The Turkish Van originated from the rugged and very remote parts surrounding Turkey’s Lake Van centuries ago. “Van” is a common term in the region that has been given to a number of towns and villages so it is no surprise that the uniquely-patterned cat native to the region was named the “Vancat” by the residents. It was initially known as Turkish Cat but was subsequently given the name Turkish Van to distinguish it from Turkish Angora, another feline of Turkish origin with whom the former is often confused. Turkish Vans gained official recognition and were exported to the US and Australia where they have also gained in popularity.
Turkish Van is among the largest feline breeds. It is a muscular cat, particularly in the case of adult males, who often weigh more than 20 pounds. Females are usually smaller. Both sexes have a coat that is generally white apart from markings on the head and tail. Their large, expressive eyes may be amber, blue, or “odd-eyed,” meaning having one of each color. Fur is soft like that of a rabbit, though it is dense and waterproof. The hair grows long in winter, and the cats develop a neck ruff, but the cats shed in the summer, a reflection of the hot summers of its native habitat. A Turkish Van’s chest and shoulders are broad and strong. The legs are medium in length, and the cat’s wide pelvic girdle gives it a distinctive gait.
One of the Turkish Van’s most distinguishing features is its head. The head is a broad wedge shape with a medium-to-long nose, which, in profile, shows a very slight dip. The large ears are set high on the head and are close together.
The Turkish Van’s coat is long, soft, and silky with no woolly undercoat. The winter coat is longer and heavier than the summer, and the ruff around the neck and chest becomes fuller with age. The body of the Van cat is predominately chalky white with zero yellowing. There are colored markings on the head but these do not extend below the level of the eyes or the base of the ears at the back. The coloring on the head is separated by a straight vertical white blaze. The tail is colored and may show some faint rings, which are more obvious in kittens, and the color on the tail may extend a short way up the back. Occasionally, small thumbprints of color appear on the body of the cat, but these are generally undesirable when it comes to showing the cats. Turkish Vans are always eye-catching cats with their pristine white coat and contrasting color markings. These colors include both unexpected and typical hues, including auburn, cream, black, blue, and tabby or tortoiseshell.
The life expectancy of a Turkish Van is about twelve to fourteen years. They are quite healthy and usually live long, active lives. Of course it is still wise to provide your cat with annual health checks from about the age of eight or nine years to check teeth and kidney and other organ function.
Being a very active cat, it is rare to see a Turkish Van cat walking or even on the floor! Most Van cats have a love of heights and can often be found on the highest point in a room, even if that means the top of a door. It is a very agile cat and loves joining in games with balls or scraps of paper, which it will retrieve endlessly. With such quick movements, these cats can also wreak havoc amongst ornaments or in furnishings, and being intelligent they can use this to their own advantage.
Perhaps the most remarkable attribute of these beautiful cats is their unparalleled fondness for water. They love playing and swimming in water. Most likely, it is an evolutionary adaptation to the hot summer climates in the part of the world from which they originate. In any case, these ‘Swimming Cats’ just love water, be it in a tub, sink. or any natural body of water.
Turkish Vans seem to happily ignore rain as they have a pretty water-resistant coat, but they dislike strong winds. Even when not swimming, the cats love water, ranging from dripping taps to dunking their toys in water bowls or a sink. Over the years, several Van cats have been featured swimming in baths or pools and even the sea, though usually the temperature has to be pretty warm before they will do this. However, they love being with you, so when you take a bath or shower, you could easily be joined by one.
Turkish Van cats—like most cats—don’t care for travelling, although this can be helped with a few management tactics. Taking them out regularly in a car from an early age may be helpful. Quite a few cats will also accept a harness and enjoy walks with their owners. The Turkish Van is an excellent pet and makes a devoted companion once its loyalty and confidence have been won. It can be very dog-like, often following the owner around, and indeed they do get along very well with dogs.
Turkish Vans just like other pets do require regular grooming to keep their beautiful silky coat tangle-free. This should be done on a daily basis as this avoids major tangles and matts. If grooming with a comb and brush is introduced at an early age, the cat will soon become used to it. Baths are also needed (but rarely) to keep the coat sparkling white