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.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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?

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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.


    1. 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.

    1. 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. Nazy.d@hotmail.co.uk

    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

    1. 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.

  7. I noticed it’s only possible to send one photo per comment. I have several photos I want to send is there any other way?

    1. Hi Nima, you can email me:

      mjbmeister [at] gmail.com

      change the format to the correct format or click on the envelope icon in the RH column.

      Alternatively upload in several comments. Thanks a lot. I look forward to seeing the pictures.

  8. hi, I’m an Iranian living in Tehran, I own three cats myself and have been feeding about 20 feral cats in my neighborhood for past 3 years. I take sick ones to pet clinics and animal rights associations every time I stumble upon. I’m sure there are other people who do these things. maybe there aren’t too many but it’s getting better!

    1. Wow…I love to hear from Iran 😉 Thanks a lot for visiting the site and sharing. Well done for helping feral cats. I’d love to hear more from you if you have time. Just write a longer comment (upload a photo if you have one) and I’ll convert it to an article.

      I love to hear from countries other than European countries and America. I am writing another page about Iranian cats.

      1. thank you for replying so fast, as soon as I gather around some pictures of these feral cats, I’ll send them to you. I’ll be happy to help you with your new article, keep up the great work you’re doing.

    2. Wow that’s amazing, great to see your doing amazing work. Yea its great hearing from different parts of the world and how Cats survive and live.

  9. I used to teach English in Iran (before the revolution). At one time I visited the city of Yazd, in central Iran, and saw a lot of long-haired cats. They had generally triangular heads, not the exaggerated flat muzzles that breeders favor. Some were solid color, some mixed, all very beautiful. The people there told me that the long-haired cats originated in that area in response to very cold desert nights. They called them “Yazd Cats” but I’m not sure Iranians in other parts of Iran all share that term. There are lots of feral cats in all parts of Iran. They used to live on the flat roofs of traditional houses; now that there are fewer old style houses and more apartment buildings, I don’t know where they hand out. I do know some people feed them, even though Iranians in general aren’t used to having animals in the home.

    1. Hi Cathy, that is really interesting because it is the first report (in a comment), in which I have been told what the cat situation is like in Iran. I am going to hazard a guess and say that the cats are the original Persian cats and I’ll go a step further and say that the original Persian cats are in fact Turkish Angora type cats.

      The long haired cats of this region: Turkey, Syria, Iran are the original domestic longhaired cats that are now in the West and which became Persians and Angoras within the cat fancy.

      Thanks for sharing, Cathy. If you have some pictures please upload in a comment.

  10. Michael, in the 1995 i had flown to Teheran to join a ship in the Port of Bandar Abbas. Stayed for a day at Teheran and as usual roamed the nearby streets and locality. The climate was cold and i was surprised that majority of the street stray cats i came across were of the Traditional Persian variety, having thick fur.Cats seemed to be living a good life on the streets, looking well fed and beautiful.

    1. Thanks for your excellent first hand input. It is really important to PoC. I have been to Iran too but it was in 1971 and I was not involved with cats at the time.

  11. Great article – very interesting. I recently read about the whole political stucture there and how the president has little power next to the supreme leader and so on. I even visited the supreme leaders website and read about how a woman should be seen and treated – it was written in english for anybody who is interested and sounded suspiciously tame but who knows, maybe its true. Luckily there is a decent privately funded university there however the president publicly denounced it for some reason – regardless it churns out well educated people so there is a very good thing in that.

    I think it is fantastic that cats have a regular sort of paradise where they can wander around in relative safety. If “most of them are really beautiful” – a very important part of the quote above – then it sounds like they must be pretty healthy with clean fur. Healthy cats are after all very beautiful and to see such cats wandering around is a truly wonderful thing. Considering how random and nonsensical and counter productive, destructive and unintuitive religions can be I think the cats pulled a lucky straw on the islam deal. It’s actually really nice to know that. It’s hard not to assume the worst when it comes to other areas one doesn’t know about. One would assume therefore that many other muslim countries don’t go out their way to treat cats badly. Thats alot of countries and alot of cats. It would be interesting to follow this and see if cats really do profit from this in other similar countries.

    1. Yes, I’d like to really find out if the teachings of Islam are carried out with regard to cats in Islamic countries. What I mean is, is the attitude towards cats by Muslims different to the attitudes of Christians towards cats. For me that is an interesting topic for discussion.

  12. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    A very interesting article Michael.
    I expect the cats in Iran are quite happy with their lives because they don’t know any different, if they have never had a home they won’t know what they are missing.
    I love it that people there are kind and feed them, that they don’t chase them away or shoot them.
    Going back to basics, cats are wild animals at heart and it’s we humans who took them from their natural life and now we make it that our pet cats would struggle to fend for themselves without us.
    Even worse off are the declawed cats in the USA and Canada, turned out when the problems start from the declawing, they have little chance of survival.
    Declawing is banned in Iran but I suppose it wouldn’t be asked for anyway as many cats aren’t house pets there.

    1. I agree Ruth, there are many aspects of life for a domestic cat in Iran that seem to be better than in America or the West. Or at least some people might think so. As you say, declawing is unheard of in Iran. They wouldn’t even think of it. And it could be said that life is more natural and is closer to the original domestication of the cat. I agree that a very artificial set up for the domestic cat takes from the cat some of his/her wild character and skills.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

follow it link and logo

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

I welcome and value comments. Please share your thoughts. All comments are currently unmoderated.

This blog is seen in 199 of the world's country's according to Google Analytics which is pretty much the entire world.

Scroll to Top