A girl feeds a group of stray cats in the courtyard of a mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. (AP/Ibrahim Usta)

A girl feeds a group of stray cats in the courtyard of a mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. (AP/Ibrahim Usta)

A cat stands near Muslims offering prayers outside the mosque of Kokonoz in Tirana, Albania. (AP/Gent Onuzi)

A cat stands near Muslims offering prayers outside the mosque of Kokonoz in Tirana, Albania. (AP/Gent Onuzi)

A waitress serves a dish made of dog meat at a dog specialty restaurant in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP/Dita Alangkara)

A waitress serves a dish made of dog meat at a dog specialty restaurant in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP/Dita Alangkara)

A skateboarder passes through a flock of pigeons in Times Square in New York City. (AP/John Minchillo)

A skateboarder passes through a flock of pigeons in Times Square in New York City. (AP/John Minchillo)

Taiwanese math teacher Hung Pei-ling prepares to feed a stray cat in Taipei, Taiwan. (AP/Huizhong Wu)

Taiwanese math teacher Hung Pei-ling prepares to feed a stray cat in Taipei, Taiwan. (AP/Huizhong Wu)

Land of the Free (Cats)

Posted: March 1, 2021

More than half of all Americans have a dog or cat living in their homes. But in some parts of the world, people do not think these animals belong in the house.

Ask a Muslim from Saudi Arabia. Odds are she won’t be buying Fido a birthday present, costume, or a little carrying case to ride in like many Westerners do. Muslims tend to think of dogs as unhygienic. Cats, on the other hand, usually receive warm welcome in Muslim nations. Istanbul, Turkey, is a good example of this. Like in Taipei, people there take care of street cats. They put bowls of food and water on the sidewalk. They willingly donate money when a stray needs to visit the vet. Most people there don’t own cats. Still, everyone seems to want to care for the ones that lurk near their homes and places of work. In Istanbul, cats are part of the fabric of the city’s culture—like squirrels or pigeons, but much cuddlier.

You may live in a place where people think every cat or dog must have a defined home. Maybe you grew up with the idea that each one needs shelter, human care, toys, teeth cleaning, shots, and spaying and neutering. But here’s another perspective on pets: Historically, dogs have been a source not of cuddles but of food in South Korea. And people living in nations with a lot of poverty and violence value guard dogs mostly for their bite. No “Dog Mom” bumper stickers there!

Often, our perspective (the way we think about things) is shaped by what we’ve become used to. Others may have a very different perspective.

And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. — Luke 13:29