The Turkish Van cat breed has been known by many names over the centuries of it’s existance: the Eastern cat, the Ringtail, the Turkish Cat, and the Russian Longhair just to name a few! Some people confuse it with the Turkish Angora until they see the two side-by-side. This cat breed’s claim to fame? They love to swim! You read that right – this cat breed loves water. People who have owned Turkish Angora cats have fallen in love with them and so could you.
The Unique Turkish Van Look
The Turkish Van cat breed’s distinctive look is the result of the piebald gene. This gene gives them a semi-long white coat with colored markings on the ears and tail. These markings are most often a red or brown color, but can be found in any of the traditional solid cat hair colors. Less than 20% of the body should have color. It is also possible for the a Turkish Van cat to be completely white, in which case it is known as a Van Kedi. Occasionally, a Turkish Van cat will also have a small patch of color at the base of it’s neck. This patch is known as the “Thumbprint of God” in the west or the “Mark of Allah” in Muslim countries.
The coat of the Turkish van lacks an undercoat, giving it a unique cashmere texture. This texture allows the hair to be water repellent and to resist dirt as well. While this type of coat is not prone to matting, it does require some brushing so that the hair does not get tangled. In the summer the Turkish Van’s coat will be shorter as it will shed it’s longer winter coat. During the winter, the longer coat comes back and tufts of hair grow between the cat’s toes. Grooming in the spring and summer months can help the cat from getting hairballs.
Unlike the Turkish Angora, the Turkish Van is a large cat with males weighing an average of 10 -20 pounds (4.54 kg -9.07 kg). The body is robust and muscular. Eye colors can be amber, blue, or odd-eyed (one amber and one blue).
From Ancient Treasure to Modern Marvel
No one is exactly sure when the Turkish Van breed got it’s start. According to legend, when those aboard Noah’s ark first spotted land, two white cats with red markings jumped overboard and swam to shore. What is known is that they are a naturally occurring breed (not made by breeders) and they are native to the land around Lake Van. It is an area where Iraq, Iran, the southwest former Soviet Union, and eastern Turkey meet. There have been ornaments found in the region that date to be 5,000 years old with images that appear to be depicting the Turkish Van cat. Due to the length of time they have been in the land, these cats have become a regional treasure and a valued pet.
It is believed that the Turkish Van cat made it’s way into other parts of Europe and Asia when the soldiers came back home from their Crusades in the middle ages. However, since this cat breed is so rare outside it’s homeland, it wasn’t until 1955 that the cat fancier associations began to recognize the breed. At this time two English women were taking a tour of Turkey and were given two unrelated Turkish Van kittens to take home with them. When the women saw the way the cats loved water, they fell in love immediately. Later, it was English cat breeder Lydia Russell that build up the breed for showing. Since it was so difficult to get a Turkish Van cat, she had to make several trips to Turkey to get a good breeding stock. The Turkish Van was not accepted in cat fancier associations in the US until 1982. Today, the breed is protected by the Turkish College of Agriculture and the Ankara Zoo in Turkey.
Full of Personality
There is no mistaking the personality of a Turkish Van cat! They are very talkative, energetic, and demanding of attention. These kitties want to be with you where ever you go and help you with whatever you are doing. There is never a bad time to play a game with these fun-loving cats! Often they will choose one or two people that they will bond with and they will want to be with those people always.
Mischief is another word that describes the Turkish Van personality. They are super curious kitties that are skilled at jumping and climbing. Watch your faucets! The Turkish Van loves water and may turn the water on in your sink or flush your toilet on their own. It can be cute and funny, but it can also be expensive if the cat leave the water running while you are at work all day.
As fun as the Turkish Van is, these are not lap cats. They are very independent cats that cuddle on their own terms. It is not likely that they will enjoy being picked up or carried. This is one of the reasons that it is recommended that the Turkish Van live in a home that does not have young children. The Turkish Van gets along well with dogs and other animals that recognize that this kitty is the boss.
If you are considering making a Turkish Van cat a part of your family, please check out the adoptable Turkish Van kitties on Petfinder!
Have you ever known a Turkish Van cat?
Sources & Digging Deeper