About the Turkish Van
Often referred to as Swimming Cats, the Turkish Van originates from Eastern Turkey, and is associated with the area around Lake Van from which it gets its name.
The first Turkish Vans to appear in Britain were those brought in by Laura Lushington and Sonya Halliday in the late 1950’s, who were given a male and a female to take home with them. They soon realised that the cats bred true, and sought recognition of the Turkish cat breed through the GCCF. Later they were to give up their Van prefix in order that the breed could be more precisely described as the Turkish Van cat.
In cat breeding and showing the word “van” is now used to describe the unique markings that the Turkish Van exhibits. Other breeds now describe cats marked in the fashion as van-patterned, although they have yet to reproduce the clarity and consistency that we see in our Van cats. In fact it is very difficult to produce a perfectly marked Van cat since it is a function of the random white spotting gene, and this randomness leads to many variations on van-patterning. We also see small “thumbprints” of colour sometimes, and legend has it that, as the cats left Noah’s Ark and made their way down Mount Ararat into Van, they were touched by Allah as he blessed them, and they carry this “Mark of Allah” as a coloured thumbprint even still.
Type & Character
Turkish Vans are quite striking in appearance; stunning auburn (or other colour) butterfly markings crown its head, matched by its beautiful flowing faintly ringed auburn tail, highlighted even so by the chalk white coat that embraces its body. Sometimes additional spots of colour are present on the coat, which is permissible as long as they are small in size and number.
Traditionally Turkish Vans are auburn/white or cream/white, cream being a dilute form of auburn which is much lighter in colour, however other colours are now quite popular including black/white, blue/white, and the various tortie and/or tabby combinations.
Additionally, pure white Turkish Vans (i.e. without any coloured markings) are becoming more popular. In Turkey the pure white cats are highly prized, and hold a spiritual significance which has prohibited their export to other parts of the world, although they are becoming more available today. In Europe these pure white cats are referred to as Turkish Vankedisi and are registered as such, however they have now been accepted into TICA as a separate colour division of Turkish Vans, and so are able to compete as such.
Turkish Vans are classified as semi-longhaired cats, which differentiates them from other longhaired breeds like Persians, and although the coat is indeed long its soft silky texture and lack of woolly undercoat allows it to remain unruffled and free from tangles, so little grooming is necessary.
The Turkish Van is a sturdy, muscular cat, weighing anything from 12 to 18 lbs (5 to 8 kg) for a fully-grown male. The adult cat will exhibit wide hips and a deep chest surmounted by well-developed shoulders. Its strong neck is encased in a lion-like ruff, and its wedge-shaped head is broad with a strong muzzle. They have large, tufted ears, and oval eyes blue or amber in colour, or possibly even one of each (odd-eyed). It’s quite normal to see tufts of hair extending from between their paw pads too, this presumably being due to the harsh winters and snow they have to endure in their native land.
Where water is concerned, some are not very keen at all, whereas others may love dripping taps, especially drinking from them, then flicking the water with their paws, or dropping toys into their water bowl. It has been known for Turks to swim in the bath, swimming pool or even the sea, so be warned they may come and join in your daily shower. They may also become curious about toilets, so don’t leave the lid up!
The Turkish Van is a loyal, loving and very intelligent cat. Its temperament depends greatly on its upbringing, the amount of human contact and handling it receives as a kitten, and the temperament of the mother herself. They are very affectionate, giving head butts and love bites, but to the uninitiated this could be slightly alarming, but when you get to know your cat you will begin to understand.
Turks are often described as being dog-like in their behaviour, and in fact generally get on very well with dogs. They love human company too of course, and can be taught a few basic tricks like retrieving toys or paper balls. Unlike dogs though, they love being up high, and will climb on top of cabinets or kitchen units from where they can survey their territory. They’ll also take great delight in relieving those cabinets or shelves of any ornaments or plants that inconvenience them, partly due to their slight clumsiness but often just for fun!
Although quite rare compared to many other breeds Turkish Van kittens are competitively priced, although availability is quite variable since there are not that many breeders. Don’t let that put you off though, their unique look and character make them all the more worth waiting for!
Our thanks to the Turkish Cat Society
for the above information.