Turkish Van

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turkish van portrait
Prepare to be enchanted by the aquatic acrobat of the feline world - the Turkish Van! With a love for water that rivals a duck's, these mischievous kitties are expert swimmers and daredevils, earning them the title of 'the swimming cat.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, care, health concerns, history, and more!


HEIGHT8-10 inches
WEIGHT7-18 lbs
LIFESPAN14-17 years
turkish van lying on the floor
Photo: Luis Echeverri Urrea/Getty Images


The Turkish Van stands out with its distinctive appearance. This sturdy medium to large-sized breed typically weighs between 9-18 pounds in males and 7-12 pounds in females, making them a delightfully robust addition to any home.

Their physical features are a testament to their strength and agility, with long, muscular bodies that speak of their capacity for energetic play. The Turkish Van’s muscular legs end in tufted, round paws, a quaint feature that adds to their unique charm.

Their tails, often a defining characteristic, are medium-sized and lush with a brush-like quality. It beautifully balances their overall silhouette while adding a dash of flair to their appearance.

Turkish Vans have broad, wedge-shaped heads that sit atop a sturdy neck. Their ears, set high and close together, cap off their heads, providing an alert and intelligent expression. When you look into their eyes, you’re met with a pair of large, almond-shaped orbs that can be blue, amber, or even odd-eyed (one of each color), each gaze full of curiosity and warmth.

Their expressions are often one of the first things that captivate onlookers. People are drawn in by the cat’s alert, intelligent gaze, and intrigued by the playful curiosity that seems to be a permanent fixture on their expressive faces.

Just as enchanting is the Turkish Van’s coat. Their semi-long hair is cashmere-soft and surprisingly waterproof, a trait that hints at their love of water. The coat’s color predominantly consists of chinchilla white, but their heads and tails often showcase patches of color – red, cream, black, or blue, and various tabby patterns.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Turkish Van’s coat is the ‘Van’ pattern from which the breed takes its name. This pattern refers to the color confined to the head and tail, with the rest of the body remaining white. This unique coat pattern, combined with their other physical characteristics, makes each Turkish Van cat a unique, living piece of art.

turkish van on a table
Photo: Luis Echeverri Urrea/Getty Images


Turkish Van cats are brimming with personality. It’s not just their endearing physical characteristics that make them stand out, but their vivacious temperaments too. For a Turkish Van owner, life is never dull, as these cats are known for their animated behaviors.

Unlike the aloof stereotype often associated with feline companions, Turkish Vans are incredibly social creatures. They have a strong desire for interaction and tend to form deep bonds with their human families.

These are cats that truly enjoy your company, whether they’re following you room to room throughout your home, or contentedly purring on your lap. However, their affectionate nature isn’t confined to their human families alone — they’re known to get along well with other pets too!

Every Turkish Van is an adventurer at heart. They’re inquisitive by nature and love to explore. Whether it’s a new toy, an unfamiliar room, or a mysterious rustle in the bushes outside, their curiosity is bound to be piqued. This desire for exploration often manifests in their love for climbing. High shelves, tall bookcases, or even atop your refrigerator — if it’s high, a Turkish Van will try to conquer it.

Most unique among their traits, perhaps, is their love for water. While most cats shy away from H2O, Turkish Vans are often seen splashing in water dishes, playing with running faucets, or even joining their owners for a swim! This love for water has earned them the nickname “swimming cats.”

Despite their affectionate nature, Turkish Vans are known for their independence. They enjoy having their own time and space, and they’re not overly clingy. This balance of independence and sociability makes them wonderfully compelling companions.

However, this breed isn’t for everyone. Their high energy levels and enthusiasm for exploration can be too much for some pet lovers to handle. They need plenty of stimulation, both physical and mental, to keep them happy and healthy. Interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and plenty of playtime are essential for this energetic breed.

Turkish Vans are also known for their vocalness. They’re not shy about expressing their needs or desires through a variety of meows, chirps, and trills. Whether they’re asking for food, attention, or simply expressing their thoughts about the world around them, Turkish Vans are communicators at heart.

turkish van perching on a table
Photo: platinumportfolio/Pixabay



Turkish Vans, with their gorgeous, semi-long coats, require a bit of grooming to keep them looking neat and tidy. Don’t worry, though! Their coat isn’t prone to matting, making grooming a breeze compared to other long-haired breeds. A weekly brush is generally enough to keep their coat sleek and shiny. And remember, Turkish Vans love water, so bath time might just become playtime!

Exercise and Play

The Turkish Van is a breed brimming with energy. These cats thrive on interactive play to burn off their excess energy and keep boredom at bay. Consider investing in a cat tree or a window perch to satisfy their love for climbing and high places. Laser pointers, feather teasers, and puzzle toys can also keep these curious cats entertained. Remember, a busy cat is a happy cat!

Diet and Nutrition

When it comes to feeding your Turkish Van, quality matters. They do well on high-protein diets that mirror what they would eat in the wild. Wet food is a great choice as it provides both nutrition and hydration, which is especially important for this water-loving breed.

Portion control is crucial to prevent weight gain. Be sure to follow the feeding guidelines on the pet food package or consult with your vet to determine the best feeding routine.

turkish van walking on the roof
Photo: Murat Kahraman/Pexels


Turkish Van cats are generally healthy animals with a respectable life expectancy of 14 to 17 years. However, as with any breed, they are predisposed to certain health issues.

Heart Disease: They’re known to be at risk for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), a condition where the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick.

Obesity: Turkish Vans love to eat. Without proper portion control, they can easily become overweight, leading to a plethora of health problems.

Dental Disease: These cats are prone to periodontal disease, which can cause painful inflammation and tooth loss if left untreated.

Hip Dysplasia: While more common in dogs, hip dysplasia can also occur in cats. This condition can lead to arthritis and lameness in the hind legs.

Deafness: This breed can also be susceptible to deafness, particularly those with a lot of white on their heads, or blue eyes.

Maintaining the health of your Turkish Van requires a proactive approach. A balanced, high-quality diet is paramount. Regular check-ups with the vet can help catch potential issues early, and annual vaccinations are essential to prevent infectious diseases.

Remember, these beautiful creatures are not just pets; they’re family. Keeping them healthy will ensure they’re part of your life for many years to come. Regular grooming, engaging play, and lots of love will also contribute to their overall well-being. After all, your Turkish Van’s health is vital to their happiness, and their happiness, in turn, enriches your life.

turkish van resting on the floor
Photo: Rahime Gül/Pexels


The Turkish Van boasts a rich history that dates back centuries. Originating from the Lake Van region of Turkey, these cats are steeply woven into local folklore, and their charming aura has earned them the title of “swimming cats.”

In the mid-20th century, two British photographers, Laura Lushington and Sonia Halliday, took interest in these bewitching cats during a trip to Turkey. Captivated by their unique coloration and love for water, they brought a pair of them back to England. Their return sparked a surge of popularity for the breed in Europe, leading to the first formal breeding programs.

The journey to recognition by major cat registries, however, was a bit of a catwalk. It was not until 1969 that the breed was officially recognized by the UK’s Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). The story across the pond in the United States is even more fascinating.

The Turkish Van was first officially recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in 1988. Their acceptance into the CFA was a significant milestone, further bolstering their popularity among feline enthusiasts.

The International Cat Association (TICA) followed suit a bit later, recognizing the Turkish Van breed in 1994. This recognition was another feather in the cap for the breed, further entrenching its status among the cat-lover community.

Today, the Turkish Van is much loved for its friendly nature, stunning appearance, and intriguing swimming habits. The journey of this breed, from the rugged landscapes of Lake Van to being recognized by major cat registries worldwide, is a testament to their captivating charm and timeless allure.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines that describes the ideal characteristics, temperament, and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function with soundness essential. Breed standards are devised by breed clubs and recognized by various cat registries worldwide.

These standards provide detailed descriptions of the breed’s physical characteristics such as body shape, size, coat type and color, eye color and shape, ear placement, and tail length.

turkish van looking out of a window
Photo: Mhfotosmile/Getty Images


How can I tell if my cat is a Turkish Van?

To identify a Turkish Van, look for distinct physical features such as a semi-long white coat with auburn or tabby markings on the head and tail, amber or blue almond-shaped eyes, and a muscular, robust body. However, for an official breed determination, consider consulting a certified breed professional or a genetic test.

Is the Turkish Van a large cat breed?

Yes, the Turkish Van is considered a large cat breed. Adult males typically weigh between 10-20 pounds, while females tend to be slightly smaller, weighing around 7-12 pounds.

Why do Turkish Vans like water?

Unlike most cats, Turkish Vans have a unique fascination with water. This love for water is believed to originate from their ancestral roots around Lake Van in Turkey, where swimming was necessary for survival. Today, this trait manifests as a playful interest in water activities.

Are Turkish Vans good with families?

Absolutely! Turkish Vans are known for their affectionate and playful nature, making them an excellent choice for families. They are active and sociable cats who enjoy interactive play and cuddling sessions with their human companions.

How much grooming does a Turkish Van require?

Despite their semi-long coats, Turkish Vans are relatively low-maintenance due to their lack of an undercoat. Regular brushing once or twice a week should suffice to keep their coats healthy and free of mats. During shedding seasons, more frequent grooming might be necessary.

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