So many expats like me will have adopted street animals here in Turkey to care for them at home. While many of these stray animals happily wander the streets of Turkey, there are some cultural particularities pet owners here in Turkey should be familiar with.
Let this serve as a general guide of what to know as a pet owner in Turkey, including the good, the bad, and some must-knows:
Last week, my little adopted terrier fell ill and couldn’t eat or keep anything he ate. Luckily, there happened to be an animal hospital nearby and even though it was late in the evening, when I arrived, a team was there to help me. In less than 10 minutes, my dog had gotten an x-ray, bloodwork and a biochemistry test done. He was immediately placed on a serum drip and I sat with him for an hour or so for a few consecutive days because the veterinarian said he should have multiple serum treatments. I was thrilled to see my dog receive such great care and this wasn’t even from its regular veterinarian, who also has here in Turkey and knows my dog’s name and his condition. This personal interest and attention the veterinarians here in Turkey give that truly stands out for me compared to being a pet owner abroad. How the veterinarians here can remember such details and the way they track your pet’s care through sending messages of when their shots are due are all extra advantages I have personally experienced here.
The only con to pet care in Turkey that I have witnessed is that some medications have supply issues or don’t seem to make it past the border. There have been times expat social groups have rallied together to help one another access harder-to-find medication, but this is something to be aware of, especially if your dog has any particular medical condition.
We all know Turks are friendly and if you happen to be out and about with an infant or a dog, you can expect strangers here in Turkey to stop you so they can admire your little one. This can be true for adults and kids as, in my experience, practically any stroll with my dog ends up being an opportunity for him to be adored and pet by young kids and their parents and I thoroughly welcome it. While you may think that Turkish children have the opportunity to pet animals all the time due to the street animal culture here, but in many cases, the parents of children will tell me this is their child’s first time petting a dog and so I welcome any opportunity for anyone to experience touching and loving an animal.
What foreigners with dogs and cats need to be aware of is that there are some Turks who will never keep a pet. They may have grown up in a community where having a domesticated animal indoors is not commonplace and, therefore, may have developed an aversion or even a phobia of sorts. This is something to be aware of when walking your dogs to avoid disturbing other pedestrians. If you see someone trying to avoid you and your pet, then understand they may have never been close to a pet before and may actually be scared, so it’s best to try to navigate in another direction if you sense someone tensing up as you approach.
Like street dogs and cats, house pets in Turkey can actually have quite a social lifestyle. Most cafes will allow you to sit down at a table with your pet and many pet owners can rent flats that allow pets. Many hotels will accept pets as well as a number of pet hotels where you can safely leave your dog or cat.
While there are a lot of options to socialize and travel with your pets, being allowed access with a dog is not necessarily a given. This means that not every place accepts pets and foreigners should be aware of this and understand. Ask before you assume it as a good rule of thumb to follow. Having a pet can pose a challenge to finding accommodation as some landlords may have made it a rule not to accept them, or they may choose to charge an extra rental or deposit fee.
Anyone who has visited a Turkish home will know how cleanliness is a top priority in Turkey. No one enters a home with their shoes on and everything tends to be orderly and polished, including their outdoor spaces. What this means for a pet owner is that you can safely assume that a Turk will not want your pet to relieve themselves on their garden plants, for example. Now you may think that Turks are just used to having animals walk down their street and they are, but if you are walking your dog, I would strongly advise you to find locations that are not someone’s personal property or near a restaurant or mosque or cemetery. The latter is a definite no-no as municipalities occasionally spray pesticides in cemetery gardens and make announcements over the local PA systems for pet owners to avoid them.
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