Turkish Van Cat Breed

Turkish Van Cat Breed – All Information, Facts, Care and Price

The Turkish Van is a natural breed from the rugged, remote, and climatically varied region of the Middle East. The breed is known for its unique, distinctive pattern; the term “Van” has been adopted by a variety of breeds to describe white cats with colored head and tail markings. The Turkish Van is a solidly built, semi-longhaired cat with great breadth to the chest. The strength and power of the cat is evidenced in its substantial body and legs. This breed takes a full 3 to 5 years to reach full maturity and development.

The Turkish Van is a large, muscular yet elegant cat with a pure white body and distinctive coloured head and tail. They should give a graceful yet strong impression, with ears set high and eyes large, oval and expressive. The Turkish Van has a semi-longhaired coat which is soft and silky rather than woolly or fluffy. Paws are tufted, and the tail should be a luxuriant brush. They may have two amber eyes, two blue eyes or one of each.

The Turkish van is a rugged, large-bodied cat that originated in the Middle East. It is all-white with colored markings on the face and tail only. This type of color pattern is so distinctive that when it appears in other cat breeds it is often called a “van” pattern.

These active and athletic felines love to climb, jump and explore. Although they might curl up with you for the occasional cuddle, Turkish vans are more likely to be found roaming the house and following you from room to room, looking for adventure.

One unique characteristic of the Turkish van cat is its love of water. The Turkish van is often called the “swimming cat.

Breed Name Turkish Van
Origin Turkey
Size Medium to large
Coat Type Semi-long, soft, and silky
Coat Colors White with colored markings on the head and tail, typically red or black
Eye Color Blue or odd-eyed (one blue eye and one amber eye)
Lifespan 12-17 years
Weight Males: 4-7 kg; Females: 3-5 kg
Temperament Intelligent, playful, and active
Activity Level High
Grooming Needs Moderate, requires regular brushing to prevent matting
Health Issues Generally healthy, but may be prone to certain genetic health problems such as hip dysplasia, deafness, and heart problems. Regular veterinary check-ups are recommended.


The need-to-know

Great for first-time cat owners
Enjoys playing games and is active at home
Playful and curious cat
Independent but friendly
Slightly talkative cat
Average build cat breed
Requires grooming every day
Needs extensive outdoor space
Not ideal for family homes
Can be left alone all day
Can cope with a busy household

Other Quick Facts

  • Some Van cats possess a colored marking on their shoulder called the “Thumbprint of Allah.” It is considered a sign that the cat has been blessed.
  • The Turkish Van has a semi-longhaired white coat with colored markings on the head and tail, known as a van pattern. Cats with a van pattern carry a piebald gene, which is the same gene that causes the white color on cats with tuxedo (black with a white belly) or bicolor (a color plus white) patterns. The gene is expressed to a greater degree in Van cats, which accounts for the large amount of white on the body. The Van pattern is seen in other pedigreed cats and in random-bred cats
  • The Van’s head is wide and moderately wedge shaped. The eyes are shaped something like peach pits and can be blue, gold, or odd, meaning that one eye is blue and the other gold. The body is long, sturdy and muscular with fur that feels like cashmere and a full, brushlike tail.
  • Vans are known for enjoying a nice swim. Don’t be surprised if yours wants to join you in the bathtub or swimming pool or goes fishing in your koi pond. Historically, they were known to swim in Turkey’s Lake Van.

Turkish Van Temperament and Personality

Don’t get the Van if you want a cat who likes to be carried around or cuddled a lot, but if a mischievous clown who is loving and affectionate appeals to you, the Van is your cat. He loves to jump and climb, play with toys, retrieve and play chase. The highly acrobatic Van catches toys in mid-air, turns fantastic somersaults in pursuit of a fishing-pole toy, and runs so much that you might question where he gets his energy. When he’s not following you around, offering to help with whatever you’re doing, the Van is likely experimenting with turning on the bathroom or kitchen faucet so he can play in the running water.

Don’t confuse the Van with the graceful Turkish Angora. He’s a bit of a klutz and frequently knocks things over. When he does, save his dignity by pretending that of course he meant to do that.

The Van’s tail seems to have a personality of its own. Most cats flick their tails when they are angry or upset, but the Van’s tail seems to be in constant motion, even when he’s in a good mood, which is most of the time.

The Van can get along fine with dogs and other pets as long as they realize he’s the one in charge. With his sturdy body, he can also be a good choice for families with children as long as they are supervised and don’t try to pull his fur or tail.

The Turkish Van is thought to be highly intelligent and a good problem-solver. Challenge his brain and keep him interested in life by teaching him tricks and providing him with puzzle toys that will reward him with kibble or treats when he learns how to manipulate them. Other favorite toys are big peacock feathers, furlike toys on a string and small balls that they can chase and fetch. The Van is tough on toys so be prepared to replace them on a regular basis.

Always choose a kitten from a breeder who raises litters in the home and handles them from an early age. Meet at least one and ideally both of the parents to ensure that they have nice temperaments.

The Basics of Turkish Van Grooming

The Turkish Van may look high maintenance, but his single coat, which feels like cashmere, is easy to care for. Run a comb through it every week or so and you’re done. He’ll need coat care a little more frequently in winter when his coat is heavier.
Regular baths are not necessary. Vans like playing in water, but a bath is not always their idea of a good time. If you plan to bathe your Van frequently, accustom him to it from an early age. Let him air dry in a warm room.

The rest is basic care. Trim his nails every week or so, and brush his teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.

Turkish Van’s Health

We know that because you care so much about your cat, you want to take great care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Van. By knowing about the health concerns common among Turkish Vans, we can help you tailor an individual preventive health plan and hopefully prevent some predictable risks in your pet.

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Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. The conditions we will describe here have a significant rate of incidence or a strong impact upon this breed particularly, according to a general consensus among feline genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners. This does not mean your cat will have these problems, only that she may be more at risk than other cats. We will describe the most common issues seen in Turkish Vans to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.

This guide contains general health information important to all felines as well as information on genetic predispositions for Turkish Vans. The information here can help you and your pet’s healthcare team plan for your pet’s unique medical needs together. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Van looking and feeling her best. We hope this information will help you know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your friend.

Physical Attributes


Moderately long, sturdy, broad, muscular, and deep-chested. Mature males exhibit marked muscular development in the neck and shoulders. The shoulders should be at least as broad as the head, and flow into the well-rounded ribcage and then into a muscular hip and pelvic area.


Substantially broad wedge, with gentle contours and a medium length nose to harmonize with the large muscular body. Prominent cheekbones. In profile, the nose has a slight dip below eye level marked by a change in the direction the hair lays. Firm chin in a straight line with the nose and upper lip; rounded muzzle.


Moderately large, in proportion to the body, set fairly high and well apart; the inside edge of the ear is slightly angled to the outside with the outside edge fairly straight but not necessarily in line with the side of the face; wide at the base. Tips are slightly rounded.


Moderately large, a rounded aperture slightly drawn out at the corners, set at a slant, equidistant from the outside base of the ear to the tip of the nose. Eyes are clear, alert, and expressive.

Legs & Paws

Moderately long, muscular legs. They are set wide apart and taper to rounded moderately large feet. Legs and feet should be in proportion to the body. Toes, five in front, four behind.


Long, but in proportion to the body, with a brush appearance. Tail hair length is keeping with the semi-long coat length.


Semi-long with a cashmere-like texture; soft to the roots with no trace of undercoat. Due to the extremes in climate of their native region, the breed carries two distinctive coat lengths. The summer coat is short, conveying the appearance of a shorthair; the winter coat is substantially longer and thicker. There is feathering on the ears, legs, feet, and belly. Facial fur is short. A frontal neck ruff and full brush tail become more pronounced with age.


Red, cream, black, blue, red tabby, cream tabby, brown tabby, blue tabby, tortoiseshell, dilute tortoiseshell, brown patched tabby and blue patched tabby

Turkish Van Behavior Concerns

  • Possesses high levels of energy.
  • Athletic and demands attention, the Turkish Van loves to master tricks for people.
  • Sleeps far less than most cat breeds who typically snooze up to 17 hours a day.
  • Favors playtime over roosting in a lap.
  • Needs interactions and stimulating toys to prevent from becoming destructive out of boredom.
  • Loves water, so be careful to keep your bathroom door closed. Otherwise, your Turkish Van is apt to drop items in the toilet or stand up and repeatedly flush the toilet.
  • Extremely affectionate, but prefers to rub against your leg and not be picked up.

Turkish Vans love to play

Turkish Vans are highly energetic, so they will need a bit of exercise. They are also somewhat needy cats that will require consistent attention from humans. If you are a busy person who doesn’t spend much time at home, your Turkish Van might get bored and lonely. While another kitty friend might help, you may want to reconsider your cat breed options.

These cats will launch themselves into the air, catching toys mid-flight and bouncing from one surface to the next. (They’re agile but can also be clumsy.) They will initiate play with you, wanting you to be involved. Additionally, they love interactive toys and games that occupy their minds and help with mental enrichment. They are truly a national treasure!

If you are active and playful, the Turkish Van will match your energy effortlessly. And while they don’t love to be picked up, they sometimes see themselves as lap cats and might seek you out for a nice cuddle.

Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise

Build your pet’s routine care into your schedule to help your Van live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine for your pet.

  • Supervise your pet as you would a young child. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will help keep her out of trouble, off of inappropriate surfaces for jumping, and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
  • She has a low maintenance single layer coat. Brush as needed, at least weekly for a healthy shine.
  • Turkish Vans can have serious problems with their teeth, so you’ll need to brush them at least three times a week!
  • Check her ears weekly for wax, debris, or signs of infection and clean when necessary. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
  • She needs daily play sessions that stimulate her natural desire to hunt and explore. Keep her mind and body active or she may develop behavior issues.
  • Cats are meticulously clean and demand a clean litter box. Be sure to provide at least one box for each cat and scoop waste daily.
  • It is important that your cat drinks adequate amounts of water. If she won’t drink water from her bowl try adding ice cubes or a flowing fountain.
  • Feed a high-quality feline diet appropriate for her age.
  • Exercise your cat regularly by engaging her with high-activity toys.

Turkish Van cat’s physics

Turkish Vans live for about twelve to fourteen years. They have about five kittens in a litter and their weight is between 3 and 8.5kgs.

The Turkish Van is an excellent cat with a broad chest. They have facial muscles that change as a reaction to anything happening. Muscle and skeleton form are controlled in an excellent way and that is why no matter the position they fall from they always fall on their feet.

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Their head has a broad wedge shape, medium-length nose, prominent cheekbones, firm chin and large ears, that are in proportion to the body with slightly rounded tips. The ears are set fairly high on the head and close together. The eyes are moderately large and expressive. One of the characteristics of Van cats is the color of their eyes. They may have both blue eyes, both amber or one eye blue and the other amber.

The body of the Turkish Van cat is sturdy, broad, muscular and deep-chested. Her legs are medium in length with five in front and four behind toes. The tail has a full brush and balances the body in length.

The coat is semi-long and feels like cashmere. Most people think of Turkey as being a hot country and the Van cat with her profuse coat, tufted feet and ears would seem to be ill-equipped to cope with a hot climate. Mountains surround the Van basin in eastern Turkey, and its high plateau is subject to changes in temperature difficult to imagine. In summer 36° or even 40° is not unusual, and in the winter, temperatures vary between -13° in the towns to -35° on the high ground. The silky texture of the coat of Turkish Van makes it an ideal insulating material, while the long tufts of fine hair help to protect the delicate pink skin of the inner ear from driving snow and freezing winds. The tufts of hair on the feet’ underside protect the pads from frozen ground and snow, and the muscular body is ideally suited to withstand the changeable and often harsh climate.

Cat’s body is predominately chalked white with color on the tail and head. One or more random markings, up to color on 20% of the entire body, are permissible. The red color is restricted to areas around the ears and on the tail – known as the Van pattern. Some have small body-color spots.

The pregnancy period is 62 days. The belly starts to swallow from the first month and the cat never lets anyone touch her belly. Van cats, like other cats, prefer to give birth in locations far away from vision, and for this reason, they start to look for an isolated and dark location from the first month of the pregnancy.

Adopting a Cat from Turkish Van Rescue or a Shelter

The Turkish Van is an unusual and uncommon breed. It is unlikely that you will find one in a shelter or through a rescue group, but it doesn’t hurt to look. Sometimes pedigreed cats end up at the shelter after losing their home to an owner’s death, divorce or change in economic situation. Check the listings on Pet finder, Adopt-a-Pet.com or the Fanciers Breeder Referral List, and ask breeders if they know of a Turkish Van who is in need of a new home.

Wherever you acquire your Turkish Van, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “pet lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.

Kitten or adult, take your Turkish Van to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Spay or Neuter

One of the best things you can do for your Van is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this procedure includes surgically removing the ovaries and usually the uterus; in males, the testicles are surgically removed. Spaying or neutering your pet decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted litters. Both sexes usually become less territorial and less likely to roam, and neutering particularly decreases the occurrence of urine spraying and marking behaviors in males. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your cat is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays to check for dysplasia or a thorough dental exam to look for stomatitis, these procedures can be conveniently performed at the same time as the spay or neuter to minimize the stress on your cat. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions against common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. It sounds like a lot to keep in mind, but don’t worry – we’ll discuss all the specific problems we will look for with you when the time arrives..

Name Suggestions

After choosing your cat, the next important decision is picking a name. To help with that process, here are some cartoon-inspired cat names to match your Turkish Van’s animated personality.

  • Crook shanks
    Harry Potter
  • Diego
    Ice Age
  • Duchess
    The Aristocats
  • Dinah
    Alice in Wonderland
  • Figaro
  • Mochi
    Big Hero 6
  • Rajah
  • Sergeant Tibbs
    101 Dalmatians

Before bringing your new cat into your home, it may be helpful first to pet-proof your home.

Choosing a Turkish Van Breeder

You want your Turkish Van to be happy and healthy so you can enjoy your time with him, so do your homework before you bring him home. For more information on the history, personality and looks of the Turkish Van, or to find breeders, visit the websites of the Cat Fanciers Association, Cats Center Stage, the Fanciers Breeder Referral List, and The International Cat Association.

A reputable breeder will abide by a code of ethics that prohibits sales to pet stores and wholesalers and outlines the breeder’s responsibilities to their cats and to buyers. Choose a breeder who has performed the health certifications necessary to screen out genetic health problems to the extent that is possible, as well as one who raises kittens in the home. Kittens who are isolated can become fearful and skittish and may be difficult to socialize later in life.

Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include kittens always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any kitten, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.

Whether you’re planning to get your feline friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and unhealthy catteries can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick kitten, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy kittens. Put at least as much effort into researching your kitten as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.

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Be patient. Depending on what you are looking for, you may have to wait six months or more for the right kitten to be available. Many breeders won’t release kittens to new homes until they are between 12 and 16 weeks of age.

Before you buy a kitten, consider whether an adult Turkish Van might be a better choice for your lifestyle. Kittens are loads of fun, but they’re also a lot of work and can be destructive until they reach a somewhat more sedate adulthood. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an adult cat instead of a kitten, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show or breeding cat or if they know of an adult cat who needs a new home.

Fun Facts

Turkish Van cats are fun felines to be around. Learn some more interesting facts about this breed.

  • The Turkish Van, Turkish Angora, and Van cat are three separate breeds—careful not to get them mixed up.
  • Turkish Vans used to be called Turkish cats, but their name was later changed to help clear up confusion with the Turkish Angora cat.
  • These cats have an unusual water-repellant coat, which only adds to their love of water.
  • Turkish Vans are slow to mature, and it may take anywhere from three to five years for them to be fully grown.
  • In Turkey, these felines are considered a national treasure, and their breed is being preserved with help from the Turkish College of Agriculture and the Ankara Zoo.

There are always new and interesting facts to learn about this unique breed, especially because these cats are so rare.


When the Ark arrived at Mount Ararat some 5,000 years ago, Noah must have been a bit busy keeping the animals from stampeding in their eagerness to touch dry land. In the hustle and bustle, Noah didn’t notice when two white-andred cats leapt into the water and swam ashore. When the flood waters receded, the cats set out for Lake Van, located about 75 miles (121 km) to the south of Mount Ararat, where they have lived ever since. At least, that’s one charming legend about the appearance of the Turkish Van, an ancient breed that has inhabited the Lake Van region of Turkey for Heaven knows how long.

Turkish Vans can also be found in the nearby areas of Armenia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and areas of Russia. The history of this magnificently tailed swimming cat is at least as intriguing as the legends. Also called the Swimming Cat, the Van is known for its fascination with water. The likely explanation for the Van’s interest in swimming lies in the extreme temperatures in its native region. No kind and gentle environment here; Lake Van, the largest lake in Turkey and one of the highest lakes in the world, knows extreme temperatures in both summer and winter. Since summer temperatures reach well above 100°F (37.8°C), the Van may have learned to swim to cool off. Or perhaps the breed was hunting herring, the only fish that can survive in the briny water of Lake Van. Whatever the reason for the Van’s tolerance of water, it probably explains the development of the cashmere-like, water-repellant coat.

Most domestic cats hate getting wet, possibly because they must spend hours putting their fur back in order. The Turkish Van’s cashmere-like coat is water resistant, allowing the cat to go dog-paddling and come out relatively dry. No one knows for sure when the Turkish Van arrived in the Lake Van region or where they came from. Although a relative newcomer to North America, this Turkish breed has lived in the Van region for thousands of years. Native ornaments dating as far back as 5000 b.c.e. depict cats that look remarkably like the Turkish Van. If so, the Van could well be one of the oldest cat breeds still in existence. Vans were reportedly first brought to Europe by soldiers returning from the Crusades some time between 1095 and 1272 c.e. Over the centuries, the Vans were transported throughout the Eastern continents by invaders, traders, and explorers.

The Vans have been called by a variety of names: Eastern Cat, Turkish, Ringtail Cat, and Russian Longhair. Being cats, Vans probably didn’t answer to any of them. The modern and better-known history of the Van began in 1955 when British citizens Laura Lushington and Sonia Halliday were given two Van kittens while touring Turkey. Since the breed was not known in Britain at the time, they decided to work with the cats and try to get them recognized by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). English breeder Lydia Russell was also instrumental in acquainting the public to the Van breed and sparking interest from fanciers in Great Britain and Europe. Russell also assisted new breeders obtain Turkish Van breeding stock. At first, the going was slow. Obtaining Van cats meant numerous trips to Turkey, and the cats had to pass through lengthy quarantine periods to enter England. Nevertheless, Vans were found to breed true, and in 1969 the hard work paid off when the Turkish Van was given full pedigree status by The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF).

In addition to GCCF, the Turkish Van is accepted by the International Feline Federation (FIFe), Cat Aficionado Association (CAA) of China, and the Australia Cat Federation (ACF). The first Van kittens arrived in America in the 1970s, but it was not until breeders Barbara and Jack Reark started working with the breed in 1983 that the Vans began to flourish in North America. In 1985, TICA granted the Turkish Van championship status. CFA accepted the breed for registration in 1988, and in May 1993 the Van achieved provisional status with CFA, and championship status in May 1994. Even though the breed is still rare, interest has slowly grown. Until the 1980s, Turkish Vans were not officially recognized in Turkey although highly prized as pets by the Turkish people. Today the Vans are being preserved by the Turkish College of Agriculture in connection with the Ankara Zoo, the longtime breeder of the Angora. Vans are no longer permitted to be exported from Turkey, and most new Turkish Vans come from Europe.

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