Kötü the Turkish cat
Interview by Melanie Dziengo
Photo courtesy of Christopher James Mitchell
How did a tough kitty living on the streets of Istanbul end up as an important family member in Canada? By adopting its owners!
How did you adopt your pet?
In a sense, he adopted us, Christopher James Mitchell and Briana Doble. But, objectively, he was a kitten living on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey when we adopted him.
What did you name your pet?
We actually named our cat Kötü which means “bad” in Turkish because he came at a really bad time! Also, it’d be easy for our English friends to pronounce when we brought him back to Canada. From the onset, we had every intention of bringing this little guy back to the homeland.
What were the circumstances for adopting Kötü?
It was the night my wife, Briana, and I moved into our new apartment in Istanbul, and the day before we started our new teaching jobs at an international school there. You can imagine, the tensions were already running high as we attempted to move our belongings into our new place and get ready for the morning.
Anyway, just as we got all our luggage and so forth out of the taxi, this small, dirty white kitten ran up to us on the steps of the apartment and started bellowing. I felt so bad for him that I told Bri that if he was still there by the time we got all of our stuff into the apartment from the ground floor, that we’d have to take him. After three trips up the stairs, we came down and he was still there and the rest, as they say, is history.
How long have you had Kötü?
We’ve had him now for 4.5 years.
How old is he?
We can’t be exactly sure, but we think he’s about 5-years-old.
What makes him unique?
My goodness, this cat is one of a kind in almost every aspect. For starters, he’s incredibly vocal and he’s quite sure that you can understand exactly what he’s saying. That being said, I think at this point my wife and I almost can understand, so there you go.
It’s hard to describe, but I think his “energy” is really what makes him unique. He’s so positive, kind and loving. He’s just got his huge personality that shines in everything he does, which is amplified by the fact that he’s so vocal. He wants to be near people as much as possible, and is probably the most social cat I’ve met. At times, he has hard times being around other animals, but with humans he’s golden.
What is one word you would use to describe your cat?
What is the relationship with your pet like?
It’s wonderful. I work from home, so having him around, I don’t feel isolated because he’s always there with me. In fact, he’ll regularly sit on the chair beside me in my office, and nap on my desk while I’m working - he’s the perfect colleague!
I hate to admit it, but he’s even fonder of my wife, Briana, and he sleeps on her every night. Yes, on her! When she’s home, the two are practically inseparable, and it’s adorable.
Do you have any favourite stories about Kötü?
He’s a character, so I’ve got plenty of endearing tales, but, I’ll share the most memorable day that I had with him, which is the day he escaped in a winter storm. Somehow, Kotu escaped in the middle of the night, and took the opportunity to go down three flights of stairs, and off into the wintry streets.
We woke up panicked and deeply confused, and set off into the streets to find him. Our friends helped in the hunt, which led us all over. At points, I chatted with folks who described seeing him leading a pack of street cats, which is why, nowadays, we joke that we reunited Kötü with his friends from kittenhood. At the time, of course, it was less funny. At about 10 p.m., after we put his litter on our front stoop, he came walking up to the apartment lobby like nothing had happened. He’s a character, that’s for sure. We would have been crestfallen had he not returned, so we thank our lucky stars.
What lessons have you learned from Kötü?
For me personally, I’ve learned that life is too short not to smile. Sometimes I’m in my office and I’m stressed and trying to do 700 things at once, and he just comes in and sits next to me, and it puts things in perspective. He doesn’t have deadlines and all that to hit; he’s just focused on love, and it reminds me to do that a little more as well.
He’s also so ridiculous sometimes, it encourages me to be silly and remember how important it is to play and have some fun!
Photos courtesy of Christopher James Mitchell
Photo courtesy of Christopher James Mitchell
What was the process like for getting him into Canada?
For us, it was actually easier than you’d think. From the onset, we knew we were going to take him back to Canada with us, so we asked what shots we’d need to ensure he could come into the country, and, over our time in Istanbul, we ensured we got all of them.
We also went to Turkish immigration and showed his little cat passport that we got from the vet which indicated all the shots he had and so forth. We then contacted Turkish Airlines, and they let us know that he had to be under eight kilograms to go on board, so we put him on a diet (he’s a big cat!). Turkish Airlines gave us a seat in between us, so he was sitting in the middle the whole way home, and was the perfect passenger.
What advice do you have for people who want to adopt a pet from abroad?
Most importantly, just stressing that it’s possible. If you love the animal, research what it’s going to take to bring the animal back into your home country. Once we did all of our research — well ahead of our departure date — we could start making plans that weren’t rushed, and everything fell into place rather naturally.
The important thing to understand is that as long as the animal has their respective shots and is healthy, it likely won’t be too much of an issue, unless you’re from a nation like Australia which has harsher quarantine laws. In general, islands tend to have those laws. All that to say, we couldn’t be happier to see him thriving on Canadian soil!
You can read more about Kötü (and travel writing adventures!) on owner Christopher James Mitchell’s website.
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