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Turkish Van Cat History, Character, Health, Breeding & more

Cats that can swim? There is actually! The Turkish Van loves water, in contrast to its congeners, and likes to take a trip or two into the cool water. The Turkish Van is often confused with the Turkish Angora. But if you look closely, you will quickly discover differences between the two breeds. The Turkish Van cat comes, as the name suggests, from the east of Turkey. The name "Van" refers to the "Lake Van", in whose rough and isolated region the breed is said to have developed. Learn more about the extraordinary cats from Turkey here!

Turkish Van Cat History

Even if the origins of the Turkish Van are in Turkey, its modern breeding history begins in Great Britain. In 1955, British cat lovers Laura Lushington and Sonia Halliday were amazed when they came into contact with the cats with the color now known as "Van markings". After the cats were imported to Great Britain, serious breeding of the breed known today began. In Van breeding, no crossbreeding with other breeds is allowed. This pure breeding leads to the fact that all Van cats go back to the animals imported from Turkey.

In Great Britain, the animals were first called "Turkish cats". To create a clear distinction from the "Turkish Angora", the name was later changed to "Turkish Van". Where the cats that Lushington and Halliday brought to Britain really came from is unclear. Similarly, the name "Van" could be an abbreviation for the Turkish Van Lake or a reference to the fact that the two cat lovers went camping in a car during their vacation in Turkey. Despite its name, the Turkish Van cat is hardly represented in Turkey. In the early 1990s, only about 92 registered Van cats lived in the breed's country of origin. In 2006, there were 100 animals. In the meantime, in order to promote the breeding of the breed, several thousands of euros were given to the breeders, and the export of Turkish Van cats was punished with large sums of money.

Since the '80s the cats were also known in the USA, 1994 they were recognized by the Cat Fancier's Association. Since then, only just under 100, Van cats have been registered each year, making the Van one of the rarest cat breeds in the USA.

Turkish Van Cat Appearance

At first glance, the Turkish Van is often confused with the Turkish Angora. Even though both cat breeds originate from Turkey, they still differ significantly.

The Turkish Van cat is a medium-sized, powerfully built cat with a broad chest, wedge-shaped head, and semi-long coat. Its coat is silky without an undercoat in summer. In winter it shows a dense, plush coat. A bushy tail breeches on the hind legs and a distinct ruff are typical of this breed. The fur on the belly is interestingly longer than the fur on the back. While many other cat breeds have up to three different types of hair, the coat of Turkish Van cats is completely adapted to the extreme temperatures of their country of origin: Most cat breeds have up to 3 different hair types at the same time. In contrast, the Turkish Van has only one type of hair per season. Due to the climatic extremes of its homeland, it wears a dense, warming coat in winter and a "feathery" thin coat in summer, which feels like cashmere or rabbit fur. Especially outstanding: The coat of the Turkish Van is water-repellent and allows her the one or other excursion into the cool wet. The Turkish Van cat is therefore also known as a "swimming cat". As is usual with many large, powerful cats, the Turkish Van is also a late developer. It often takes four years for the cats to reach their final size. The breed-typical ruff is often not reached until the sixth year of life.


The Turkish Van has a largely white coat. Color is permitted only in the head area as well as on the tail, the colored fur parts may not exceed 20 percent. Their unusual pattern with two separate colored areas in the area of the ears as well as a colored tail coins the term "Van pattern".

In many traditional breeding associations, only red or cream markings are permitted in addition to the lime white base color. Some associations also allow black and blue, often with or without a tabby pattern. Chocolate brown or points are not permitted. Some smaller points in the coat are often good-naturedly overlooked, nevertheless, according to the breed standard the appearance of the animal must not remind of a bicolored cat. However, there are also pure white or cream-colored Turkish Van without markings. These are considered separate breeds in Turkey. The breeding associations in Europe assign them to the color type "cream". From the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, one of the oldest European umbrella organizations of cat clubs, Turkish Van without markings are called "Turkish Vankedisi" since 2005.

The eyes of the Turkish Van are light amber. But also unequal eyes are allowed - therefore some Turkish Van cats have one blue and one amber eye.

Turkish Van cat character

The friendly cats from Turkey are considered to be intelligent and capable of learning. Turkish Van cats remain playful into old age - this is especially evident when they have access to water. When outdoors, the good-natured fur noses tend to "fish" in watering cans or ponds. And also in the house, they like to play in the cool water. The Turkish Van cat will not stop at flower vases or toilets. Aquariums and toilets should therefore always be well closed if a Turkish Van is in the household!

The Turkish Van is also a good hunter. The lively cats love to romp - especially when they can play together with their human. Turkish Van is extremely people-oriented and social, forming a strong bond with their human family. At the same time, the cats are especially affectionate and love to talk!

Turkish Van Cat Health

Despite this reduced gene pool, the Turkish Van is considered robust and healthy. Like the Turkish Angora, Turkish Van has a predisposition to Feline Ataxia, an autosomal inherited disorder of coordination. Ataxia is neurological in most cases. The reason for the development of the disease is not yet known.

Pure white cats such as Turkish Van of the color white may be prone to deafness. However, these abnormalities are not due to the breed per se, but to genetic conditions in white animals: A study in the 1970s found that white cats with one or two blue eyes were more likely than average to be affected by degeneration of the inner ear with subsequent deafness.

Apart from that, Turkish Van cats need the same care as other furry noses. A species-appropriate diet with plenty of high-quality protein, contact with the human family, possibly a second cat for company, and regular health care is a must and the best precaution against disease. Especially Turkish Van, which can romp in the wild, should be vaccinated regularly. Immunizations against the feline epidemic and cat flu, however, are also essential for indoor cats. Your veterinarian can advise you here and suggest a sensible vaccination schedule!

Turkish Van Cat Care

The fine, semi-long coat of the Turkish Van has hardly any undercoat in summer and requires little additional grooming. The dense winter coat, on the other hand, is adapted to the cold winter months of the Turkish Van's country of origin. Here the cats need occasional assistance with grooming: brushing once or several times a week reduces the swallowing of excess hair and is also gentle on your clothes and upholstered furniture. In parallel, you can offer your Turkish Van cat grass or malt paste - both products support the natural shedding of swallowed hair.

As an active cat with a strong hunting instinct, the Turkish Van cat enjoys the outdoors. If you live near a busy street or don't call a garden your own, a well-designed, secured balcony with cat netting can be a good substitute. However, Turkish Van cats can also be happy living alone as long as the owner provides enough variety. A ceiling-high cat tree provides climbing and scratching opportunities. So-called "fiddling boards" invite to discover and also the play fishing rod is often used gladly for the dismantling of surplus energy.

As mentioned earlier, Turkish Van cats love water. Make sure that your cat can interrupt the bathing fun at any time. It is not uncommon for cats to drown in garden ponds or rain barrels - a slanted board can make it easier for the cat to get out.

Turkish Van diet

What belongs to the "species-appropriate diet" of a cat? What should the food for your Turkish Van consist of, so that your fur nose remains healthy and cheerful until old age? The market has many food products for cats, including many varieties for pedigree cats. Not only new cat owners are often at a loss here in front of the shelf. Which food is the right one?

No matter whether you choose dry or wet food or which brand you choose, cat food should contain one thing above all: Lots of healthy protein. As carnivores, cats in the wild feed primarily on mice, other small rodents, and birds. This diet, which is natural for cats, consists of about 85 percent meat and only about five percent vegetable matter, which is found in the gastrointestinal tract of the prey. This can be summarized as 50 to 60 percent protein, 20 to 30 percent fat, and three to eight percent carbohydrates. Your Turkish Van also needs a diet that is high in protein, moderate in fat, and low in carbohydrates. So dare to look at the food label before presenting your cat with a new food variety! Meat should always be at the top of the ingredient list, sorted by quantity. Fortunately, there are many foods that accommodate the cat's natural diet and are also ideal for your Turkish Van.

Many specialty foods for pedigreed cats contain functional ingredients. For longhaired cats, ingredients that promote the natural shedding of swallowed hair should be emphasized. As an active cat, the Turkish Van requires cat food with high energy content. However, neutering or the aging process can also cause weight gain and possible obesity in the Turkish Van. Therefore, take a close look at the daily feeding amount and, if necessary, consult with your veterinarian when it comes to the topic of weight loss.

Turkish Van Cat Breeding

The breeding of Vankatzen is limited to descendants of animals imported from Turkey. No other breeds may be crossed. For a cat breed with a relatively small gene pool, professional breeding is essential to maintain a robust and healthy development of the breed.

If you have fallen in love with the lively character and silky coat of the Turkish Van cat, the first step should be to go to a professional breeder. The Turkish Van is a rather rare cat and breeders of this breed are more difficult to find than for example Maine Coon or Persian cat breeders. Often it is worthwhile to check directly with the umbrella organizations. After all, professional, responsible breeders belong to a breeding association. These often act as quality control - and membership in the association is often one of the most obvious features that distinguish a serious breeder from a so-called "multiplier".

A professional breeder takes responsibility for his animals and their offspring. He is not only concerned with profit. If you pay attention to health care, healthy food, good rearing conditions, and well-thought-out matings, you will quickly realize that breeding is an expensive hobby! In contrast, so-called "breeders" often offer pedigreed cats "without papers for a small price". They are not members of a club, often mate carelessly, and rarely give the kittens three to four months with dam and siblings before it goes to the new home. Recovery periods for the mother are also often skipped to make room for the next litter. Inbreeding often occurs in such alleged catteries and the supposed bargain often comes at a high cost to cat lovers.

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