Turkey has urged local authorities to feed stray cats and dogs in order to keep concerned animal lovers of the streets during the coronavirus crisis.
The move comes amid widespread concern for strays, many of which are usually well-fed despite living on the streets.
While the government has not formally imposed a lockdown in Turkey, residents have been strongly encouraged to stay at home to reduce the spread of the virus. Citizens over-65 and under-20 have also been ordered to stay at home.
The interior ministry on Sunday ordered local government officials to feed stray animals in order to prevent citizens from taking matters into their own hands.
Food and water will be left at the living environments of street animals such as parks and gardens, particularly animal shelters, the ministry said in a statement according to local media.
Cats are particularly beloved in Turkey, with local residents traditionally feeding and taking care of the strays in their neighborhood.
The Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine church-turned-Ottoman mosque and now-museum, even has its own feline mascot, a not-uncommon occurrence in offices and businesses.
When an Istanbul neighborhood mascot died in 2016, thousands of people demanded a sculpture to memorialize Tombili, the cat’s signature pose.
There are lots of cats on the side streets where there are only closed businesses, Twitter user Ozge Ozan said last week. I haven’t seen food anywhere for days. The cats are running after us (looking for food).
Ozan called on Istanbul’s central Beyoglu municipality to give food to the stray cats.
Dogs are especially hungry and aggressive because people can’t go out and feed them, Twitter used Ebru Dogan said in a tweet calling for support from Istanbul’s Atasehir municipality.
We are feeding the cats in front of our door but we are waiting for the support of municipal teams to feed the dogs.
All of the cats are hungry, and hundreds of seagulls and crows also have nothing to eat. They are eating cat food.
In the southern province of Antalya, a 63-year-old retiree who has been confined to her home due to chronic illnesses called for the government to establish an emergency hotline to ask for help in feeding stray cats.
Muazzez Turan told state news agency Anadolu that she usually feeds around 300 stray cats a day, but due to being at high risk of contracting the Coronavirus illness has been forced to stay at home.
My mind was always with the cats. I didn’t know whether they would be hungry or full, Turan said.
I will sleep peacefully for the first time today after local authorities promised to feed the animals on her behalf, she said.
Turkey has reported more than 27,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 574 deaths.