Dogs and Cats Wiki
Breed Profile
Turkish Van.jpg
Turkish Van cat with long, silky fur.

Other Name(s)

Turkish Swimming Cat

Country of Origin

Lake Van, Turkey

Breed Group

Semi Longhair


Male: 10 - 18 pounds (4 - 8.5 kg)

Female: 7 - 12 pounds (3 - 8.5 kg)


Male: 14 - 18 in. (32 - 36 cm)

Female: 13 - 17 in. (30 - 35 cm)




Long, silky and dense coat


Red, silver, black, blue, caramel and lilac

Litter Size

2 - 5 kittens

Life Span

9 - 15 years

Characteristics Ratings
Turkish Van kitten.jpg
A cute, Turkish Van kitten.



Training Easiness


Grooming Requirements


Exercise Requirements


Watchdog Ability


The Turkish Van or simply just Van, is a recognized cat breed that was created of the cats native to the alpine Lake Van region in Eastern Anatolia (former named Western Armenia), currently modern Turkey. 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 color 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).


Turkish Van cat.jpg

Turkish Van is a rare and ancient breed that developed in central and southwest Asia, which today encompasses the countries of Iran, Iraq, southwest Russia and eastern Turkey.

Van is a common term in the region that has been given to a number of towns, villages and even a lake - Lake Van - so it is no surprise that the uniquely patterned cat native to the region was named the Vancat by the residents. They were first brought to England in 1955 as the Turkish cats, but this was later changed to Turkish Van to avoid confusion with the Turkish Angora. Although the breed has an ancient lineage, the Turkish Van is a relative newcomer to the United States, arriving in 1982. They are considered regional treasures in their homeland, and are not readily available for export to other countries. Even in areas where the breed has been known for centuries, they are still relatively rare.

In the Complete Cat Encyclopedia, edited by Grace Pond and published in 1972, Laura Lushington wrote that:

One of the two accepted breeds in Turkey, the Van Cat is now known in Britain as the Turkish Cat. Originating in the Lake Van area of southeastern Turkey, these cats have been domesticated for centuries (in fact for as long as the famous Saluki Hound); they are much loved and prized by the Turks for their exceptional character and unique colouring. Apart from their great capacity for affection and alert intelligence, their outstanding characteristic is their liking for water, not normally regarded as a feline attribute. They not only dabble in water and play with it, but have been known to enter ponds and even horse-troughs for a swim – they soon became famous as the "swimming cats".

I was first given a pair of Van kittens in 1955 while traveling in Turkey, and decided to bring them back to England, although touring by car and mainly camping at the time – the fact that they survived in good condition showed up the great adaptability and intelligence of their breed in trying circumstances. Experience showed that they bred absolutely true. They were not known in Britain at that time and, because they make such intelligent and charming pets, I decided to try to establish the breed, and to have it recognized officially in Britain by the GCCF.

Starting from the 16th century, when the first long-haired cats, were brought to Europe as wonders, because there had been only shorthaired cats in Europe at the time, numerous Vans had been imported as Angora cats that were introduced a little earlier. At the same time red-and-white van-patterned Van cats were usually described as whites that may be seen at the painting of French artist Antoine Jean Bail (1830 - 1918) named "A Young Girl With A White Cat".

It seems that little changed since then. If we look carefully at the people's holiday snaps that are published even in the Internet, we may notice that several of the 'white' Van cats in the pictures plainly had patches of red fur. As it was noticed by the visiors of Van region the current population of Van tended to describe cats which were nearly all white (with high degree of white spotting) as "white". And even at present, when it was confirmed by the geneticist that Vans and Angoras are definitely separate breeds, Vans are sometimes confused with Turkish Angoras, although a side-by-side comparison reveals vastly different characteristics.

Breed Description[]


Turkish Vans have two different colored eyes.

The coat is semilong to long, soft, silky hair without woolly undercoat. Ruff and britches well-furnished in winter. Pure white coat. Reddish-brown (auburn) or cream symmetrical markings at the base of the ears separated by a white blaze. Another colored patch running from the croup to the tip of the tail. The arrangement of these markings is called a "Van" pattern. Main recognized colors: red and white, cream and white.

As mentioned the coat is semi-long and a "chalk white" save for the color patches. There is no undercoat. This makes the coat substantially easier to maintain (less matting for example). However an undercoat does provide an extra layer for warmth. The texture is like cashmere and the length changes seasonally. This may occur when the seasons are variable in temperature i.e. very warm in summer and very cold in winter. The coat length would naturally change that much in a climate that has a more even temperature differential between summer and winter as is the case in the UK or if the cat was indoors all the time.

The classic Van pattern is the target. This means no splashes of color other than on the head and tail. Ideally the head coloring should be symmetrical and divided by white. The first cat in the slide show has this beautifully and so do a number of other cats in the slide show.

Their eyes are different colors! This was very interesting for me. Read about it people! Learn!


Little Turkish Van kitties.jpg

Turkish Van is considered to be one of the most important, and best kind of cat in the world. Many people in U.S. like Turkish Van breed, and there is high demand for Turkish kittens. These Turkish kittens are loved by people all over the world this is mainly due to the structure and color of these cats. The Turkish Van is the only cat, which can swim and also referred as a swimming cat. These cats like to be in water whenever it has a chance. The Turkish Van cat is a steadfast and independent cat that can live on their own. The Turkish Vans main advantage is that its attractive body structure and markers make it very attractive to everyone.


The Turkish Van breed are a very playful, fun loving, active, lively, energetic breed of cat. The Turkish Van breed is a very distinctive breed which should not be grouped to have any particular personality traits. Even the Turkish Van kittens behaves differently from other kittens, each one has its own personality.

Some Turkish Van kittens are individualistic in nature. Turkish Van kittens are very playful and very active compared to the normal cat breeds. These cats like to play with a variety of toys, objects and prey. Balls and feather teasers are the best play items for Turkish Van kittens or full grown cats. These cats are very intelligent and they understand what is happening around them at all times. These cats can even be taught tricks and end up learning how to play with it objects with ease. Turkish Vans are smart enough to open cabinet doors and even windows, so caution should be taken when storing eatables and chemicals around the house.

Turkish Van cats are very loyal to their owners and do not forget about an original owner. Turkish Vans sometimes bond with only one person in the family and become very close to that person. They will follow that owner around and around, following that person where ever they go. These cats can even sense your arrival and be ready to greet you at your door steps when you come home. Turkish Vans are very close to other pets as well. They get along very well with any animal even with large dogs and other cats and do not create any problems even if they are new to that place. They even get along with a new pet being introduced to its home. On the other hand, Turkish Vans are also assertive; they know to defend themselves when someone or something attacks them or is trying to hurt them.


Swimming Turkish Van.jpg

Many people fall in love with Turkish Vans due to their love for water and swimming, however they have many other characteristics that should draw you to them as well. They are highly intelligent animals with amazing energy and a high activity level. You will probably find it hard to keep up with them at first, they just love to play and love your attention. This affectionate, vocal breed of cat will talk to you when he/she is hungry or happy to see you and will have no problem expressing their love for you.

They are curious and excitable and love to run around the garden or jump about on the furniture. They will play fetch all day if they can, chasing the same toy or a rolled up piece of paper. They like to take an interest in whatever you're doing, whether it's reading, typing or just sitting on the sofa. If you are planning on owning a Turkish Van get ready for some serious playtime!

Turkish Vans are even referred as having dog like behaviors. These cats can also learn to play and learn some simple tricks like bringing back the thrown toys or balls. These cats also like heights and tend to climb easily to top parts of the house and survey their living area.


There are no genetic health problems associated with the Turkish Van. Vans are regularly imported from Turkey in order to maintain genetic diversity, which helps to prevent heritable medical problems. Overall, the breed is quite healthy and hardy.

This breed has a hearty appetite, with no special dietary requirements. Because the Turkish Van is an active cat, she will require approximately 80 Kcals of food per kg of bodyweight per day.

A Van's coat takes quite a bit of effort to get it looking its best, but the result is worth it. It is best to grooming 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 and many potential problems will be avoided. Although their affinity with water, it is best to start bath the Van’s coat at an early age.


A lot of people think that training a Turkish Van is really difficult. Although Turkish Vans are known for their intelligence, they can be really stubborn animals and can seem not to listen to anybody, however, they really are not that hard to train if you use the right cat training tips and techniques.

Turkish Van cat 2.jpg
  • Many Turkish Van owners simply give up after feeling that the task of training their cat is too hard. Especially if the cat owner has a dog. Dogs are so excited to do anything for treats and such, but cats are not the same.
  • You can still teach your Turkish Van tricks and train it to obey you simply by following tips. People teach cats how to do crazy stuff such as use human toilets and even act like dogs. The key to training is to use positive reinforcement.
  • The basis of this reinforcement is to simply reward your cat when it does something you like and not do a thing when it doesn't. For example, if your Turkish Van does a back flip you give it a treat. Whether it doesn't do a back flip you just ignore it and do nothing.
  • You cannot do this all at once. You need to train your cat in small steps. Very slowly you should train your Turkish Van. For example, when training your animal to use the litter box start slowly moving it closer and closer to the bathroom. Before you know it your cat will be using the toilet!
  • When you combine these two tactics you should have no problem training your cat to do what you want.


Turkish Van lying.jpg

Swimming is the unique characteristic of this cat breed. These intelligent cats easily take over their home and owners. Turkish Vans are also called as "the people's cat" because they like to be with people and like to go where ever they go.

Turkish Vans like to play hard and sleep hard, these are quite large cats that like to jump around, play with people and always be with them. Usually their owners call their cats "dogs in a cat suit" because of these characteristics.


There are few Turkish Van breeders and Turkish Vans remain relatively rare. Turkish Van kittens cost $600 and up, depending on whether they are pet quality, breeder quality, or show quality. However, these intelligent, adorable kittens will never let you bore them. The Turkish Van breed is the idol of the perfect cat character!


Turkish Van kittens are naturally born with long or semi hair. The breed originated form the rugged region in the Middle East centered on Lake Van. This origin shows that the Turkish van kittens are able to withstand extreme temperatures.

The breed is famous for its attractive distinctive pattern, normally a white coat with a colored head and matching tail. Turkish Van cats are very large in size and have a muscular cat like appearance; the strength of this cat is visible in its body structure and its legs. The Turkish Van breed do not fully mature till 3 year of age sometimes it may take a bit longer than that. Just depends on the size and personality of the cat. There is also a variety of other coat patterns.

White Turkish Van.jpg

Some cats do have a small thumb shaped color placed irregularly on the Turkish van cats paw; color usually extends from the root of the tail to the its back and very small extensions of color around its head. These markings are considered to be undesirable but the breed cannot be penalized since it is a good breed.

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 (7.3 kg) while females tend to be a bit lighter in weight, 12 to 14 lb (5.4 to 6.4 kg). A Van will take up to 3 years to reach full maturity. Vans have been known to reach 3 ft (0.91 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.

Pretty Turkish Van kittens.jpg

The eye colors fade as the cat grows older. The amber eyed cats tend to become greenish as the cats grow older. Turkish Van cats are grouped under semi long haired cats which actually differentiate the Turkish vans from long haired breeds such as Persians, and though the coat is very long its soft silky coat and lack of undercoat makes it to remain free from tangles an knots, so very little grooming is enough to maintain Turkish Vans breed.

The Turkish Van has also colored areas in its head and tail and it has a body which is white in color. The Turkish Van is a large, long haired cat with broad shoulders. The shoulder should be large enough to place three fingers between the legs at the chest region. These Turkish cats are adaptable to different types of environment and they can withstand extreme outdoor temperatures. The Turkish Van is long and has back legs which are slightly larger than the front legs. They are also known to be excellent swimmers. Turkish cats have the ability to swim due to well-equipped fur and broad shoulders. Certain features of Turkish Van cat are a short neck, muscular and large bodied and distinct marking patterns.

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, in spite of their fine fur, are extremely allergenic cats to those with cat allergies and should be avoided. While Turkish Van cats are unbelievably loving, loyal and intelligent members of the family, they are NOT excellent pets for those with cat allergies. This is due to the fact that they groom incessantly, and the saliva which dries on the fur gets into the air in micro particles which will definitely irritate those with cat allergies.

Colors and Patterns[]

Fabullous Turkish Van cat.jpg

The Turkish Van pattern is characterized by a white background with coloured patches on the head and possibly the back as well, and a coloured tail. The original colour for Turkish Van markings was red, but other colour variants have since been accepted by cat organizations, including cream, black, and blue. Also, in addition to the traditional bicolour with solid patches, patches may be:

Eye Colors: Amber, blue and odd-eyed. Eye color may fade with age.

Nose Leather: Pink.

Paw Pads: Pink is preferable but color spot(s) on paw pads acceptable due to the two colors in the pattern.


They are mostly Turkish Van cats with long fur.

Additionally, the cat may have colorful spots in its fur, such as black, red or even blue as Turkish Van aren't white cats as lots of people believe.

Red Solid[]

Ranging from warm red to deep auburn, but should be one level

shade, sound to the roots.

Cream Solid[]
Cream Turkish Van.jpg

One level shade of buff cream, sound to the roots.

Black Solid[]

Dense coal black, sound to the roots.

Free of any tinge of rust on tips or smoke undercoat.

Blue Solid[]

One level tone of blue, sound to the roots.


Tabby Turkish Van.jpg

Tabby markings are dense and clearly defined. How much of the tabby marking is seen is highly dependent on the size and placement of the head and body spots.

A spot may be of a size that only ground color or only the tabby stripe is seen, thus there may not be enough color to determine whether the markings are classic or mackerel.

Red Tabby[]
Red Tabby Turkish Van.jpg

The ground color is creamy red.

There are Tabby markings range from warm red to deep auburn.

Cream Tabby[]

The ground color is very pale cream.

There are Tabby markings of buff cream sufficiently darker than the ground color to afford good contrast but remaining within the dilute range.

Brown Tabby[]

The ground color is creamy beige.

There are Tabby markings in dense black.

Blue Tabby[]

The ground color ispale bluish ivory. There are Tabby markings a deep blue affording a good contrast with ground color.

There is also warm fawn or patina over the colored portions.


It contains a plently of unique, uncategorized coat colors and patterns. There are a lot of different coats but, here are shown the most known and common. In this list are also shown popular coats of other cat breeds as they are rarer in the Turkish Vans.

Tortoise Shell[]

Tortie and White Turkish Van.jpg

Black and red patches with tabby markings are allowed in the red portion.

Dilute Tortoise Shell[]

Tortie and Black Turkish Van.jpg

Blue and cream patches with tabby markings are allowed in the cream portion.

Brown Patched Tabby (Torbie)[]

There is a brown tabby description with patches of red or tabby red.

Blue Patched Tabby (Dilute Torbie)[]

There is a blue tabby description with patches of cream or tabby cream.


Van pattern only. Any other color and white (silver tabby, smoke, etc.) with the exception of those showing evidence of hybridization resulting from the Himalayan pattern (point restricted) and colors (such as chocolate, lilac, etc.).

Van Pattern[]

Shorthair Turkish Van.jpg

The first things that attract the eye, when one looks at a pedigreed classic Turkish Van cat are copper-brown (or sometimes the color is described as chestnut-red) spots on an otherwise white background occurring at the head, the back (in the area of the left shoulder), and the tail. The Van cat has a colored and ringed full brush tail, resembling a fox-brush with the end in the form of a paintbrush. The position of the color marks was so special that this pattern on a cat’s coat was named “van pattern” after the Van cat. Then this pattern was introduced into other breeds by means of mating with Van cats or a breeding program with strict choice and selection of partners to establish the van pattern, though the last statement is not confirmed by any records. At present we may see a van pattern in several breeds including the Turkish Angora, Persian, Siberian, Norwegian Forest, British Shorthair, Scottish Fold, Maine Coon, Ragdoll, LaPerm, and even among Sphynx. There is another supposition on the origin of van pattern in other breeds, according to which it was a separate mutation in S locus that is responsible for the white spotting. The other alleles of S locus ensure special spotting in such breed as the Sacred Birman cat, and the regular spots of bi-colors, and the van pattern in various breeds.

The other distinguishing features of the breed of Turkish Van cat are a broad thorax, evidence of its excellent qualities as a swimmer, and also silky dense water-repellent hairs of the coat, that dries nearly instantly even in cold season of the year, which is so necessary for this excellent fisher in winter. The texture of this semi-long haired coat of Van cat is such that the feelings originating, when you have a Van cat in your hands, are joy and pleasure, for so silky and airy the hair is.

And if we speak about the eye color of a present day purebred Van cat, the eyes may be blue or amber color or a cat may be odd-eyed: one eye may be blue, and the other – amber colored. The variability of eye color is genetically caused by the so named "white-spotting" factor, which is a characteristic of this breed. The "white-spotting" factor is the variable expression of the piebald gene that varies from the minimal degree (1), as in the blue-eyed cats with white tip on the tail like Altay and California cats, as in the cats with mitts, like Birman cat, to the maximal degree (8 - 9) that results in a Van-patterned cat, as in Van cats, when colored marks occupy at most 20 % of the white background, but the white background in the breed covers about 80 % of the body. Breeding two cats together with the same level of white spotting will produce cats with a similar degree of spotting.

Curious Turkish Van.jpg

Only some solitary colored marks on the head between the white ears with the obligatory white "blaze" running from back of the head to the forehead and the tail ring-colored in the same color, remained of the pigmentation in Van cats. This position of markings on the head and body is determined by one of the alleles of the white spotting gene, which is named after the name of the cats of Lake Van – Sv - white piebald Spotted Van. The tortoiseshell (black and red occurring in the pattern) Vans are permitted to have the marks of other color in the named areas. The existence of other alleles of the gene of white spotting, creates coat colors with less quantity of white, (i.e. bi-colors and particolors), than the Van cat. When the white color covers more than half of the body, and the white, in general, occurs in the lower part of the body, that is the belly and paws, or when only the white gloves and socks remain of the white-colored part, like in Snow shoe or Sacred Birman Cat, in Van cats this may serve as a sign of crossbreeding with the cats of other regions. Only the absolutely regular marks on the head and the colored tail are desired for showing and breeding of Van cats. Some colored marks on the body, on the left shoulder, in particular, are permitted.

The removal of Van cats with bi-color and harlequin pattern (which can be indicative of mixed heritage) from a breeding program is necessary to maintain the uniqueness and uniformity of the gene pool. The van-patterned cats generally breed true, and a bi-color will not be produced out of a Van to Van breeding, because Van cats are homozygous for the van-pattern gene (Sv Sv). So, the pure-bred Van cat to pure-bred Van cat breeding may not produce any other pattern, unless something in the background is coming out. Breeders should place these cats as pets and not continue to use them. Van cats should be homozygous for the van-pattern gene, and the introduction of white or bicolor cats will result in the birth of the kittens heterozygous for the van-pattern gene (Sv -). And though the phenotype of the kittens may correspond to the requirements of the breed standard, the genotype will not be identical to the genotype of pedigree Van cat. This heritage will result in the deviation of the van pattern in the off-springs, because genetically they will have in the background other pigmentation genes and alleles of the piebald gene. The introduction of white cats in breeding programs makes the situation more dramatic, because of the effect of the white color gene (W) on all other pigmentation genes that masks all other coloration in cat coat, and it will be arguable to guess, which color genes the specific all-white cat carries. Beside the van pattern, all other patterns of the cats of this breed may only witness that the true selection of this breed is in front, and depends on the enthusiasts.

A breed is created not only by the color and pattern, but some other constitutional traits. The Persian and Turkish Angora cats of the same white color will differ in body size and boning, its width and length, form of the head, and peculiarities of muzzle in front and profile views. The Turkish Angora or angora-kedi, as it is called in Turkey, differs from Vans not only with the coloration of hair and eyes, but greater elegance and dry falling texture of coat. The Vans have more mighty bones and solid muscular system. Because of the broad chest, the Vans’ front legs are set apart on the body. The tail of a mature Van shall resemble a bottlebrush, and shall not have as long hair, as the Turkish Angoras have. The coat of the Vans is influenced by seasonal changes, because of the great temperature difference in summer and winter at their homeland Van. The winter coat is longer and fluffier. Also there is difference between the coat of the Van cats of English and Dutch breeding programs: so named English and Dutch coats. But when the cats reach maturity at the age of 3 – 5 years, all the Vans have the same coat. In any case, the characteristic trait of the breed is the absence of wooly undercoat.

Differences Between the Vans, Solid White Angora and Van Kedisi[]

Turkish Van kitten 2.jpg

The solid white Angoras carry the epistatic (masking) white color (W-) dominant gene associated with white fur, blue eyes and deafness. The same are all white Van Kedisi. As Assistant Professor of Van University, Mr Hasan Koyun explained: We are going to research, why they (Van Kedisi) have such eyes. And also we are going to study the connection between the eye-color and defness, because often the odd-eyed cats are deaf. The problem of deafness in solid white cats is not new. In one 1997 study of deaf white cats, 72% of the animals were found to be totally deaf.

While van-patterned Vans are not deaf, because their phenotype is associated with van pattern (Sv) semidominant gene. Van cat's eye color also can be amber, blue or odd (one amber and one blue), but van-patterned Vans with two blue eyes are not deaf like Angoras and Van Kedisi. As of late, some Vans have developed green eyes, though the green shade is not rated highly with breed associations.

Another peril that shall make anxious the solid white cats owners and breeders is the fact, that due to the lack of pigmentation in the skin, all white cats are more sensitive to sunlight and are more likely to become sunburned and develop skin cancer.

The introduction of all-white color gene (W-) may cause new insidious menaces that will manifest themselves in the future, several generations later. In the Turkish Angora, mostly known as all-white, an autosomal recessive Hereditary ataxia is found. Another genetic illness known to the Turkish Angora is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which is an autosomal dominant gene that affects many other breeds (from Maine Coons to Persians).

Coat Markings Legends[]

A Turkish Van realaxing.jpg

Many van-patterned Van cats have a small mark on the coat between the shoulderblades. This mark can also be seen in red and white van-patterned Turkish Vans, i.e. the Turkish Van cats of classical color. The spot on the left shoulder, resembles the shape of the print of a thumb due to the presence of the agouti gene, which is responsible for tabby coloration and always present in red color in cats, giving rise to lighter and darker tones in the red marks of Van cats. The mark on the left shoulder can look as if the coloration was pressed out from the center to the periphery under the pressure of a finger. The Kurds call this mark the thumbprint of Allah’s right hand, and consider it a sign of good luck. There is a local legend telling that Allah (that means the Lord or God) blessed the Van cat by putting His right hand on it as the cat left Noah's Ark. In the places on the cat’s coat where the Creator had touched it (head, shoulder and tail), the flaming marks appeared.

Cute Turkish Van.jpg

Anyhow, this legend gives no explanations, why the cat had been blessed by the Creator. The 10th century Persian historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari's, recorded a legend that may give the answer. According this legend, Noah caused a pair of cats to come from the lion's nose to deal with rats that tried to make a hole in the bottom of the Ark This story was well-known in the region that is proved by the existence of a Persian proverb saying that "the lion had sneezed, and the cat appeared".

The origin of the legends and proverb lay in the ancient cults that existed in Van lake region in pre-historic times. The felines excel in their fertility, and it looks like that, as in other Indo-Europeans, in the period of early heathendom the Armenians’ veneration for the lionesses, leopardesses and cats had some relationship to the worship of the mother deity.. It is also known that before 301 A.D., when the Armenians adopted Christianity as a state religion, there had been a temple of Astghik, a pagan deity, which in the earliest prehistoric period of heathendom in Armenia had been worshiped as mother-goddess, in the ever-existed village of Artamet, located on the shore of Lake Van, that later became a residential suburb of the city of Van, famous for its exclusively tasty apples.

Native Van Preservation[]

Turkish Vans are a naturally occurring breed of cat. They can still be found in east Turkey, near Lake Van, although their numbers have diminished, and a 1992 survey found only 92 pure Turkish Van cats in their native area. All forms of Van cat are now under the protection of the Turkish government. There is a breeding programme for the all-white Van Kedisi cats at the Van Cat House within the grounds of Van University.

Physical Characteristics[]

Head: Medium to large in size, at least as long as it is wide. Rounded contours. No angles or straight lines. High cheekbones. Full, rounded muzzle. Nose with slight stop, then delicately hooked. Considerable whisker pinch. Slightly rounded chin.

Eyes: Large, shaped like a walnut or peach pit, set slightly at a slant. Eyelids are outlined in pink.

Colors: Blue, amber, or heterochromatic. Green is allowed, but amber is the most preferred.

Neck: Short and strong.

Body: Long, large, strong. Rounded rib cage. Fairly broad hips. Large-boned, well-developed muscles.

Paw: Moderately long. Hind legs longer than forelegs. Medium-boned, well-muscled. Round paws. Dense tufts of hair between the toes.

Tail: Moderately long, thick, well-furnished, fluffy, or plumed. Hair must be at least 5 cm long. The color is even along the entire tail.

Fault: More than three colored patches on the body. No blaze on the face. Markings unevenly distributed. Tail color starting too far up the back.

Disqualify: Bicolor and solid patterns. Absence of coloring on the ears and tail.


Turkish Van kitten playing.jpg

Sight: Testing indicates that a cat's vision is superior at night in comparison to humans, and inferior in daylight. Cats, like dogs and many other animals, have a tapetum lucidum that reflects extra light to the retina. While this enhances the ability to see in low light, it appears to reduce net visual acuity, thus detracting when light is abundant. In very bright light, the slit-like iris closes very narrowly over the eye, reducing the amount of light on the sensitive retina, and improving depth of field. The tapetum and other mechanisms give the cat a minimum light detection threshold up to seven times lower than that of humans. Variation in color of cats' eyes in flash photographs is largely due to the interaction of the flash with the tapetum.

Average cats have a visual field of view estimated at 200°, versus 180° in humans, with a binocular field (overlap in the images from each eye) narrower than that of humans. As with most predators, their eyes face forward, affording depth perception at the expense of field of view.

Field of view is largely dependent upon the placement of the eyes, but may also be related to the eye's construction. Instead of the fovea which gives humans sharp central vision, cats have a central band known as the visual streak. Cats can apparently differentiate among colors, especially at close range, but without appreciable subtlety.

Cats have a third eyelid, the nictitating membrane, which is a thin cover that closes from the side and appears when the cat's eyelid opens. This membrane partially closes if the cat is sick; although in a sleepy, content cat this membrane is often visible. If a cat chronically shows the third eyelid, it should be taken to a veterinarian for evaluation.

Unlike humans, cats do not need to blink their eyes on a regular basis to keep their eyes lubricated (with tears). Unblinking eyes are probably an advantage when hunting. Cats will, however, "squint" their eyes, usually as a form of communication. Cat owners can often entice their pets to squint or even fully close their eyes just by talking to them in a soothing or pleasing manner. Many cats will also squint in response to seeing their owners squint.

Cats have a wide variation in eye color, the most typical colors being golden, green and orange. Blue eyes are usually associated with the Siamese breed, but they are also found in white cats. If a white cat has two blue eyes, it is often times deaf; however, orange eyes usually indicate the cat is free of hearing problems.

White cats having one blue and one other-colored eye are called "odd-eyed" and may be deaf on the same side as the blue eye. This is the result of the yellow iris pigmentation rising to the surface of only one eye, as blue eyes are normal at birth before the adult pigmentation has had a chance to express itself in the eye(s).

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Hearing: Humans and cats have a similar range of hearing on the low end of the scale, but cats can hear much higher-pitched sounds, up to 70 kHz, which is 1.6 octaves above the range of a human, and even 1 octave above the range of a dog.

When listening for something, a cat's ears will swivel in that direction; a cat's ear flaps (pinnae) can independently point backwards as well as forwards and sideways to pinpoint the source of the sound. Cats can judge within three inches (7.5 cm) the location of a sound being made one yard (approximately one meter) away-this can be useful for localizing prey, etc.

Smell: A domestic cat's sense of smell is about fourteen times as strong as a human's. Cats have twice as many smell-sensitive cells in their noses as people do, which means they can smell things we are not even aware of. Cats also have a scent organ in the roof of their mouths called the vomeronasal, or Jacobson's organ. When a cat wrinkles its muzzle, lowers its chin, and lets its tongue hang a bit, it is opening the passage to the vomeronasal. This is called gaping, "sneering", or "flehming". Gaping is the equivalent of the Flehmen response in other animals, such as dogs, horses and big cats.

Touch: A cat has about twenty-four movable vibrissae (whiskers), in four rows on each upper lip on each side of its nose (some cats may have more), in addition to a few on each cheek, tufts over the eyes, bristles on the chin, the cat's inner "wrists", and at the back of the legs. The Sphynx (a nearly hairless breed) may have full length, short, or no whiskers at all. Vibrissae aid navigation and sensation. The upper two rows of whiskers can move independently from the lower two rows for even more precise measuring. Whiskers are more than twice as thick as ordinary hairs, and their roots are set three times deeper than hairs in a cat's tissue. Richly supplied with nerve endings at their base, whiskers give cats extraordinarily detailed information about air movements, air pressure and anything they touch. Vibrissae possess exquisite sensitivity to vibrations in air currents.As air swirls and eddies around objects, whiskers vibrate too. Whiskers may detect very small shifts in air currents, enabling a cat to know it is near obstructions without actually seeing them. Cats use messages in these vibrations to sense the presence, size, and shape of obstacles without seeing or touching them.

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Whiskers are also good hunting tools. The structure of the brain region which receives information from the vibrissae is similar to that found in the visual cortex, suggesting that the nature of the cat's perception through its whiskers is similar to that via its vision. Stop motion photography reveals that at the moment a cat's prey is so close to its mouth to be too near for accurate vision, its whiskers move so as to form a basket shape around its muzzle in order to precisely detect the prey's location. A cat whose whiskers have been damaged may bite the wrong part of a mouse it's attacking, indicating that signals from these delicate structures provide cats with vital information about the shape and activity of its prey - interestingly, whiskers also help cats detect scents. It is thought that a cat may choose to rely on the whiskers in dim light where fully dilating the pupils would reduce its ability to focus on close objects. The whiskers also spread out roughly as wide as the cat's body making it able to judge if it can fit through an opening. Whiskers are also an indication of the cat's attitude. Whiskers point forward when the cat is inquisitive and friendly, and lie flat on the face when the cat is being defensive or aggressive. Whiskers can also be a bother to a cat, especially when the cat tries to eat food out of a bowl. The end of the whiskers touching the side of the bowl transfer irritating sensations to its brain, making it hard for it to continue eating.

The "Helping Hand" badge is awarded to rescue groups and shelters that exhibit exceptional community involvement in helping pets of all kinds find loving homes. The Furry Critter Network is proud to receive this award for it's work in rescuing and rehoming animals of all kinds in our area.

Taste: The cat family was shown in 2005 to lack the T1R2 protein, one of two required for function of the sweetness sensory receptor; a deletion in the relevant gene (Tas1r2) causes a shift in the genetic reading frame, leading to transcription stopping early and no detectable mRNA or protein produced. The other protein, T1R3, is present and identical to that of other animals, and the relevant taste buds are still present but inactive. Such a genetic marker found in the entire family and not other animals must be the result of a mutation in an early ancestor; as a deletion mutation it could not revert, and thus would be inherited by all descendants, as the evolutionary tree branched out. Most scientists now believe this is the root of the cat family's extremely specialized evolutionary niche as a hunter and carnivore. Their modified sense of taste would cause them to some degree to ignore plants, a large part of whose taste appeal derives from their high sugar content, in favor of a high-protein carnivorous diet, which would still stimulate their remaining taste receptors.

Body Language[]

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Many people fail to understand the silent body language of cats. In particular, people who are accustomed to the outwards signs of dog body language seem slow in detecting what a cat is telling them in its body language, which creates the false impression that cats are cold-hearted, unemotional, or unintelligent. To understand cats, one must observe a feline closely and learn what its body signals tell them. It is important to keep in mind that each cat may display its emotions with different body language. The flattened ears, teeth showing, baring belly for submission are easily 'read' by humans. Some characteristic signals, however, are often misunderstood. For instance, a cat rubbing its body along an arm or leg of its human is not only a way in which to attract attention and, perhaps, a morsel of food; it is also a way of 'marking' its human as its own. Using scent glands located around its mouth and elsewhere, it subtly 'marks' its human as part of its cat territory. Most cats prefer gentle rubs behind the ears. To inform their humans they need petting or attention, a cat may push its entire body weight up against the human as the cat snuggles next to his/her favorite person.

Disgust - Lifting and subsequent shaking of a paw or paws. The more paws, the stronger a feeling is indicated; this can sometimes be a four paw affair with each paw being lifted and shaken in turn. This is possibly related to the identical action that's displayed after stepping in water.

Aggression - The swishing or sweeping of the tail in a wide swath, mid-air or against a person means the cat is trying to get your attention. And if the message isn't getting through, the cat may simply leave the room.

Relaxation - Sprawling on the side or back and, possibly, rolling about; this may be seen, for example, when a person enters the room or stirs from their seat. The cat may display this at the same time as the person's movement.

Greeting - A particular sort of vocalization, such as a low meow or chirp, possibly with simultaneous purring.

Affection - A pressing of the face or top of the head against a person's body, leaving a scent as a marking of territory. Rubbing in quick succession. Cats may also slowly blink as an expression of affection or security.

Submission - Upon being approached, it will fall down on its side, indicating it is not seeking attention and is unwilling to put up a fight.

Contentedness - Kneading with the paws on a person or, for example, a favorite blanket or sleeping spot. Young kittens knead their mother's nipples to stimulate the feeding reflex in her so that her milk flows for the kittens to suckle on. Cats may knead for a short or extended period of time, the extended period sometimes interpreted by people as a sign of discomfort or restlessness, but it is more likely the cat is happy. Most cats will demonstrate this for about ten minutes at the longest, although a select few have been known to knead and suckle on their favorite human's shirt over the course of an entire night. Researchers at Oxford University have demonstrated that cats derive immense pleasure from kneading.

Scent Rubbing - This behavior is used primarily to claim ownership of something: although female cats don't spray, unlike male cats. Once male cats are neutered the scent rubbing or spraying will wear out or stop.

Courting - Cats, compared to many other mammals have a unique courting style. Courtship consists of firstly the female coming into season, or heat. Male cats will be able to smell a female cat in heat miles away, and will therefore be seeking her out. This can be very problematic for any owner who has a whole female. When males arrive, they will fight mercilessly for the right to be the first to mate with the female. After the dominant male has left, the less dominant males will then each mate with the female in turn. It is therefore possible that even if a male cat loses first breeding rights, he can still be the father. This is also the reason that a litter of kittens can consist of two or sometimes even three fathers.

Vocal Calls[]

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Purring - Many people find purring as a sign of content, which it is; however, it is slightly more than that. Some cats purr when they are in extreme pain, or in labour, simply to try and calm themselves down. Purring therefore can be a sign of pleasure or pain; usually it is the former. Scientists have not yet been able to discover how purring works, but it is suspected that it is caused by minute vibrations in the voice box.

Greeting - A particular sort of vocalization, such as a low meow or chirp, possibly with simultaneous purring.

Distress - Mewing is often a plea for help or attention often made by kittens. There are two basic types of this call, one more loud and frantic, the other more high-pitched. In older cats it is more of a panicky repeated meow.

Attention - Often simple meows and mews in both older cats and young kittens. A commanding meow is for example, attention, or food.

Protest - Whining meows.

Frustration - A strong sigh or exhaled snort.

Happy - A meow that starts low then goes up and comes back down.

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Watching/Interest - Cats will often "chatter" or "chirrup" on seeing something of interest out of the window, this is sometimes attributed to mimicking birdsong to attract prey or draw others attention to it, but often birds are not present. Bengals and Tabbies seem more likely to display this behavior.


It is a widly held misconception that cats are sneaky, shy, or aloof animals. Most feline shyness/aggression is a result of abuse, neglect, or poor socialization. A cat is unlike a dog in the sense that a dog will instantly trust you unless you have given it a reason not to. A cat will not trust you unless you have given it a reason to trust you.

A kitten is scared of people at first, but if it is handled and well cared for in the first 16 weeks, it will grow up into a sweet, loving cat that will enjoy human company. It is harder to socialize an adult cat, but this can be very rewarding.

Cats are not emotionally dependant on humans like dogs are, and do enjoy some "cat time" away from humans, and will let out a faint "meow" if it doesn't want to be picked up, but for the most part, a cat is a friendly companion animal.