HomeCat HistoryA Bit of 16th Century Turkish Cat History

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A Bit of 16th Century Turkish Cat History — 21 Comments

    • Wow…is my first reaction. An amazing image. Thank you so much Sarah. I think only you could come up with an image like this. I’d like to do a page on that. Can I use it in a post?

    • Sarah, that disturbs me. I can understand the fatwa (whatever that is – command or order?) but the underlying reason for it is the crass stupidly of humankind, and as usual it is animals, innocent bystanders, who suffer. I’ll see if I can do post on that tomorrow. Well spotted. Thanks Sarah.

  1. ”The Turks buy this food, distribute it to the dogs, and throw it to the cats upon the wall ; for these superstitious and barbarous people imagine that they obtain especial favour in the eyes of God”

    Emphasis needed ”these superstitious and barbarous people”. Writer of book was prejudiced against Turks calling them as ”barbarians”. This is what foreigners thought at that time (but this prejudice is still alive to this day, unfortunately!). Turks treat cats with respect and feed them with meat, but foreigners do otherwise – kill and eat it. Killing a cat could an expression of rebellion against Turks.

  2. There is a big difference Michael. Those feeding the cats are Muslim (Islam has a prohibition against eating carnivores) and are free. Those eating the cats are Christian and are in gaol (desperation can lead people to such acts). The two faiths have quite different attitudes to how animals are treated and Christianity has an appalling record when it comes to treatment of cats.

    • ”invited the chaplain and me to partake of a fine tabby tom-cat, which he had fed up for a long time” Doesn’t sound like a desperation for me.

      I don’t think that taking care of cats and other animals is due to religion, otherwise we should see the same pattern in all Muslim societies. This is not a case.

      A Christian, killing and eating cat is not native. There maybe a relation to Christianity as at that time in Europe Christians did kill cats, possibly ate them as well. This could explain carpenters behavior and why his guests saw nothing wrong about this act…

      • They were fattening it as a treat – a respite from gaol food. There are a few European countries where a fattened cat was not uncommon at Christmas.

        BTW, part of Islam is that animals should be treated humanely (it addressed some quite horrific practices). As with all religions, whether a person follows that is an individual thing. I learnt much of this in a mosque in Turkey 🙂

  3. The book is available online and there is another mention of cats later on in the text:

    Once, on a festival after holy mass, a master-carpenter, a Christian prisoner, invited the chaplain and me to partake of a fine tabby tom-cat, which he had fed up for a long time, and named Marko. It was a fine and well-fatted cat, and I saw, with my own eyes, when the carpenter cut his throat. As my partner, Mr. Chaplain, would not go, and fettered together as we were I could not go without him, he sent us, as a present, a fore- shoulder of the cat, which I ate. It was nice meat, and I enjoyed it very much, for hunger is a capital cook, so that nothing makes one disgusted ; and if I had only had plenty of such tom-cats, they would have done me no harm.

    • Sarah Hartwell but this story does not tell anything about how Turks treat their cats. Christian prisoner(as understood not Turk) and a couple of foreigners eating a cat… Not a part of previous story!

      • It is a part of the story in that it compares the different attitudes of the two faiths. Otherwise a reader (especially in modern times) might not realise that the Turks were treating their cats quite differently from what the author was used to.

  4. Thanks for posting this fascinating information Michael. This food for cats may well be food for thought for people all over the world. It would be excellent to get any links for historic accounts on this topic.

  5. Wow, we haven’t seen this book but it’s impressive. Thanks for sharing this!

    I don’t see any direct connection between Egypt and Anatolia when talking about those superstitions. Knowing that cats in Anatolia date back thousand of years before they were brought to Egypt, maybe superstitions about the cats also had Anatolian origin?

    The history of cats in Anatolia is not well documented, sources are scarce as one would expect (nowhere in the world except for Egyptians regional cult, cats were given any significant importance!). Turkish people willingness to look after cats and other animals is definitely cultural. This could be a very old tradition…
    I think we have to find out its roots 🙂

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