Muhammad's Cats


A curious thing about Istanbul is the number of healthy stray cats that freely wander the city. You can easily have a seat in the park near the Blue Mosque and count 20 or more in a matter of minutes. I really can’t think of another place I have been, including in the US, where stray animals are so well fed and free. When I asked someone what was up with all the cats, she said that Muhammad had a cat.

Indeed, a famous story in Muslim theology says that the prophet Muhammad once found his favorite cat, Muezza, sleeping on the sleeve of his robe. Rather than disturbing it, he cut the sleeve off. He supposedly would hold Muezza on his lap while giving sermons in his house and allow the cat to drink from water he used for wudu – the Islamic act of washing with water prior to ritual prayer.

kitty cat at aya sofya
kitty cat at aya sofya

According to Islamic tradition, cats are cared for and cherished. They are not to be sold for payment and mistreating a cat would be considered a sin. Having a cat as a pet is ok as long as you provide food, water and adequate roaming time. Apparently, they were serious about this as there’s a story of a woman who was tortured and put in hell for locking up her little fur ball without food and water. Thankfully we’ve left out kitty cats in good care this year.