The Uphill Slide

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Cat Lovers

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I’m a cat lover who visited Istanbul a little over ten years ago. Kedi aka Nine Lives: Cats in Istanbul showing at the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill was my movie choice for my lazy Sunday afternoon. I took a couple of pictures of cats outside the Blue Mosque but did not have a memory of an abundance of cats in that city.

The documentary had an 8.2 rating on IMDB. High reviews give me hope that I will agree with others’ high opinions. Was this documentary going to reveal something unknown or a new insight about felines from their centuries roaming this city? The theater was full, I suspect, of cat lovers. The filming was often the cat’s eye view, a day in the life as if the cats were being stalked by a celebrity photographer.

A couple of women sitting across the aisle laughed loudly at the familiar antics of cats the world over, whether Turkish or American or some other nationality. One caretaker, I call these people who take responsibility for the feeding of these free-range cats, caretakers because they are not owners. They do not cage these animals or keep them confined in apartments or houses. The cats roam the city living off the kindness of the caretakers, allowed to walk in and out of shops and businesses. They pass by diners who reach down to feed some tidbit from their plates.  Two women featured in this documentary feed about 60 cats every day. Fisherman toss the guts from cleaned fish to the ground where a cat tries to grab a bite only to be driven back by a sudden flock of descending birds. But not to fear, the cats get theirs too from the fishermen. One cat was said to have very refined tastes eating only bluefish.

The cats in Istanbul seem to be accepted as a part of this city holding their own place in its history. There was no talk in the documentary of controlling breeding through a spaying or neutering program. Even new kittens were welcomed; a man was shown bottle-feeding motherless kittens to make sure of their survival. They were not considered pests overrunning the city or polluting it with feces or decaying bodies of the deceased. One young man shared his story of burying cats in his backyard and marking the graves with crosses even though he was not a Christian. Still, there must be many unburied cats.

Some of the philosophies expressed about cats were that those who did not love them cannot love. Or it was suggested that cats believe in God as humans do while dogs believe that man is God. So does that mean that cats are closer to humans in thought or superior to dogs? Anyway, I am tolerant of both dogs and cats no matter what their religious beliefs.

But is there another view of cats in Istanbul? Is everyone satisfied with their numbers and free-range lifestyle in the city?

Anyway, some interesting human-interest things in this documentary, but I would definitely give it a much lower rating. It just did not hold my interest throughout. But here’s a recommendation for those cat-lovers or even just animal lovers who like those feel-good movies about the impact pets have on our lives: A Street Cat Named Bob.

 

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