Istanbul, the capital of Turkey in the Middle East, loves its street cats. None was more beloved than Tombili, a portly and stately gentleman tabby cat affectionately named for his girth. He was noted for his sweet, sociable nature and tendency to lounge on street curbs. He also loved having his picture taken. Thanks to a photo of him in his customary pose, he became an internet sensation on the site 9GAG, sponsoring a thousand memes.
Sadly, Tombili fell ill in the summer of 2016 and died August 1 after a month-long unknown illness, according to his owners. People were heartbroken and wanted to commemorate him. So, amateur sculptor Seval Şahin created a bronze sculpture of Tombili in his customary iconic pose and placed it in one of his favorite spots on World Animal Day (October 4) in his neighborhood of Ziverbey, in the municipality of Kadıköy in Istanbul. The little statue was very popular, so popular that someone quickly stole it. But as a public outcry went viral and global, it reappeared just as mysteriously.
The statue has now attracted tributes both human and feline. Humans leave prayer beads, small glass cups of sweet Turkish coffee and dry cat food. Street cats come by to sniff the statue, which seems strangely familiar to them. Or perhaps they just like the food.
Cats have a special place in Islamic culture and folklore. The Prophet Muhammad himself had a cat named Muezza. There are several stories about the Prophet and his love for his favorite cat.
Anadolou Kedisi chronicles the lives of Istanbul’s street cats on his Facebook page and runs a blog called Anatolian Cat. He also wrote about and photographed Tombili’s life and strange afterlife. In the video below from Tombili’s final days, he bade goodbye to Istanbul’s favorite street cat.
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