An athletic, doglike cat breed, the Turkish Van is known for its unusual tendency to play with or even swim in water.
The Turkish Van originated in an area of Turkey characterized by temperature extremes. Adapted for this climate, the Turkish Van cat has feathery tufts between its paw pads and in its ears for protection against the cold and maintains a longer, thicker coat in the winter than it does in the summer.
The Turkish Van’s coat has a cashmere-like texture that provides water resistance. Because there is no undercoat, the fur is not prone to matting, so grooming requirements are minimal.
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:
- Tabby (red, cream, brown, or blue)
- Patched tabby (brown or blue)
- Tortoiseshell (black and red or blue and cream)
Note: These color and pattern combinations, which were developed by breeders outside of Turkey, are recognized by North American and European cat associations. In Turkey, an original variant with an all-white coat called the Van Kedisi is preferred. For those who want to learn more about the complicated and contentious development of the Turkish Van, Sarah Hartwell provides an excellent and detailed history on MessyBeast.com.
The Turkish Van has a muscular, broad-chested body with a short, plumed tail. Paw pads, nose, and ears are a delicate shell pink. They eyes may be amber, blue, or one of each.
An adult unneutered male Turkish Van has an average weight of 12 pounds when fully grown, but neutered males can reach 16-19 pounds. Females weigh 8-12 pounds on average. The Turkish Van is a slow-maturing breed, requiring 3-5 years to reach its full size, though it is capable of procreating much earlier.
Turkish Van Cat Personality
The Turkish Van temperament is quite variable, depending on early socialization, particularly the amount of handling kittens receive. However, most Turkish Van cats are very affectionate and purr more than the average cat. Affection may be shown with head butts and gentle love bites.
Turkish Vans are highly intelligent and quite trainable, and many adapt well to leash walking. They are known for following their owners around like dogs, and many owners believe that their Turkish Vans behave more like dogs than cats overall.
Turkish Vans are among the breeds that tend to get along well with dogs, as long as they have the upper hand in the relationship. They are also good with children and other pets.
Turkish Vans are highly active and inquisitive. Most like to play fetch with their toys, and are just as happy with small paper balls as expensive store-bought items. Many are able to catch thrown toys, often executing perfect somersaults in midair.
Turkish Vans love to climb and perch in high places, such as door tops, wardrobes, and curtain rails. Because they are so energetic, some Turkish Vans can be destructive, knocking plants and knickknacks from shelves and shredding curtains. Most Turkish Vans figure out how to open doors and may make a mess of the contents of cupboards as well. These cats require a lot of playtime and interaction to channel their considerable energies.
Though affectionate, most Turkish Vans prefer not to be picked up or carried around. However, many enjoy riding around on an owner’s shoulders.
Turkish Vans as Swimming Cats
Turkish Vans have a reputation as swimming cats, but interest in water varies from one Van to the next, with some disliking water and others loving to play with dripping faucets and the water in their bowls. Some Turkish Vans will even swim in baths, pools, or lakes, and join their owners in the shower. Because many Turkish Vans love water so much, it is important for their owners to keep toilet lids closed.
Despite their interest in water, not all Turkish Vans like baths. Swimming or playing with water voluntarily and being forcibly washed are very different things.
Turkish Van Cat Health
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.
Adopt a Turkish Van Kitten or Cat
There are few Turkish Van breeders and Turkish Vans remain relatively rare. Expect to pay a good breeder around $800 to $1,500 for a kitten, depending on markings, whether they are pet quality, breeder quality, or show quality, and other factors. There are a couple of breeders listed on the Fanciers Breeder Referral List at the time of this writing.
- Classic Turkish Van Cat Association. (2009). “History,” “Character & Personality,” and “Other Turkish Breeds.” Vantasia.org.
- Hooker, K.L., the Turkish Van Site. (2009). “Characteristics of the Turkish Van”; “Turkish Van Colors, Pattern, and Eye Color”; and “Frequently Asked Questions.” SwimmingCats.com.
- Von Saxe-Coburg, D., Cat Fanciers’ Association. (15 Jun 2009). “Breed Profile: Turkish Van.” CFA.org.