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Turkish Van Cats: 5 Fascinating Things You Should Know

Aug 27, 2017 · Updated Nov 8, 2017 · ·
  1. Anne
    Turkish Van Cats: 5 Fascinating Things You Should Know
    The Turkish Van is a rare natural breed which developed over millennia in southeast Turkey and neighboring countries. These gorgeous cats are known for their unique coat pattern: a white body with colored markings confined to the head and tail. Let's take a look at this special cat breed, its history and characteristics, and uncover five fascinating facts you may not know about Turkish Van cats.

    Turkish Van: Breed History

    This breed developed naturally in a remote geographic area encompassing southeast Turkey and parts of what today are Iran, Iraq and Russia. Nobody knows exactly when these cats showed up, but there are reports of them being brought over to Europe by the Crusaders, indicating that the breed had already been established by that time.

    Turkish Van cats were first brought to the UK in 1955 and received official recognition by the GCCF - the UK-based Governing Council of the Cat Fancy - in 1969. The first time Turkish Vans arrived in the US was much later, in the year 1982. The breed was recognized by the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) in 1994.

    Turkish Van: Breed Description

    The most prominent and easily recognizable feature of this breed is its coat pattern. All Turkish Van cats have a glistening chalk-white body, with color patches limited to the tail and head. Additional color markings on the body are allowed, as long as they make up no more than 15% of the total area (minus the head and tail).
    Turkish Van Cats
    The head patches should ideally be symmetrical and divided by white up to at least the level of the front edge of the ears. This is also called an inverted V pattern.

    The head patches and tail can be in one of several colors: red, cream, black or blue. Tabby patterns within the colored areas are allowed, as are combinations of more than one color.

    The coat should be semi-longhair, soft and "cashmere-like". The soft texture is created by the total lack of a thick undercoat. The tail must have "a brush appearance" to match the cat's coat. The Turkish Van has a moderately long body that is also sturdy. The shoulders must be at least as broad as the head.

    Eye colors in Turkish Van cats can be either amber or blue, or a combination of both (odd-eyed cats).

    Turkish Van cats - 5 Fascinating Facts

    5 Fascinating Facts about Turkish Van Cats

    Now that we know the basics about Turkish Van cats, their origins and their appearance, here are some lesser-known facts about the breed.

    1. There's a special gene that's responsible for this coat pattern

    A special gene causes the Turkish Van's unique mix of white fur with patches of color on the head and tail. This gene is called the piebald gene, after the black and white magpie that bears the name. It's believed that this breed was the first in the cat world to carry the mutation which later spread to other cat breeds.

    The piebald pattern can be seen in other animals as well, including horses, dogs, pigs and rabbits.

    2. Turkish Van cats don't necessarily like swimming

    Laura Lushington, one of the two women who first imported Turkish Van cats into the UK in 1955, wrote about how much her cats loved swimming. She described a specific event that she experienced with her newly acquired cats while still in Turkey. Traveling in her car on a hot day, she stopped to cool off in a nearby river and to her surprise the cats joined her in the water. Based on that incident, she provided her cats with water containers where they could sit for a few minutes and enjoy a self-initiated bath.
    Turkish Van cat swimming - historic picture
    However, many owners suggest that this isn't the case with their own resident Turkish Vans. While the story is lovely, it's fair to say that not all Turkish Van cats enjoy being in the water.

    3. The Turkish Van is an entirely separate breed from the Turkish Angora

    Some people think that Turkish Van cats are essentially Turkish Angora cats with a specific color pattern. That is not the case. Genetic evidence as well as the breed's history prove that the two breeds are entirely separate from one another.

    Read more: Turkish Angora Cats

    4. A cat can be a van without being a Turkish Van

    The piebald gene that's responsible for the Turkish Van's unique coat pattern can now be found in other cat breeds. "Van" (without the "Turkish" prefix) has become a term used to describe a bicolor pattern where the tail and top of the head are the only places showing color on an otherwise white cat.

    Breeds that can have a Van pattern include the Ragdoll, Persian, Maine Coon, American Shorthair, Scottish Fold and many others. Non-purebred cats can also have this coat pattern.

    5. Real Turkish Van cats are extremely rare

    If you come across a Turkish Van cat at a local cat show, consider yourself lucky. These cats are very rare. The CFA published a list of cat breeds by popularity, based on its registries. Out of the 42 breeds recognized by the CFA, Turkish Van was number 40!

    "Is my cat a Turkish Van?"

    Clearly, with a breed this rare, you're unlikely to come across a purebred Turkish Van in a shelter or on the streets. Unless your cat is a registered Turkish Van purchased from an ethical breeder, he or she is not a purebred. That doesn't mean you can't have a Turkish Van lookalike! The coat pattern itself isn't rare, and you certainly can find cats with a white body and colored tail and head patch who are looking for good homes!

    Read more: What Breed Is My Cat?

    Leave a comment to let us know what you think about Turkish Van cats! Do you own one? Have you seen one? Let us know about your Turkish Van encounters! And if you found this article interesting, please do share it with your friends!

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  1. Meowth77
    Do you think he could be a Turkish van?
    at 7:20 PM[/GALLERY]
      tarasgirl06 purraised this.
    1. lutece
      What a gorgeous kitty! I would describe your cat as a black and white harlequin domestic longhair. "Harlequin" means a cat that is mostly white with some colored areas. Both harlequin and van patterns are caused by the same white spotting gene that is responsible for almost all other white markings in cats (including "tuxedo cat" markings), and doesn't indicate Turkish Van ancestry. Most cats are not any particular breed.
      Meowth77 purraised this.
  2. Brandylee22
    I have been inquiring the breed of my cat, Foxy. Any input is greatly welcomed and appreciated! [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
      tarasgirl06 purraised this.
    1. lutece
      I would describe your beautiful kitty as a black and white domestic shorthair. Your cat's coloring would be described as "van pattern," but this doesn't indicate a genetic relationship to the Turkish Van breed. Van pattern is caused by the same white spotting gene that is responsible for almost all other white markings in cats (including "tuxedo cat" markings), so it doesn't indicate Turkish Van ancestry. Most cats are not any particular breed.
  3. Salinaaa6
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Someone suggested she might be a Turkish van! I adopted her from the shelter though so I guess we will never know ‍♀️
      tarasgirl06 purraised this.
    1. lutece
      What beautiful markings your cat has! People often think that van pattern longhairs might be Turkish Vans. However, van pattern is caused by the same white spotting gene that is responsible for almost all other white markings in cats (including "tuxedo cat" markings), so it doesn't indicate Turkish Van ancestry. Most cats are not any particular breed.
      tarasgirl06 and Furballsmom purraised this.
  4. CatLadyB
    Could my Marshmallow be a Turkish Van Cat? I'm having a hard time describing her. [​IMG]
      tarasgirl06 purraised this.
    1. lutece
      Your Marshmallow appears to be a solid white cat with a "kitten cap." Solid white is caused by the dominant white gene, which is different from the white spotting gene that is involved in the van pattern. Solid white kittens may have a small gray or black smudge on the top of the head called a "kitten cap" that often fades as they grow older, but sometimes doesn't fade and persists into adulthood.
      Furballsmom purraised this.
  5. Liz5280
    I got my girl from a random person off the street for $20 so Im pretty sure she is a mix but at 7 months old she has all of the characteristics of a Turkish Van. Even if she wasnt I couldnt be any happier with her. Ive never thought I would get a kitten from the street but the moment I saw her I couldnt say no. Best decision Ive ever made
      tarasgirl06 purraised this.
  6. TheCatLdy
    Is my cat Turkish-Van or a Turkish Van Mix? He has big amber eyes with semi long hair amd fluffy tail and very soft fur like kashmire. His front legs are shorter than other breeds but also large (muscle ). Also, he is just 7 months old but his size is same with my 19 months old tabby cat( he is not a small cat- regular size tabby) I am going to add his pictures. I am thinking he is Turkish van, but what are your thoughts? [​IMG]
      tarasgirl06 purraised this.
    1. Liz5280
      There isnt enough white on your kitty's body but hr looks like a huge sweetheart
      tarasgirl06 purraised this.
  7. Gezilecekyerlercom
    İ live in Van City :) And i have 10(ten) cats. İ Like them. They Like eat and hot water :)
      tarasgirl06 purraised this.
  8. Goldi
    I have a turkish van! and he absoltely hates water:D
    1. tarasgirl06
      Bizarrely different cats are great, don't you think?
  9. tarasgirl06
    Interesting and informative article! While I prefer "rescued" cats, I of course admire ALL cats, consider all cats beautiful, and love to learn facts about cats of all kinds!
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