One evening, a kitten was abandoned on our street. How it ended up there, we’ll never know. All I knew was that it was suddenly there where it wasn’t before and it was making a lot of noise.
Animals living on the streets is a norm in Istanbul that I have never understood. While the Turks may find it amusing and cute, seeing cats and dogs being left to proliferate and fend for themselves or succumb to illnesses, emaciated, going through the trash – always left me baffled and heartbroken.
The kitten meowed and meowed late into the night, causing my mother and I so much distress that in our pyjamas, we grabbed our coats and went out into the night to look for it but finding it wouldn’t be easy. The street was dark and lined with many abandoned houses. The kitten could be anywhere so we listened for its meows and followed them with our phone lights on. They were coming from beneath a parked car. As we tried to get close to the kitten, it would hiss so we left it some food and walked away.
The next day, when I went to work, my mother went out to further investigate the kitten situation. When I returned she told me that she had found the kitten living in a hole in the house across from mine. It was hungry and it had eaten the entire grilled chicken that my mother had bought to feed the stray cats. Once it was done eating, it disappeared. It wouldn’t let my mother get close.
Despite being fed, the meowing persisted. It would start and stop and start again at all hours of the night and I tried to ignore it, hoping that it would sort itself out. But the only thing that changed was that I became more concerned about the kitten and slowly we began to bond.
It knew me now and when I came home from work it would run out to me, knowing that I had some treat and then we would play. For those moments everything in its world, which extended no further than our street, seemed safe. As it stood between my feet looking up at me and me down at it, I thought to myself – what next?
Being allergic, I couldn’t adopt it but it, I felt, the kitten had adopted me. The persistent meowing stopped and we entered into a new routine. I named it Noor and each morning when I made my breakfast I would make Noor’s as well. In the evening I didn’t dare return home without Noor’s dinner.
But this couldn’t go on. With every day that passed, her paws got dirtier and my allergies got worse. If she wasn’t with me, then she was in her hole and this, I imagined was not psychologically good for her. Besides, it was winter and soon it would snow.
I felt a little lost as to what to do next. Having only been living here for five months, I was as much a foreigner in this city as she was. Where does one start? Obviously, she needed to go to the vet but then what?
The more I asked around the more hopeless the situation seemed. And then late one night, when I was feeling deeply depressed about the situation, I received a text message from a
colleague of mine. She had found someone for my kitten.
I texted him back asking if the person was serious. He texted me back assuring me that this friend was a close friend and that he was kind and genuinely interested.
We took the kitten to the vet the next day. We were told that Noor was a boy and that he would need to take antibiotics for a few days. He had some problems with his gums and had to be de-fleaed, but other than that he was healthy. I had his nails trimmed and was told to return a week later to get his vaccines. He then stayed the night at Anas’s house.
That night, Anas and I took turns cuddling him and playing with him. The next day we put Noor into his green carrier and took a taxi across the Bosphorus Bridge and into Kadikoy. His new home was on the first floor of a residence with crystal chandeliers and polished floors. The flat and owner were lovely. He had toys for Noor, his kitty litter and bowls for food and water.
As Noor sussed out his new territory, the owner invited us in for tea. Once I felt that the kitten was comfortable, we slipped away.
We celebrated by going to Fazil Bey’s cafe in Kadikoy for Turkish coffee. We then grabbed a bite to eat and headed home. Both of us felt relieved that we had completed our mission and that the weeks of worry were over. We were exhausted emotionally and physically but proud as well.
With the help of our colleague Ismail, we accomplished something meaningful. Something that I had thought was impossible. That night it snowed.