A love of water is not the only thing the Turkish Van cat has in common with Olympic swimmers – they also sport long, athletic legs and a zest for life. They are therefore not called the ‘swimming cats of Turkey’ for nothing.
Unlike most other cats, their love of water goes far beyond drinking. The ancestors of the modern Turkish Van lived along Lake Van in Turkey and were known to swim and play in the lake for hours on end.
Today the breed is well established in many countries around the world, where they are coveted as pets as well as show cats.
Their unique coat colours (white with auburn, blue or black facial and tail markings) and their strong-willed personalities have ensured them a dedicated following among cat fanciers.
The large oval eyes of a Turkish Van may come in amber, blue or a combination of both (odd-eyed).
From Turkey to the USA
During the 16th century, the first longhaired cats were taken to Europe as a curiosity (at the time Europeans were only familiar with shorthaired felines). But the history of the breed as we know it today only started in 1955 when two cats were brought to Britain, where they soon gained popularity. Other European countries followed suit, but the breed only received official recognition in the USA in 1982.
Dogs in cat suits
Turkish Vans are not for everyone. They are intelligent, have strong personalities with minds of their own and will often take over their home and owners. They are very people-orientated and love to accompany their owners wherever they may go. They need space, are very playful and energetic and enjoy water (unlike other cats). They are often described as ‘dogs in cat suits’ because of their particular affinity for playing fetch games.
Van colour markings
In the ‘Van’ colour pattern, the cat is chalk white with colour on the tail and head (not below the level of the eyes or beyond the base of the ears). Vans may also have random spots of colour on the shoulders, referred to as ‘the thumbprint of Allah’. Legend has it that the creator blessed the Van cat and everywhere his hand touched (head, tail and shoulders), the flaming marks appeared. The ‘Van’ pattern is not restricted to Turkish Vans, but is also seen in other breeds such as Persians, Ragdolls, Norwegian Forest Cats and Maine Coons.