About The Turkish Van Cat

In this post you’ll discover all about the Turkish van cat. You’ll find out how and where the breed originated, and the temperament of Turkish vans. Plus, we’ll look at one of the most peculiar traits of this breed that’s totally unique. In addition, you’ll learn about any health issues this cat may have, and if this is the right breed for you.

Once you’ve set your heart on getting a cat you need to think about whether you want a moggy or a certain breed. There are hundreds of different breeds of cat, and all have their own unique characteristics. Some are more demanding of your time while others are easy to please.

The Turkish van cat is one of the rarest breeds in the world, but is gaining popularity. Unfortunately, if you live in America you may find it hard sourcing a Turkish van cat breeder, however, as breeding increases there will be more offering kittens. Some countries like the UK and of course, Turkey will probably have breeders near to, or in your area.

About the Turkish van cat origin

turkish van cat sitting on sofa

Turkish van cats are believed to be one of the oldest breed of domestic cat in the world. Their origins go back to an Eastern region of Turkey called Lake Van. This lake area, apart from being a stunningly beautiful place to visit, is home to the Turkish van.

It’s thought the breed goes back five thousand years, and though mostly found in the Turkish Van area, similar cats are seen in Iraq, and other parts of the middle east. It wasn’t until the 1950s that this breed were brought into Europe by a couple working for the Turkish Tourist board.

This chance occurrence happened after the couple took some photos of Lake Van. The board were so impressed, they gifted them with two kittens, a male and female. During their stay in Turkey, the couple camped near a stream and where totally shocked when they saw the kittens going for a swim!!

This is something unheard of as cats detest water! On their return to the UK, they allowed the two cats to mate, then brought more back with them on another trip to Turkey. Gradually, the numbers have increased, though still relatively uncommon. They are attainable though, but you may need to be patient until you find a breeder.

What does the Turkish van cat look like?

You can’t mistake a Turkish van by it’s distinguishable coloured markings. These can be found on the top of the head. These are usually red or brown and due to a piebald gene. The body is mostly white, though coloured markings are also commonly found on the tail, and occasionally, a few spots of colour are found on the shoulder blades.

The coat is semi-long, and very silky and soft in texture. You can’t mistake a Turkish van’s tail as it’s very bushy, looking more like that of a squirrel than a cat! The eyes are either a beautiful amber or blue in colour. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the breed to have one of either!

Unlike many breeds, the Turkish van has a single coat. Other’s such as the Persian have thick undercoats, requiring a lot of grooming. During the summer months, a Turkish van’s coat is light and of a shorter length, but in winter it’s longer and thicker. A ruff of fur covers the chest area, and tufts of fur can be found between the toes. These disappear in Spring when the winter coat sheds.

The Turkish van is a large cat with a muscular body, though not stocky. Males are bigger and weigh on average between 10-12lbs, whereas females ten to be smaller and weigh between 7-10lbs. The ears are large, and the eyes round and very expressive. You’ll be pleased to hear this breed is mostly healthy and can live into the 20s if well cared for.

In addition, full maturity isn’t reached until the cat reaches between 3-5 years. So you’ll have a kitty teenager for quite a few years!

An unusual trait!

As promised, I’m going to share with you a very unusual trait that’s only found in the Turkish van. If you remember earlier I mentioned the couple’s astonishment at seeing their kitties swimming!

Well this isn’t found in any other domestic breed of cat, so how did it evolve? Firstly, the silky fine coat of a Turkish van is water repellent and dries very fast.

It’s believed these cats started swimming when chasing after fishing boats bringing in early morning catches. As I’ve often said, cat’s only do something if there’s a reward! We can only assume this is why the swimming trait was passed down through generations! However, it’s only speculation and no one knows the real reason, apart from the cats!!

Sadly, as word got out about these felines, many more were exported to Europe, dwindling the number of purebred Turkish vans. After 92 were left, the breed became officially recognised by the Turkish government. You’ll be glad to hear very few are exported these days, and in addition, a local university set up a breeding program to increase numbers.

All about the Turkish van cat personality

about the turkish van cat personality

If you want a cat that’s more dog like in nature, look no further! The Turkish van has bundles of energy, and loves to play. You’ll have no problem getting your cat to exercise, and having a large garden is ideal.

A large majority of Turkish van owners in the United States don’t allow their cats to roam outdoors. This of course is a personal decision and entirely up to you. If you live on a busy main road or fearful of something bad happening to your kitty, I fully understand.

If your outdoor space is fairly large you could always consider cat proof fencing, or even a cat run. At least you’ll have peace of mind that your kitty is safe while enjoying a spot of sunbathing or exercise. Although these cats love water, it’s still important to cat proof any garden ponds or water features. In addition, chlorine used in swimming pools would be highly toxic to your cat

You must always supervise access to water and never leave your cat unattended. Don’t be surprised though if your Turkish van starts helping you with the washing up! She may also take a keen interest in your bath time and want to join in the fun!! However, keep her well away as she’ll be exposed to some very harmful chemicals.

Turkish vans are very athletic with powerful hind legs. Jumping high is easy, so don’t be surprised to find your cat peering down at you from the top bookshelf you thought was out of reach!

These are mischievous kitties, always looking for fun. If you want to guard any precious ornaments put them away in a cupboard. Also, never leave food unattended in the kitchen as your Turkish van will be quick to find it!

If you’re looking for a lap cat this may not be the right for you. While Turkish vans enjoy a cuddle with their owners, they do so on their own terms. You may find your kitty will sit on your lap for a short while, but will soon be off searching for the next adventure!

Are they good with other pets and children?

If you have dogs or other resident cats you should be ok, but always use the correct way for introducing a new pet to your fur family. Turkish van cats don’t like being pulled around, so I’m not sure if they’re the ideal choice for those with small kids. Older children should be fine though.

Are Turkish van cats high maintenance?

You’ll be glad to learn that Turkish vans are easy to care for. Despite their semi-long coat they don’t require a lot of grooming. Single coated cats don’t get matted fur on the same scale as those with double coats. You’ll still need to brush your kitty on a weekly basis though, and monitor for any signs of fleas or ticks.

Although your Turkish van kitty will attracted to water, don’t expect her to enjoy a bath. Just like other breeds, it can be a fight, with the cat usually winning! Unless your kitty falls in to a muddy puddle, or gets covered in soot, brushing is all that’s needed!

You should however trim her claws regularly, and brush her teeth. Dental hygiene is just as important for our pets as it is for us. An astonishing number of cats suffer from dental disease over the age of 3 years old.

Playtime is essential, and lots of it! Invest in plenty of toys to keep your kitty entertained, and distract her from your valuables! As mentioned earlier, Turkish vans are very energetic, so you’ll need time each day to play with your cat.

What about health issues?

are turkish van cats the right breed for you

Generally speaking, the Turkish van is a very breed with few inherited diseases. That being said, it’s still important to keep up with annual health checks and vaccinations. All cats just people can develop illnesses at any stage of life. Cats are notorious for hiding pain and discomfort which is why early diagnosis is so important.

Is the Turkish van the right breed of cat for you?

Now you know all about the Turkish van cat, do you feel it’s the right breed for you? Think twice about adopting one if you you’re obsessively tidy! If you love an orderly home expect chaos as your kitty jumps on your work desk desk sending neatly filed paperwork flying everywhere!

Don’t consider a Turkish van if you’re always busy with little time to spare. Though low maintenance, you must make time for playing with your cat every day. If you’re out at work and exhausted when you get home the last thing you want is a demanding kitty!

Finally, think carefully if you’ve young children or other pets. Ideally you would have a nice big garden in a safe rural area. However, as mentioned earlier, they can be an indoor cat, but will need a lot of entertaining.

If you’ve enjoyed this post please share. Feel free to share this pin on your “pets” board.

Also if you have any questions, or would like to share your experiences, please leave your comments below.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)

12 thoughts on “About The Turkish Van Cat”

  1. OMG, my son had these two cats which he left to go look for work far away and left the cats to us for the time been. One of them passed away however the other one is still alive which we could never figure it out entirely until now. She loved to sit curled up in the sink and if you turned the tap on… she would stay there. I aways said that is one strange cat.

    She would come into me while on the computer and get up on the desk waiting for attention. Sometime she would just push items like a pen off the desk and watch it hit the floor. I would pick it up and she would do it again then stair at me.

    Sometime she would just keep meowing until i would say, “ok lets go”. she would then take off down the hallway into the living room and jump on her scratch pad and keep scratching… looking back at me waiting for me to arrive. I would have to get down and scratch the pad with her then she would jump up on the window sill, meow, then run around trying to get me to run around with her playing hide and seek around corners.

    I never knew what kind it was but now reading your article it looks and sounds just like the Turkish Van Cat. lol
    The only difference is the tail on ours is long and wraps up around her paws when she sits down like a lady but it’s not bushy like in your photo. The colors and even the face is looking the same. I would love to learn more about it because it does seem to be more intelligent then a normal cat just by the way it views and analogizes things.

    Thanks so much for the article, we learned so much from it.

    • Hi Rick, thank you for sharing your story. Your cat sounds like a great character! It always amazes me just how intelligent cats are, and how they always manage to find ways of getting your attention! It sounds like your cat is a mixed breed as her tail isn’t bushy like that of a Turkish van:)

  2. I had never heard of a cat that likes to swim until now! Wow, these Turkish Van Cats are just precious! It’s so wonderful that they also don’t require much grooming. Thanks for this post!

  3. Hey, Kathy.
    Thanks for this helpful and informed post.

    You have noticed I’m a loyal reader of your blog posts.

    A friend of mine told me about this type of cat and I was really interested in having one. But I really didn’t know what the particular characteristics of this cat are.
    That’s what led me to your blog because I recognize you very well in this field as an expert.

    And I’m glad to read this detailed post that makes my decision easy.

    Reading you from the beginning makes me want to ask you where I can buy this kind of cat.

    I had to come to the conclusion of your article to realize that this type of cat will be difficult for me to breed.
    Because I’m a full-time worker and it’s only on weekends that I can have enough time to spend at home.

    Since I am running out of time, what type of cat would you recommend? I want one that is not too time-consuming and easy to care for.

    • Thank you Sebastian:) I’m so glad you enjoy my posts:) Yes, you’re right, you’d be better off with a moggy, or non-breed. They’re often hardier, easy to please, and not as demanding as some of the more exotic breeds. My cat Alfie is a regular black and white moggy, very loving, yet not too demanding:)

  4. Wow, so interesting! I always thought our own cat was more dog-like in nature and she likes water too but the Turkish Van Cat is something else entirely lol. Thank you for all the info. Perfect for anyone who might be looking to get one. I do think it´s sad though that with so many cats already up for adoption, there might be more unscrupulous breeders out there just out to make a buck. Thank you again, great post. ?

  5. I loved your article. It described my Turkish Van perfectly. This large white with black van markings, bushy black and white bushy tail was so handsome. He was so good looking it saved his life.
    As a very young age he was taken to a vet with a broken hip. The couple wanted him put to sleep but he was such a gorgeous cat the vet repaired his hip and his office receptionist took care of him until they found him a home. My daughter did not know he was a Turkish Van until much later.
    She took him home and introduced him to her baby Rotweiler. The two became best friends and the Turkish Van named WIC could more than hold his own with the Rotweiler. It was something very special to see.
    WIC loved to lay in the bath tub or sink with dripping water.
    At about 5 years old WIC blossomed Inyo a huge cat with a big fluffy rough around his neck. His fur was silky white, black and white bushy tail, black markings around his eyes split to white up the center of his forehead.
    He was tricky, Garfield like, and could hold his own with any animal especially the Rotweiler. One day the Rotweiler picked WIC up by the head and carried him around. He got tired of this and took a bite out of the Rotweiler’s inside cheek. The Rotweiler dropped him, began yelping, ran away, and WIC chased her around the house. WIC would at times walk up to the resting Rotweiler and slowly test her to see if she was asleep or awake. If WIC thought she was asleep he would take his paw and slap her in the face until she cried out.
    In the elder years of the Rotweiler’s life she took a turn. WIC picked up on it and disappeared under my daughter’s bed. The next day the Rotweiler died. WIC persisted to stay under the bed. We had a second cat but WIC never cared for his company but preferred to play with the Rotweiler. I went to the vet and the vet said there is not much help for depressed cats. “He will probably die under that bed” he said. He gave me medication for depression but wsrned “He will probably not get better this medicine rarely works for cats. The vet was right WIC stayed under the bed.
    We had never not had a dog. So my husband and I began our search for another puppy. We found one and when it was old enough brought home a toy poodle.
    After the puppy came into our home WIC slowly came out from under the bed. Within six weeks he was living with the family raising the puppy. WIC was 10 years old when he became a father. The puppy began to a t like a cat. He tried the litter box but did not see what WIC saw in it but used a pad faithfully that was next to the litter box. The puppy learned to hide so we had to purchase a small kitten collar with a bell on it to keep up with him. The pup would approach WIC as another cat would and loves to this day to be scratched under the ear.
    At 19 years, 11 months, and two weeks old “Mr. WIC” died. Yes my husband,that said he did not like cats, fell for WIC shortly after he moved into the house. My husband thereafter called him Mr. WIC he respected the cat so much. The vet remarked “his blood work is perfect!” yes he was extremely healthy to the very end.
    This was the most charming, smart, and dignified cat I have ever known. If I could find another Turkish Van I would strongly consider bringing it home the only problem would be the cat would out live me and I would not want a cat like this to have to change homes.

    • Hi Kathy, thank you for sharing such a heartwarming story:) It’s wonderful to hear how WIC survived a broken hip and grew into a fun and loving cat. It sounds as if your Turkish Van preferred the company of dogs I loved how you said he held his own, and the funny anecdotes you shared. He certainly lived a long life and was lucky to have been adopted by such a kind family. I hope one day you do find another Turkish Van. Even if it does outlive you, I’m sure he or she would be well taken care of. My present cat Alfie lived with an elderly gentleman who sadly had to be taken into a care home. I adopted Alfie from my local cat rescue centre and quickly fell in love with him:)

      • Thank you Kathy. I would just love for your readers to know how special a Turkish Van is.

        I loved reading what you had to tell about this breed. Everything you have committed about the Turkish Van breed is so very much like what we experienced! I want everyone to know how special this breed is.


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