Turkish Van Cat Breed

This cat breed actually loves water, even occasionally going out for a swim.
By: PawCulture Editors
Turkish Van Cat Breed

About the Turkish Van Cat Breed

The Turkish Van is as energetic as it is old. However, it is the Turkish Van’s coat and coloring which are the highlight of this cat breed.

Turkish Van Physical Characteristics


The Turkish Van is always pure white as the base color — covering the body from the neck to the tail — with a variety of color markings on the face and tail. The most common color combinations are red, cream, black, blue, tortoiseshell, calico, brown tabby, or silver and smoke.


The Turkish Van’s coat is medium to long in length with a silky texture; it is not prone to matting.

Turkish Van Personality and Temperament

Activity Level



The Turkish Van enjoys playing and is social with other animals and people. It also loves water, even occasionally going out for a swim.

Turkish Van Care

Special Requirements

The Turkish Van is a good self-grooming cat, though it will require a bath and brush about once a week.

Turkish Van Health

The Turkish Van is no more prone to a condition than any other cat breed.

Turkish Van History and Background

This cat breed has lived in the Lake Van region of Turkey (and the areas bordering it) for centuries, hence its name. It’s uncertain when the Van made this region their home, but ornaments, drawings, carvings, and jewelry, from at least 5000 years ago, have been found during archaeological digs around the City of Van and its surrounding regions, all bearing the likeness of a semi-longhaired cat with a ring around its tail, much like the Van.

The length of time it has spent in the region might also be determined by how well it has adapted to the seasonal climates of the Eastern Turkey area, where Lake Van is located. Remote, mountainous, and rugged, it sits more than 5,600 feet above sea level, with long, frigid winters, and comparatively hot summers.

The Van cat has physically adapted by growing its hair in thick and full for the winter, and then shedding its semi-long hair for the summer, appearing as a short-haired cat. Presumably, it adapted this trait so that it could swim to cool off.

It is believed the Van came to Europe between 1095 and 1272 A.D. Originally brought by soldiers returning from the Crusades, it was transported throughout the Eastern continents by invaders, traders, and explorers. Over the years, the Van cats have been called by a variety of names, including Eastern Cat, Turkish, Ringtail Cat, and Russian Longhair.

In 1955, two British photographers, Laura Lushington and Sonia Halliday, while on assignment in Turkey for the Turkish Ministry of Tourism, were given two unrelated Van cats, which Lushington took home with her and allowed to mate. When the offspring came out identical to their parents – chalk white with dark tail and head markings, she realized that they were pure breed cats, and she set to breeding the Van cat and having it recognized by the British cat fancy organizations. Lushington returned to Turkey to find another pair, with the goal of breeding to the standard “three clear generations.”

She stayed true to her ideal of perfection in the Van line, breeding only within the stock of authentic Turkish Van’s, and refusing to outcross to other breeds, thereby preserving the features the Van breed had carried through hundreds of generations. She gave little thought to the conformation of the Van to the already set standards, insisting that the Van had its own established standard that must be held to.

Her labor was finally rewarded in 1969, when the Turkish Van was given full pedigree status by The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.

The Van began to be imported into America in the 1970s. Beginning in 1983, two Florida breeders, Barbara and Jack Reark, worked hard to popularize this breed, and in 1985, The International Cat Association granted the Turkish Van championship status. In 1988, the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) accepted the breed for registration in the miscellaneous class. The CFA later bestowed provisional status to the Van in 1993, and Championship status in 1994. In that first year, four Turkish Vans attained the grand title.

It is still possible to import a Turkish Van from its homeland, but imports are rare. The Van cat has long been considered a national treasure, and is relatively rare in population.