Turkey has a town built solely for stray cats and it’s awesome…and not just because it features a legion of cats marching around to the tune of Mozart’s Turkish March. Feline homelessness is a growing concern among animal lovers and vets around the world. With cats breeding almost as frequently and enthusiastically as rabbits, a solitary unneutered female cat wandering the streets means you can expect about 3 litters of feral kittens to hit your town each year of that cat’s life. Add that to the number of cats and kittens that are callously abandoned once their owners get bored of them, and we’re talking a big, big problem.
Fortunately, a number of kind-hearted cat fanatics are finding ever more creative and ingenious ways of tackling the problem. Take the Samsun Metropolitan Municipality in Turkey as just one example. Determined to bring down the number of cats living hard, short lives on the streets of Samsun, the town decided to take action. The result is “Cat Town”, a unique facility set within a 10, 000-kilometer forested area that provides a safe, comfortable home to hundreds of stray and homeless cats.
“(In 2014) we developed the cat town concept. We created an atmosphere for cats to live in their natural atmosphere. Now we have 60 cats; they are neutered and have microchips. They eat their food in the morning, stroll around in the facility during the day and come to the shelter at night. We have the capacity for 500 cats,” Nurhan Isler, the provincial head of the Samsun Metropolitan Municipality Veterinary Affairs, told the Daily News in 2016.
The town may have taken two years and a lot of hard work to finish, but the results speak for themselves. Homeless cats are recused from the streets using a humane trapping system and then taken to an animal shelter that’s conveniently situated just a few yards down the street from the facility. Once there, the cats are spayed or neutered (the quickest and easiest way of tackling the long-term problem of feline homelessness) before being introduced to their new home, a sanctuary that accepts anyone and everyone (at least, anyone and everyone with four legs, a tail, and a meow) regardless of age, breed, or health status (even special needs kitties are warmly welcomed). If any sickness is detected by the sanctuary, cats will receive the expert attention of Hüseyin Aydin, the facility’s resident vet. Aydin makes sure any infectious illnesses are treated before the cat is introduced to its new friends, and that any acute illnesses are identified so that the proper long-term treatment can be provided. “The facility is like a five-star hotel for cats. Everything that is required for their health and life is provided here. There is probably no other facility like this around Turkey,” Aydin noted to the Daily News.
Once released into their new homes, a host of delights await the formerly destitute kitties. Along with a series of bridges connecting the different parts of the complex (and some feline-friendly walkways for whenever they fancy a stroll), the cats have a range of feline-friendly homes to choose from, along with the option to either live alone in their private palatial paradise or bunk up with one of their friends in a bungalow made for two. Once they’ve settled into their new home, they’ll be provided everything they need to live out their lives in peace, security, and happiness (unless the shelter finds them a permanent home in the meantime, of course). A team of staff is on hand to keep their bellies full and their chins scratched, while Dr. Aydin (along with his trusty stethoscope and medical bag) is always available should the need arise.
Cat Town has grown exponentially over the years. As The Ege Eye reports, when the project launched in 2014, it had just 50 cats and kittens wandering its walkways. Since then, increased demand from other cities looking for a helping hand with their strays has led numbers to quadruple, with plans to expand the area to accommodate upwards of a thousand cats in the works. The expansionist plans don’t just include increasing the physical area: Nurhan Isler, the provincial head of the Samsun Metropolitan Municipality Veterinary Affairs, has plans to introduce some extra special features for the cats to keep themselves amused. “We are planning to create a special kitchen for them along with new play areas,” she told The Ege Eye.
Even without the additional play areas, the Cat Town is already doing a fabulous job of treating its residents like royalty. Anyone who visits would be forgiven for thinking they’ve wandered into a five-star resort, rather than an animal shelter… unless it’s typical for shelters to serenade their residents with Mozart, Vivaldi, and Beethoven (Mozart’s “Turkish March” is, in fact, the cat’s signal to make their way to the feeding field, where some tasty treats await them), or provide comfortable hammocks for them to laze away their afternoons. “Our goal here is to give them the best and the freest life they can have rather than limit their freedom,” Isler says of the sanctuary’s “pleasure garden” vibe.
With feline homelessness becoming an ever-increasing problem, the good works being done in this small municipality are truly inspirational. Of course, the easiest, quickest and most painless way of reducing the overwhelming number of stray cats in our towns is to adopt a widespread spay/ neuter program. With stray cats no longer able to produce litter after litter of kittens doomed to repeat the same cycle of homeless, the problem could be more or less overcome within a generation. That said, neutering only works to prevent more strays coming into being, and does little to address the question of what to do with the ones that are already here. The Cat Town tackles the problem head-on, not only by providing a bare-bones solution but by actually giving these cats some of the comfort, love, and security that’s been so tragically missing from these lives until now.