Search and rescue teams in Turkey went viral after pictures and videos circulated on the Internet showing them rescuing cats from beneath the rubble left by this week’s deadly earthquakes.
Turkey was hit by two major earthquakes within 24 hours, causing serious damage to buildings and making them crumble, collapsing on those inside or in surrounding areas.
A Twitter user, Abier, tweeted two pictures of one of the rescuers carrying a cat out of a collapsed building with the caption, “Turkish cats” with a sad face emoji. The tweet got over 370 thousand views and 800 retweets.
Another Twitter user, journalist Asaad Sam Hanna, tweeted a video of a team of rescuers trying to save a cat from underneath the rubble with the caption “Save every life you can.” His tweet got almost 25 thousand views and over 70 retweets.
Why are cats so important to Turkey?
According to a 2019 New York Times report, it was estimated that Istanbul had around 125,000 cats living and roaming freely among the 15 million people living in the city.
When traveling to a Muslim or Middle Eastern country, it is to be expected to see a lot of cats roaming the streets.
Why? According to a 2017 article in The Economist, there are numerous examples of Prophets in Islam liking cats. According to the hadith, a collection of stories of Muhammad, it is written that Muhammad “cut off his sleeve when he had to rise for prayers so as to not disturb a feline that had curled up on his robe for a nap.”
In another story written within the hadith, the pet cat of Abu Hurayrah (literally translating to father of the kitten) saved Muhammad from a deadly serpent’s bite. Muhammad then blessed the cat and all other cats with the ability to always land on their feet.
In Islam, they also believe that cats are guardians to watch over them. They believe that the cats are the reason why the black plague rarely struck their homeland during the bubonic plague time period, as they would attack any mouse or rat.
Cats have been a big part of Turkish history even before Turkey was Turkey. Cats were there to witness the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire and watched as sultans would keep big cats such as leopards, cheetahs and more as “house pets”.
Istanbul has embraced the endless amounts of stray cats in their city and they’ve built statues of cats around the city for tourists to take endless selfies.