Turkish Van

The Turkish Van, or simply just Van, is a recognized cat breed that was created from the cats native to the Lake Van area. The cats of this type are named in Turkish Van Kedisi (although it is used to refer solely to the all-white form), in Armenian vana katu (Armenian: վանա կատու), and in Kurdish (Pisîka Wanê). Originally called in the West the Turkish Cat, the name was changed in 1979 in the U.S. (1985 in the U.K.) to Turkish Van to better distance the breed from the Turkish Angora cat which had its origins around Ankara, in central Turkey. Traditionally, in the cat fancy, Turkish Vans are recognized as patterned cats with colour restricted to the head and tail with the body of the cat being white. However, in Turkey, the cat is recognised in an all-white form as well as the form with red patterning and a "fox tail", and with blue eyes, amber eyes, or one eye of each colour (Heterochromia iridis).


The coat is the most fascinating trait on this cat. The climate change in Eastern Anatolia region throughout the year seems to have designed the cat's coat over time. Eastern Anatolia is mountainous, and Lake Van sits over 5,260 ft (1,600 m).) above sea level. The area faces such extreme temperatures during the summer and winter seasons that it is almost inhospitable. The semi-long haired, water resistant single coat, is thick in winter but very soft, like rabbit fur or cashmere. At maturity, the cat will have a winter mane. During the spring and summer months when it becomes extremely hot, the long hair on the body is shed for a shorter coat that retains the cashmere feel. The hair on the tail remains long throughout the year and has the appearance of a bottle brush.

The Turkish Van is a large, semi-longhaired cat with a swimmer's body. Ideal type should feature broad shoulders with a body that is 'top heavy', that is a cat with its center of gravity forward. The cat is moderately long and its back legs are slightly longer than its front legs but, neither the cat itself nor its legs are so long to be disproportionate. These cats are large and muscular and feature short necks. Male Vans grow to about 16 pounds (7 kg), while females tend to be a bit lighter in weight, 12 to 14 lb (5 to 6 kg). A Van will take up to 3 years to reach full maturity. Vans have been known to reach 3 ft (1 m) long from nose to tip of tail.

The shoulders of the Turkish Van are broad with the ability for one to place three fingers between the legs at the chest area. It is said that large Van males are the only domestic cats that cannot follow their heads through a fence due to the broadness of their chest and shoulders. The rear end on the cat should not exceed the width of the shoulders — in other words, no bell bottomed or pear shape should be seen.

Turkish Vans are very intelligent, and will easily take over their home and owners. Vans are people cats that want to be with people wherever they go. They like to play and jump and explore anything in their reach, which is quite large. They are energetic; they play hard and sleep hard. Unusual for cat breeds, Turkish Vans love to play in the water and will join you in the tub for a dip or help you in the sink and are known as "the swimming cat." Many Vans are dedicated to fetching their particular object of interest, and many owners describe them as "dogs in a cat suit" because of their unusual personalities.

Vans, because of their fine fur, are hypo-allergenic cats. They are considered excellent pets for those with allergies.

Breed standards

The coloring of the Turkish Van should be limited to the head and tail with random body spots acceptable but all color should not exceed more than 20% of the entire cat with no lower case markings (marking on the legs). The random spots should not detract from the pattern. This would be a small color cap on the head with a white blaze to at least between the front edge of the ears, and a colored tail in any of the traditional colors. The rest of the cat is chalk white. Color can extend up the rump from the tail of the cat and patterned cats often have a random spot or spots of color on the shoulder (more frequently on the left shoulder) or body.

White Turkish Vans should be solid white if that variety is accepted by their registration association.

The traditional color of a Turkish Van is Red Tabby and White; as this was the first color exported out of Turkey. Later colors added were Cream, Black, Blue, Cream Tabby, Brown Tabby, Blue Tabby, Tortoiseshell, Dilute Tortoiseshell, Brown Torbie, and Blue Torbie.

Currently, in Turkey, the Van Kedisi (English: Van cat) is recognized only as an all white cat, generally with eyes of two different colors (see Odd-eyed cat). These all-white cats may be either short or long haired. The all white Turkish Van is claimed to be genetically identical to the patterned cat with the exception of the white masking gene (W) that "covers" the pattern. Offspring of a white Turkish Van mated to a patterned Van will be a 50/50 mix of white and patterned kittens. However, this can only be the case if the white is masking the van pattern. As white can mask any possible cat color and pattern, solid and bicolor kittens could be produced from a white to van-patterned mating. At present cat associations in England recognize the patterned offspring of such a mating as Turkish Vans and the white offspring as a new breed called Turkish Vankedisi. WCF and FIFe, the largest international cat fancy organizations, recognize only van-patterned TUVs. In the U.S., TICA has fully accepted the white vans as Turkish Vans as has the Government of Turkey. CFA, the world's largest registry of pedigreed cats, does not recognize the all-white Turkish Van as they define the breed by both its type and pattern.

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