It’s a cat thing – Kedi

Kedi,
Directed by Ceyda Torun

I’ve been waiting to see Ceyda Torun’s Turkish documentary about some of the many feral cats in Istanbul for some time, and finally caught it this evening, my end of the work week treat on the way home after work. The film follows a number of local characters in an old neighbourhood in Istanbul, although the legions of cats living wild in the city goes way, way back, well before Istanbul, before Turkey was Turkey, when this was Constantinople, the continuation of the Classical Roman world. As one local comments, ships have always visited this great crossroads city between East and West, even centuries ago, from as far as Scandinavia; many of those ships carried cats, popular with the sailors for both their company and their rodent-cleansing skills, meaning the city’s wild feline population includes a variety of breeds, even Norwegian forest cats.

The film talks about how many of these cats live in this region of Istanbul, each with their own characters, as all animals have, interacting with their chosen humans but still mostly living free and wild. Some come right into human homes and businesses for periods, for food treats, for company and attention and affection, then back out on their rounds across streets and rooftops. Others obviously don’t mind people but don’t get too close, like one who turned up at a seafront restaurant one day and settled in, taking care of any rat problems at night. Another regularly attends a pretty upmarket deli/cafe, but he knows his bounds (he has manners, the cafe owner says), he doesn’t come inside, doesn’t bother the customer for tidbits, he waits and then puts his paws up on the glass to draw attention to let them know he is hungry.

The amount of people who interact with the cats is huge, from just giving them some attention and under the chin scratches to those who go out with bags of food to feed them, seeking out their regular spots, looking out especially those mama cats with young kittens (or in one touching scene a man feeds abandoned kittens milks with a syringe, no idea where their mother is, but he has help, a large Tom who tries to look after the kittens after finding them). Most of them talked about how the cats made them feel, how the interaction with the animals helped them, brightened their day and made it better, more than a few who had suffered some crisis in their lives found interacting with the animals healed them inside, which will surprise no-one who has ever lived with animals. Cats, dogs, horses and more, they touch a part of us deep inside, even when we’re badly hurt; there’s a reason why therapists often recommend living with animals to those with emotional trauma, and more than a few PTSD sufferers are on record as saying that the companionship of an animal saved them from the black pit when they were at their worst.

But this isn’t just a film for moggy lovers like me, it’s as much about the people and the place and the community. The camera moves around in drone shots over the roofs (where the cats walk as they please as easily as they do on the ground, for a cat’s paths around a city are whichever it chooses, not restricted to mere human passageways like us clumsy upright apes) and down at cat-eye level too. Around this old neighbourhood, as in many cities around the world, the movers and shakers are building towering bland palaces of glass and steel, structures on an inhuman scale, built on the cleared remains of communities like this, and they worry that their old neighbourhood will be next.

Where will the people go, where will the cats go in such an environment? What will happen to the community felines and homo sapiens share so beautifully there? Cleared in the way of “progress” (normally defined here as giving rich speculators more room and power at the expense of regular people), a way of life and community scattered to be replaced by isolated high-rise blocks for the rich, the houses, small businesses, cafes and flats and people and cats all gone? It’s a pattern familiar from many cities over the last century, here given added pathos because of the animal element.

The roving cameras following the cat also give a flavour of the city – not the tourist parts, the real city, where people live and know one another, in their local cafes, fishing by the seafront, the bustling local markets (a regular haunt for many of the cats!) and lets you feel something of the beat of the city, its rhythms and life, in a place which has been a bustling hub of life for so many centuries of history, a history the cats have shared with them; empires have risen and fallen, religions come and gone and been replaced, new countries born, and the cats have been there through all of it, happily training the local humans as cats do.

One local comments cats are aware of god, dogs are not, they think humans are god, cats know better, humans are perhaps middlemen. Actually I suspect cats don’t see us even as middlemen to god, they may be aware of god, but they probably don’t care, because they know that they are the centre of all things in the universe (gods included, excepting perhaps the lady Bast, since she is a feline goddess) and god is just someone else they can get a tummy tickle from, and perhaps a bit of ham or chicken.

Overall it’s a charming, funny, warm film though, smiling humans and purring pusscats, it’s touching, inspiring and lightens the soul, god knows something we could all do with.

Two years on

It’s two years to the day since I had to say goodbye to the last of my kitties, Her Royal Furryness, Cassie. I didn’t think it would be this long and that I still wouldn’t have taken in a new cat or two. Since I lost her while dad was very ill and waiting on his operation I couldn’t even think about that, and when that went so badly and the short hospital stay turned into months, then months more helping him recuperate (thankfully all of that time was rewarded, I am glad to say) of course I couldn’t think about visiting the shelters to see about giving another cat a home, then for the last year once things were better on that front the financial front just got increasingly bad, going from strained, to bad to downright desperate, through no fault of my own. Finally, very, very slowly recovering from that but still too tight to think about added expenses that come with looking after animals. I lost Pandora, then Dizzy, and then only a year and a half later, Cassie, and it has been emotionally quiet hard, especially after so much stress and strain (amazing how much our furry friends help our state of mind and emotions, even in the hard times) and I still find it odd living in a home with no cats ruling the roost, and really didn’t think I’d have to wait this long. Galling not to be able to just do it, especially knowing the rescue shelters are full of animals who desperately need a new home, and I need some to make my flat back into a home.

Of course, part of me feels ambivalent about it, because even when I do bring new cats home – and I will, eventually – they won’t be my girls. It took years – a lifetime – for us to bond the way we did, I knew all of their little character foibles (and they are so individual) and equally they knew all of mine, we meshed, they had me trained, Cassie especially could tell me with one mieow and a little look or gesture what she wanted, they could tell what I was up to, like seeing me go to brush my teeth at night meant bedtime coming and they’d relocate themselves to the bedroom, making themselves comfortable and waiting for me to come through. And of course different kitties will behave differently – not only does it take time to bond and get used to each other, it will never be the same because the new cats will have their own personalities, they won’t be the girls, they will be themselves. But I also know when I can go to the rescue shelters and I see some of them I will forget the differences and melt and it wouldn’t take long for them to adapt to their new home and train me to their liking, as cats are wont to do. We’ll just have to see, it certainly won’t be this year, sadly, have decided I won’t actively look for new kitties till next year at least, if someone I knew locally had one needing rehomed or their cat was having a litter and they needed homes for the kittens I’d maybe do it earlier, but I won’t actively go looking for a good while yet.

Meanwhile I just miss having my lovely girls bringing the flat to life and making it feel like an actual home rather than just a place I live.

The sad story of Marius

Today the Copenhagen Zoo has put a healthy young animal to death – Marius, a young giraffe, was found to be genetically surplus to requirements. The zoo allows the breeding then decides if they have sufficient of one particular genetic strain of animal then they can simply get rid of the others to ‘manage the population’. Manage the population. By which they mean exterminating healthy animals. Healthy animals which they encouraged into being through captive breeding programmes then discarded as if they were broken toys. Domestic pet owners are castigated – rightly – if they do not have their animals neutered unless they have specific plans to breed them and to take care of the offspring. This is to ensure fewer abandoned animals left to suffer unwanted (sadly something that is on the rise). And yet in zoos all over Europe they breed species then decide they have sufficient and destroy some of the perfectly healthy offspring. If a domestic pet owner was doing this they would be named and shamed, in zoos it is “managing the population.”

They say they had to cull the animal before it reached breeding age and would want to reproduce. So why not neuter the animal as we do with domestic creatures? Oh, that would interfere with the animal’s ‘natural’ life cycle. Hold on, he’s captive in a bloody zoo! There is nothing natural about that life cycle. Neither is there anything natural about putting a bolt gun to this animal’s head and killing him, you hypocritical, amoral, self-serving bastards. On their page they explain why they have to ‘euthanise’ Marius and again we are into self-serving excuses and outright lies – this is not euthanasia, that’s a last gasp procedure used on animals with terminal illnesses or in great pain which can’t be alleviated, as an act of mercy to end suffering. When it involves a perfectly healthy animal it is not euthanasia, it is slaughter, plain and simple. Stop hiding behind weasel terms, you unethical tossers and stop pretending this is all done ‘for the best’

Marius was offered not one but two different homes in wildlife parks in Yorkshire and in the Netherlands, both of which Copenhagen Zoo turned down as ‘unsuitable’ and declaring it was in the animal’s best interests to be put to death. That just proves the unethical and uncaring stance of those running the zoo, which tries to present itself to the public as a caring place taking care of animals. Well, here’s their real face. It’s not just them, this happens in zoos across Europe, just a year or two ago Edinburgh Zoo got into a PR storm when it emerged they were doing similar with healthy animals they had bred then decided to discard. Unsurprisingly it caused them a lot of problems with many on social media pledging not to ever take their families there to visit again until the policy was halted (many keepers too were upset about it, they look after animals, putting healthy ones to death isn’t what they signed up for). Copenhagen Zoo is apparently one of Denmark’s top attractions – I wonder if a lot of folk will refuse to visit after these vile actions? Earlier in the weekend the director of the zoo said he didn’t understand why there had been such an international outcry at the zoo’s plans. I would submit if he doesn’t understand why this has outraged so many people then he is not a suitable person to be in charge of the welfare of animals and should resign his position.

Seahorses

Heading down the coast a few weeks ago with a chum and his dog we stopped off briefly at Longniddry Bents to let the dog have a quick walk and in case he needed to ‘use the facilities’. As we walked down to the beach we had this rather lovely sight of a pair of horses being exercised in the shallow surf of the Bents (which have a long, very shallow beach so at high tide you can wade around a fair bit before it gets too deep, the odd dips notwithstanding):

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This one was actually being lead rather than ridden as he’d injured his leg and the salt water was good at cleaning out the wound:

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Jungle City

In Edinburgh at the moment we have a series of animal statues, each decorated by a different artist, somewhat like the cows one we had a few years back, except this time they are endangered species, part of the Jungle City scheme to highlight the plight of such endangered species and like the earlier cows statues this will go on around other world cities. The statues themselves will be auctioned (sadly I read today some mindless, vile fiends have stolen one but they had to damage it severely to remove it from its plinth) and there are smaller versions of them for sale too. Certainly been making me smile as I wander around town, snapped a bunch of them already, like this beautiful white tiger (with small rider complete with bowler hat and brolly!) right by the side of the National Gallery of Scotland on the Mound:

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This big cat is right by historic Saint Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile:

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And I love the tartan elephant on the Mound next to the National Gallery of Scotland the Royal Scottish Academy:

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And he has some nearby elephant companions:

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The decoration on this friendly orang-utan reminds me of a children’s picture book (especially Quentin Blake ones):

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This big cat is looking up at the Scott Monument:

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While on the other side of the Monument is this amazingly sparkly cat:

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From a distance I thought it was covered in glitter or something similar, but close up I realised it was covered entirely in very shiny one pence pieces. Here she is with Sir Walter Scott in the background:

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Must get some more pics, quite a few other to snap!

Killing the innocents

I am utterly disgusted to read that Edinburgh Zoo, famed internationally for its work in the conservation of endangered species, actually practises killing perfectly healthy animals that are ‘surplus to requirement’. After happily tooting their own trumpet at the breeding success of their Red River Hogs the other year it was decided after more piglets were born that the first pair were surplus to requirement and “were humanely euthanised”. Which is a polite way of saying the zoo – an organisation meant to look after creatures – killed two animals who were perfectly healthy. Killing a healthy animal in this manner can in no way be considered ‘humane’. Vile and cowardly and hypocritical, perhaps, but not humane.

They have tried to excuse this despicable action on a directive from a larger European organisation, but they can’t hide the fact that they, a zoo, have quite willingly taken the lives of healthy, defenceless animals. This is a vile action and there is no justification for it that can disguise the zoo’s dreadful actions; it makes their stance on the conservation and good treatment of animals laughable and those who made this decision into utter hypocrites. Consider what these vile people have done if you are ever tempted to spend your hard-earned money on a trip to Edinburgh Zoo. And if you have been recently perhaps you should wonder which of the wonderful animals you marvelled at may someday find themselves also surplus to requirements…

Chief Scout

Bear Grylls has become the new Chief Scout for the UK. Presumably he will be able to instruct kids on how to fake television shows and pretend you’re sleeping the night in that desert you’ve been crossing with only a rattlesnake for a pillow while actually you and the crew are straight off to an air conditioned motel as soon as the camera’s off. And is a man who kills animals just for the sake of making a TV programme really a good role model for kids? Seriously, the fact that he kills animals as part of this show disgusts me. You want to show survival skills, stop biting the heads off live frogs, you bastard, drop your white ass down into Compton and live on the street there for a week without being shot or knived. Oh well, the kids can at least enjoy making fun of his name, I suppose. Distract them from how silly their uniform looks.