One of the first things that struck me as odd when I came to Istanbul was the number of cats and dogs living on the streets.
Over time, I came to see that many of these animals are fairly well taken care of. I often see people with bags of bread, meat, or even cat food that they bring to a central location to feed the cats and dogs. One time on campus, I saw a girl buy a cup of ayran (a salty, yogurt-y Turkish drink) specifically for one of the dogs that hangs out on the lawn.
Although no one really “owns” these animals, I don’t think of them as strays. It seems that many people here take responsibility for them, which is a good example of how Turkish society is more collectivist than the society I’m used to in the United States. Sometimes it’s sad to see these animals roaming about without a roof over their heads, but it’s a good lesson in cultural differences, and I think “pet culture” is one of them.
I do think dogs are more well liked than cats. Cats constantly beg for food and only want attention when you are eating, whereas the dogs love unconditionally.