Tombili, the stray cat, achieved internet fame when a photo of him was shared on an American entertainment website. This charming feline called the Ziverbey district on the eastern coast of the Bosphorus home, often choosing the alley of Gulhane as his lounging spot near a cafe. Here, he would leisurely watch the world go by, capturing the hearts of many. This iconic photo spread like wildfire across social media, sparking countless jokes and conversations.
In Turkey, the name "Tombili" is affectionately used to describe pleasantly plump domestic animals. This round and content kitty was adored by the locals. While they might not have treated him to tea, they showered him with affection, ear scratches, and tasty treats. Tombili accepted these gestures with a touch of indifference, embodying the essence of the "true Turkish man" in a satirical manner.
Tragically, on August 1, 2016, Tombili left this world. His usual spot by the cafe felt empty, and heartfelt flyers put up by the locals only emphasized the sudden void. These touching messages conveyed sentiments like, "You were the pride of our street; you will forever live in our hearts." However, while the hearts of the people mourned, the district of Istanbul, lacking its legendary cat, seemed a bit duller. It was clear that something needed to be done.
A group of proactive Istanbul residents initiated a petition on change.org, urging city authorities to honor the memory of this cat who had enriched the public life of the city. The petition garnered an impressive 17 thousand signatures. With the talent of local sculptor Seval Shahin, a life-sized sculpture of Tombili was crafted, capturing his iconic pose. On October 4, 2016, World Animal Day, a heartfelt ceremony took place to unveil the cat monument at the very spot where Tombili used to relax. The event was attended by hundreds of individuals who brought flowers, candles, and even cat food to pay their respects. The touching ceremony received coverage on Turkish television.
Cats hold a special place in the hearts of Istanbul's residents, to the extent that they even produced a film dedicated to their furry companions. A Turkish proverb goes, "Whoever kills a cat must build a mosque to earn Allah's forgiveness," underscoring the reverence for these animals. If you ever find yourself in Istanbul, take a moment to seek out the Tombili cat monument and give it a gentle rub for good luck.