Turkish Van Cats Breed Description and Fun Facts

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Turkish van cats breed description

The International Cat Association first recognized the Turkish Van cat breed in 1979. The breed is believed to have developed through natural selection in Van Lake, Turkey.

Turkish van cats are known to be intelligent and can learn tricks similar to dogs. These cats also tend to get along well with children and other pets. They are very playful and can be trained to fetch items, play soccer, skateboard, or perhaps most surprisingly, swim. These chalk-white cats have beautiful markings and a plumed tail.

Turkish Van Cat Appearance

This rare breed is known for its distinctive coat pattern, consisting of white fur on the belly, face, and lower portion of the legs. Markings are usually present on the ears and tail, which is light red to reddish-brown hue. These cats resemble the Turkish Angora cat, which is not surprising given their geographical history. Some Turkish vans are all white and known as Van Kedi cats.

Turkish Van cats have blue or amber eyes, but it is also possible to find cats with two different coloured eyes. These are known as odd-eye cats.

They are among the largest domesticated cats, with males weighing around ten to twenty pounds and females ranging between eight and twelve pounds. Their height is around thirteen inches, and their length is between nineteen to twenty-five inches. Like most domesticated breeds, they have adapted well to indoor life though they enjoy getting outside. It can take the breed three to five years to mature and reach their fully grown size.

Turkish Van Cat Breed History

Turkish van cats are an ancient breed that has been bred from van cats that lived around van lake and in the mountainous areas of Turkey and Armenia. The cats were discovered swimming in the lake in the mid-1950s and brought to England by photographers Laura Lushington and Sonia Halliday.

The pair adopted two kittens, one of each gender, and took them traveling around Turkey. They were amazed to see that the cats loved the water and were always paddling around in ponds, lakes, and streams.

After returning to England, Lushington and Halliday started to breed the cats and marketed them as a unique breed of cat that loved the water. The cats were soon given the nickname ‘the swimming cats’ which has stuck.

Caring for a Turkish Van Cat

Turkish Van cats are intelligent, playful, curious, and adventurous, making them fun pets for active owners who are home most of the time. They tend to do well with children, but adult supervision might be required when these cats interact with very young kids. These cats can be trained to fetch items and play soccer with their owners. They tend to get along well with children, dogs, and other pets, but they can be challenging to breed.

Turkish Vans need to be groomed regularly to keep their long silky coat in good condition. They shed their long fur during the spring and summer months to help keep cool and will grow a thicker, denser coat for winter. The breed is therefore not suitable for anyone with cat allergies as they are heavy shedders.

Turkish Van cats require owners who are home most of the time. These cats do not cope well when left alone for long periods and may develop depression or stress-related health issues. Their activity levels vary greatly from one cat to the other, and owners should play with them regularly to keep their minds stimulated.

Like every cat breed, these Turkish Van cats have their specific nutritional needs, which need to be met for them to stay healthy. Owners will need to ensure they get enough taurine, niacin, and protein in their diets.


When it comes to breeding, these cats are known for being rather difficult. The females tend to be rather picky when it comes to choosing a partner, and breeders often have trouble producing litters. This is the reason that the breed is so rare and expensive to buy. In Turkey, the cats are considered a regional treasure but are still very rare. Turkish Van breeders worldwide are working to preserve these fantastic cats.


The Turkish Van cats have their own unique style regarding how they interact with their owners. They are known for being extremely affectionate and crave human interaction in a way similar to dogs.

Turkish Vans often follow their owners around. These cats enjoy playing fetch or simply cuddling up in the owner’s lap all day long. They also like running and climbing and are curious creatures that often get up to mischief.

Do Turkish Van Cats Swim?

Though it is not known for sure whether Turkish Van cats enjoy swimming or not, these cats are believed to have developed near the Lake Van, which has a very high salt concentration. The cats started to swim in order to catch fish, and the original Van cats ancestors might take to water if given a chance.

Turkish Vans naturally have thick cashmere-like fur, which is waterproof, making them better swimmers than most other breeds of cats. They are often nicknamed ‘the swimming cats’ and are powerful and agile in the water.

Final thoughts

Turkish Vans are beautiful cats with lovely coats. They are fun to be around and are generally affectionate. These cats like water if introduced to a running tap or shallow water from a young age. If you want to introduce your cat to water, ensure your pet is safe at all times. They enjoy water games such as pouncing on floating objects in shallow water.

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