The cat known in the United States as the Turkish Van is a rare and ancient breed that
developed in central and southwest Asia which today encompasses the countries of Turkey,
Syria, Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Azerbaijani, and Armenia. "Van" is a common term in
the region that has been given to a number of towns, villages, and lakes, so it is no
surprise that the uniquely patterned cat that is native to the region has been named
"Vancat" by the natives. The center of the Vancat range appears to be the Lake
Van region of eastern Turkey, where it is believed the piebald gene evolved producing the
unique van pattern. Vancats are considered regional treasures in their homeland and
revered by the Turkish and Armenian people alike.
The pattern, produced by the piebald gene, calls for a white, semi-longhaired cat with
colored markings restricted primarily to the head and tail. Other piebald cats that have
been selectively bred for generations to achieve similar markings are said to be
"van-patterned" after the breed which originally wore it.
The Turkish Van is a large, active and intelligent breed. Their coat has a very unique
cashmere-like texture. This unusual coat texture makes the coat water-repellent, which
brings us to another interesting feature of the breed, in their native region they have
been termed "the Swimming Cats" because they are fascinated by water and even
jump in sometimes. This is probably because it was the easiest way to cool off on
sweltering summer days in the high desert areas of eastern Turkey. For this reason as
well, in the spring, the Turkish Van sheds its coat down to a cooler shorthair coat.
The breed was first brought into Europe from the Middle East by returning crusaders, and
has been know by a variety of names over the centuries: white ringtail, Russian longhair,
Van cat and Turkish Cat. A common misconception concerning the breed is that is simply a
color variation of the Turkish Angora. However, the Turkish Van has a long history
witnessed by the art of the Hittites and the folklore of the Van region. In reality, the
Van and the Angora probably had common origin years ago, but the Turkish Angora has been
selectively bred in the US to be a small, delicate and graceful cat, while the Vans are
large, powerful and athletic. They share the same activity level, intelligence and
entertainment value as their smaller compatriots. Although of ancient lineage, the Turkish
Van is a relative newcomer to the United States. They arrived in Florida in 1982, where
accepted for championship in TICA in 1988 and in CFA in 1994. They are still relatively
rare in the US.
The Turkish Van takes three to five years to reach full maturity. They are large, agile
and extremely intelligent and will keep themselves entertained for hours with a toy, ball,
or even a scrap of paper. They are a very rewarding companion in the right home. They love
high perches so it is best to just concede the top of the refrigerator to them. The breed
is a healthy one and their unique coat does not mat. Known as a "wash and wear"
cat, they don't need the blow-drying and primping other breeds require and will keep their
own white coat soft and sparkling. They require little grooming beyond the nightly combing
which can be a quiet and enjoyable time for cat and owner. For more
information on the Van personality, check here.
Pricing on Turkish Vans vary according to each kitten's color, sex, age, pedigree,
markings and availability. Many breeders release kittens to new homes locally after twelve
weeks of age. At the age of sixteen weeks, kittens have had basic inoculations and also
conform to minimum age requirements for showing and for transport by air. If the breeder
in your area does not have a kitten with the desired color, sex or age, they will be happy
to refer you to other breeders. There are often older cats, retired from breeding, which
need homes as well, often at a reduced price, so please consider taking an older cat into
your heart and home.
For more information on Turkish
Vans, stop in at our Frequently Asked Questions page.