Travelers and tourists of Istanbul notice the stray dogs and cats living in harmony with Istanbulites all over the city. They are even seen in the pictures of the travelers visiting Istanbul in the 19th Century. Today, they are starring intentionally or spontaneously in the videos and pictures of the tourists, foreigners, ex-pats, and locals of Istanbul. They will be sleeping on the sidewalks, using public transportation, and hanging around the cafes and restaurants expecting a treat from the diners. Some of them are so friendly that they can easily find the pet lover in the area and sit beside them or on their laps. During my 11 years in guiding, I have never seen tourists who are scared of stray animals or get uncomfortable because of their existence in a museum or a restaurant. Many tour guides in Turkey carry a bag of dog and cat food with them to feed our fellow friends in the streets of Istanbul and some other ancient cities of Turkey. Almost all Turkish citizens love and respect the animals and especially the stray animals living on the streets.

How many dogs and cats live in the streets of Istanbul?

According to the veterinary services of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, the population of stray dogs and cats in Istanbul is between 400 to 600 thousand. Veterinarians of Istanbul city put food on hundreds of locations in the city, conduct surgeries and operations on the wounded animals, and tag them to track their vaccinations.

When the dogs conquered Istanbul?

The majority of the people believe that dogs entered Istanbul with the soldiers of Sultan II Mehmed who conquered the city in 1453. While the dogs were mainly used by shepherds in Anatolia in the countryside, they were guards of the houses of the Turkish people and minorities of the Ottomans. They ate their leftovers and protected the houses from thieves. Recent excavations in the ancient Yenikapi port of the Byzantium Empire showed that dogs were living with the people since history. People left food and water to the dogs of Istanbul during the Ottoman times and some travelers before the first world war notice the small shelters built for them.

“The dogs sleep in the streets, all over the city. … They would not move, though the Sultan himself passed by.”

– Mark Twain

What is the situation of the stray animals of Istanbul today?

Most of the stray dogs and cats of Istanbul are living in better conditions than the ones living in the countryside of Turkey. Big population means big consumption so there are a lot of leftovers to our friends in the streets. Hundreds of pet lovers carry animal food with them to support our friends in the streets. Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has a department of veterinarians to feed and take care of the animals living on the streets of Istanbul. After centuries, the people of Istanbul consider them speechless citizens of the city.

Boji the Dog

Boji stands for bogie in English which carries the wheelsets of the trains and helps them to take the curves safely. After seeing the same dog in the trams, ferries, and subways, an Istanbulite created a Twitter account for @Bojiand he became the most famous stray dog of Istanbul. The official Twitter account of Istanbul's public transportation posts pictures of Boji as an inspector. He mainly uses the trams and subway which is a tribute to his well-deserved name. Recently, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality attached a tracker to Boji to see where he goes and sometimes he passes 30 stops on the trams, metro busses, and subways. He sometimes uses the ferries to change continents, sleeps on the seats of the busses or on the floors of the subway trains. He allows people to exit the trains and pictured many times waiting behind the yellow line in the subway stations. People tracked Boji from the posts on the internet but now Municipality watches him as well.

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