Enkaz, the Cat Rescued in the Turkey Earthquake

His name is Enkaz and he's an elderly cat who was trapped in the rubble of the last earthquake in Turkey for about 129 hours. Ever since a young fireman rescued him, he hasn't left his side. This is his beautiful story.
Enkaz, the Cat Rescued in the Turkey Earthquake
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 09 March, 2023

Often, among great earth-shattering fatalities, small stories appear that exude touches of hope and even a sense of relief. It’s as if, for a moment, we find some lucidity in all the nonsense and some light in the midst of darkness.

On February 6, we woke up to the news that a large earthquake had devastated several regions of Syria and Turkey. Since that date, the tremors have continued and the number of injuries and deaths remains on the rise. In fact, the latest figures suggest that human losses may exceed 47,000, though they may well end up even higher. Since we learned of the disaster, we haven’t stopped thinking of those people, some of whom have managed to stay alive in the most miraculous of circumstances.

Indeed, it’s impossible to forget all the children and babies rescued from the rubble, from those immense accumulations of dust, iron, and collapsed walls. The remains of what, not long ago, were blocks of buildings, houses, and homes. Hearing the survivors cry or laugh in the arms of their rescuers was joyful.

There are some really extraordinary tales among these hopeful stories. Some involve animals that have been rescued. One such really special story has recently gone viral.

When many of the images that we saw of the disaster in Turkey and Syria gave us a stark portrait of the disaster, the photograph of a cat on the shoulders of his rescuer brought us hope.

The rescue efforts in the search for possible survivors mobilized thousands of people as well as specialized dogs.

The cat rescued in the Turkey earthquake

One of the provinces most affected by the disaster in Turkey is Nurdagi, in Gaziantep, in the south of the country. It was here that the firefighter, Ali Cankas, collaborated in the rescue work. This young man, who belongs to the national cycling team, was a member of the team that participated in the search for survivors in a block of buildings 129 hours after the earthquake.

It was there that he found a dirty little ball with luminous eyes waiting for someone to extract it from the mess of ruins, dust, and desperate solitude. Ali took this black and white cat out of the building and immediately gave him food and water. He was affectionate and was clearly the type of cat that needed closeness. The kind that, once they feel attracted to a human, never leave them.

The fire team decided to name the cat rescued from the earthquake in Turkey, Enkaz, which means rubble in Turkish. They left him in a safe place while they continued with the rescue work. However, the animal refused to be left alone. In fact, to everyone’s surprise, he decided to climb on the back of his savior. That image was soon seen worldwide.

Enkaz, the sad-eyed cat who now has a home

Enkaz wasn’t the only animal Ali Cakas rescued. He also managed to extract other cats and a large dog from the rubble. However, for some reason, Enkaz refused to leave his side. In fact, this little cat became the mascot of this group of firefighters. They took him under their wing and looked after him. It was an almost unconscious attempt to offer some affection to a living being who seemed to have sadness printed in his eyes.

Clearly, Enkaz must have been part of a family who loved him. It’s also highly probable that those owners now lay buried and lifeless under the remains of the building. Indeed, his story has undoubtedly been marked by the drama contained under all those tons of concrete and the remains of disintegrated homes.

The images of Ali Cakas and Enkaz went around the world in a few days. Since then, this young firefighter has posted updates about their lives on his Instagram account. Right now, this sad-eyed black and white cat lives with Ali in his house in Mardin, southern Turkey. If his owners don’t show up, he’ll stay with his savior.

“If you hurt a cat, you will have to build a mosque so that God forgives you.”

-Turkish saying-

Turkey and their love of cats

The story of the cat rescued in the Turkey earthquake is one example of a well-known worldwide phenomenon. Our love of cats. Indeed, the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul reveres cats almost as much as the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. They’re everywhere. In fact, they dominate the landscape, providing echoes of the old capital of the Ottoman Empire.

Cats are as much a part of Turkish culture as the multicolored carpets that live in every corner of every home. Some say that thanks to them, the presence of mice is avoided. While others claim that cats are a sign of fortune and good luck. Furthermore, they were Muhammad’s favorite animals and he gave protection to all the cats he met.

Without a doubt, Turkey holds cats in high esteem. It even allocates part of its budget to feeding and building shelters for them. Therefore, hopefully, like Enkaz, the other cats rescued from the earthquake will find new families to welcome them. This is one small vestige of kindness that brings some light in the midst of this disaster from which so many will struggle to recover.

Editorial credit: Merih Salmaz / ymphotos Shutterstock.com

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Knack, J. M., Chen, Z., Williams, K. D., & Jensen‐Campbell, L. A. (2006). Opportunities and challenges for studying disaster survivors. Analyses of social issues and public policy6(1), 175-189.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.