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The Turkish Van is an ancient, naturally-occurring cat breed from Turkey’s mountainous Lake Van region. Like with their cousins, Turkish Angoras, it’s hard to determine just how old the Turkish Van breed is, but it’s believed they have been in Europe since the 1200s.
While Turkish Vans were once considered a national treasure in their homeland, they are now a rare breed that is not commonly bred. Even so, these gorgeous felines are a bright and playful breed known for their love of water and distinctive van coat patterning.
Learn more about Turkish Van Breed
Meet the Turkish Van
A striking contrast between Angoras and Vans is that it is unusual to see all-white Turkish Vans. Instead, most have the breed’s distinct “Van colouration”, which refers to a white body and a contrasting tone on their tail and parts of their heads. These areas are commonly orange but can also be red, black or cream.
They have a silky, medium-long coat that is easy to groom as it is a single layer. Their fur is exceptionally soft, with a cashmere-like sensation and is water-resistant too. Because of this, vans enjoy swimming as they dry quickly, and the water does not weigh them down or make them feel uncomfortable.
They are large cats, but males are significantly bigger than females. Females will generally reach 7 to 12 pounds, whereas males can weigh up to 20 pounds. However, it takes three to five years for these kitties to fully mature and reach this size. Furthermore, they will get to a height of 10-14 inches, and most live between 12 and 17 years.
Turkish Vans have a muscular, athletic body, broad shoulders, and large paws, resulting in impressive jumping skills. In addition, they have high cheekbones and bright, round eyes, giving them a gorgeous appearance. Their eyes will be amber or blue, or one of each colour!
As kittens, the Turkish Van’s fur appears short but becomes longer as they grow. They also have large ears that they grow into overtime.
The Turkish Van’s temperament
Turkish Vans are confident, social, and active cats. They are affectionate towards their owners but prefer to be close to your side rather than held or cuddled. They are excellent jumpers and will seek out the highest spots in your home, so it’s worth getting a tall cat tree for this kitty. In fact, if they can’t find a high place to climb up and perch on, they may get agitated as this breed loves to watch the world from above.
As well as high spots, you’ll need plenty of toys for a Turkish Van as they have high levels of energy. Moreover, they are a very intelligent breed; thus, they can get bored of toys quickly. Challenging puzzle toys are great for Turkish Vans, but nothing is as beneficial as interactive play. If you have the time for this feline, you can work their smart brain and teach them many tricks and commands.
Perhaps the Turkish Van’s most quirky personality trait is their odd love of water. Their nickname is the “swimming cat”, as many Turkish Vans are fond of taking a dip. Their love of water may be due to their ancestors who lived around Turkey’s largest lake for generations. Therefore, don’t be surprised if they jump into the bathtub with you!
10 reasons to add a Turkish Van to your home
- They have luxurious looks - Their fur is long, silky and feels like cashmere, and their pretty faces are well-defined, oozing luxury and elegance.
- Their coats are easy to maintain - Despite having semi-long hair, they do not require much grooming as they have no undercoat. You just need to brush them weekly during the summer and twice weekly in the winter when their coat gets thicker.
- They are largely free of genetic issues - As an ancient, naturally-occuring breed, Turkish Vans are very healthy cats with minimal breed-specific health defects. Plus, unlike their Turkish Angora cousins, these kitties do not have concerns regarding deafness.
- They can have odd-coloured eyes - A unique trait some Turkish Vans have is to have eyes that are different colours. This is down to them having the heterochromatic gene, which does not affect their health.
- They will keep you entertained - Van cats are lively and are also leaping about, chasing toy mice, or playing in their water bowls. Their playful antics will make you laugh and brighten your day for sure.
- They do not act needy - Turkish vans are sociable but not attention seekers. They are independent enough to entertain themselves and do not display signs of stress when left alone during the day.
- They can easily learn tricks - If you’ve ever wanted to train a cat, now you can. Vans enjoy the challenge of learning tricks and commands and pick up on teachings quickly.
- They have been blessed with luck - Some Turkish Vans have a coloured marking between their shoulder blades. The Turks called this the “Thumbprint of Allah” and believed it is a sign of good luck.
- They have a mystical history - No one knows how long these felines have been around for. However, there is a commonly told legend that they arrived at Lake Van by Noah Ark, where they jumped ship and swam to shore.
- They are super exclusive - Turkish Vans are not a commonly bred cat and thus, they are not easy to find. If you own a Turkish Van, you’ll be only one of the rarest cat breeds.
Best homes for a Turkish Van cat
Turkish Vans are not needy cats and generally do okay when left alone for the day. Therefore, it’s no problem to bring a Turkish Van into your home if you are usually out during the day. However, if this is the case, you’ll need to ensure they have plenty of toys to keep them entertained while you are out. They also do best in quiet homes rather than loud, high-energy environments.
Turkish Vans also do well as solo pets and do not need furry companions but will tolerate other cats and dogs. Still, if you’re considering getting them a friend, it’s best to choose another Turkish Van or a breed with the same temperament. They are fine around children too, but as they do not like being held, you’ll need to ensure your kids do not keep picking them up.