When You Love the Stray Animals as Much as Your Own Pets

 


In 2019, around the time I began thinking about the representation of companion animals, especially cats and dogs, in Turkish literature, groundbreaking changes in social and political life in Turkey were underway as the Republican People’s Party won the municipality elections both in the capital city of Ankara and in Istanbul, the biggest city in the country.

The change in government had positive refections on both the quality of life of people in these cities as well as the lives of thousands of stray cats and dogs, since the First Stray Animal Workshop was held by the Municipality of Ankara on June 29, 2019. Although the number of shelters does not suffce to accommodate and provide food and health care for the countless cats and dogs living on the streets throughout the country, this workshop was an essential step toward the well-being of stray animals because local authorities acknowledged the problem and listened to the various solutions offered by the NGOs.

Among other companion animals, cats and dogs have come to occupy a more distinctive place in our lives as the swiftly expanding nets of globalism and capitalism drag individuals into an abyss of isolation through the addiction to social media applications among other infuences. Though there are many underlying reasons why we need the companionship of animals, psychological satisfaction is among the top reasons why we adopt or buy companion animals, especially cats and dogs.

However, having a companion animal in Turkey, whether a cat or dog, results from more than just a need for a relationship with a species other than humankind in the ordinary chaos of daily life; it is perceived as a way of crossing the borders of the “bourgeois” and also as a way of belonging to that “prestigious” class. Of course, I exempt people who adopt their companion animals and live with them until the end of their lives. As the former group of people buys or, at best, adopts their companion animals from the animal shelters for the wrong reasons, it is most likely that you will read the news of abandoned cats and dogs on the news and social media.

 When combined with the insuffcient number of animal shelters in Turkey, the deserted companion animals become public property. In a system like the one I explained above, cats and dogs on the streets of Turkey become the object of attention and good Samaritans take on the mission of feeding and accommodating these stray animals. This chapter will focus on a recent documentary about cats roaming the city of Istanbul. Kedi (Cat1 )(2016), directed by Ceyda Torun, focuses on seven cats from the streets of Istanbul and how they have come to be companion animals on the streets. Kedi is a multilayered work that gives profound insights into the lives of stray cats as companion animals. My goal will be to highlight the case of stray animals in Turkey while I try to justify the idea that we do not need to adopt pets as companion animals because there are plenty of them living on the streets in countries such as Turkey.

Yet we cannot limit the number of texts about stray and companion animals to the selected documentary since Turkish literature includes a variety of works that deal with companion animals. To illustrate, we can trace, for example, Orhan Kemal’s short story “Köpek Yavrusu” (Dog Puppy) in his collection of stories Ekmek Kavgasi (1950), which presents us with a stray dog poppy with two crushed hind legs due to a car accident.

However, the torturing of the poppy by the neighborhood children and its deliverance by a porter named Mehmet marks the social criticism of Kemal about the mistreatment of animals in Turkey. In a different story, however, we acquire a sense of loss and affection toward our companion animals. In the short story “Kopek” in Refk Halid Karay’s Gurbet Hikayeleri (1940), we witness the relationship of the protagonist, Osman, who is a wanderer and the dog which is also a stray animal.

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