering if there is anyone able to help her..does anyone one to adopt one?she has turned vegetarian as she can not afford meat and keep on top of cat expenses..some are kittens…she buys milk powder.. She lives alone in an apartment block and looks after them in secret.
    Is there any organisation that helps cats abroad? Any ideas will be appreciated x

    • Can we write about her to publicise her predicament? Perhaps we can’t because it may cause problems for her if she is helping feral cats in secret. Why is she doing it secretly?

      This website can donate some money but that much I am afraid, perhaps a maximum of about £50. Can you provide some payment details etc.?

      I admire her tremendously for helping cats against the odds in great difficulty. Admirable.

      Thanks for visiting and asking.

  5. They are an integral part of the city, millions of them live in every city of Iran, therefore lucky ones and unlucky ones you can locate everywhere, community cat is very popular, but also those with yards and gardens host a lot of visiting cats or i might say when there is a pregnant one people are more sympathetic.

    I think they are having a good time that unless you dont move outside of Iran you dont recognize how they are embedded in the city-scape!

    And of course you find hem in every shape and form, hope you can witness that yourself some time soon.

  6. Hey, nice tread, just adding, i used to live in tehran, travelling to north and south iran as well, as much as i have seen cats are loved and cared by many in iran, and no need to say mostly like anywhere else teenagers are he only threat to their relax lively lives, but how fascinating that same repitetive fantasies about iran is applied to lives of cats too, funny indeed.


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