Turkish Van Cat Breed: The Feisty Feline That Loves To Swim!

Turkish Van Cat Breed: The Feisty Feline That Loves To Swim!
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Can you believe that there's a cat breed that actually enjoys playing with water? The Turkish Van has water-resistant fur and an obsession with just about any water source in the house. Intelligent, curious, and hyper, the playful Turkish Van will win your heart, even when you find it playing in the toilet water!


The Turkish Van is gaining popularity in the United States due to its stunning coat, feisty demeanor, and goofy attitude. Find out why this cat breed has been fascinating societies throughout the world for thousands of years.

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Turkish Van Cat Breed Origin & History

A cat that loves water? How did that even happen?! Some say that Turkish Vans were even on Noah's Ark around 5,000 years ago. When he was busy keeping the animals organized as they reached dry land, he supposedly didn't notice two white cats that had jumped right into the water and swam to shore. These cats decided to journey to Lake Van, about 75 miles away. That's where these water-loving cats resided ever since!


While this is just just a whimsical story, many cat lovers still wonder how this curious cat ended up around Lake Van. Nobody is quite sure how they arrived in Lake Van or where they originally came from, although there is evidence of their existence dating back to 5000 BCE. This makes them one of the oldest cat breeds to ever exist!


Found in areas of Armenia, Syria, Iran, Russia, and Iraq, the Turkish Van is often around hot climates (over 100 degrees), leading many to believe the breed learned to love swimming in Lake Van to cool off and catch herring. Over time, these intriguing residents developed a water-repellant coat.


Gaining Pedigree Status in 1969

It's believed that soldiers returning from the Crusades between 1095 and 1272 AD brought the interesting cat with them back to Europe. But it wasn't until 1955 that people decided to create breed standards and get the Turkish Van recognized by organizations. Turkish Van breeders had to continuously travel to Turkey to get more cats to keep perfecting the breed. The breed finally gained pedigree status by The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in 1969.


The Turkish Van was officially introduced to the United States in 1983. It immediately gained popularity in North America and The International Cat Association granted the breed championship status in 1985, just two years later. The Cat Fanciers' Association registered the Turkish Van in 1988 and was then granted championship status in 1994.


The Turkish Van is accepted by the Fédération Internationale Féline, Cat Aficionado Association of China, and the Australia Cat Federation as well. For now, the Turkish Van remains a pretty rare breed, although interest is starting to grow.



white cay laying on couch



Turkish Van Cat Breed Personality

Living with a Turkish Van means nonstop entertainment. This is one of the more energetic cat breeds and you'll often find them playing with toys and leaping onto any surface in the house. With powerful back legs, you can't really make any table or countertop off-limits to this feisty feline.


Turkish Vans are intelligent cats that can get quite creative when it comes to playtime. They can learn to play fetch and are also known to do some impressive acrobatics to get toys you're dangling just out of reach. Sometimes they'll even bring their toys to the closest source of water and dunk them in!


This is a breed that often loves water. With supervision, most Turkish Vans enjoy doggy paddling in pools and bathtubs. But their fascination with water can sometimes get these curious and clever cats into trouble. They will often find out how to turn on faucets and will sometimes even learn to open toilet lids.


Turkish Vans are friendly cats that love being around their family, but they're not known to be cuddly. Affection is often on their own terms and you'll start to notice that snuggle sessions don't last all that long. Their independent nature doesn't mean they don't get attached to their favorite people. The Turkish Van is a cat that doesn't do well with change, since they will often pick one or two people in their household to latch onto — and they will bond with them forever.



Turkish Van Cat Breed Characteristics (Physical)

The Turkish Van is one of the only cat breeds to have their distinct markings — a fully white body and then some spots of color on their head and tail. Large and agile, this is a well-muscled cat with an innocent and inquisitive face.


Turkish Van Cat Size

This breed can take around three to five years to reach full maturity. But when they do, females will reach seven to 12 pounds and males will get up to 20. This is a solidly built cat with well-proportioned features. Their torso is long and muscular, with a broad chest and a long bush-like tail.



The Turkish Van has very prominent cheekbones and a medium-length nose. Their ears are moderately large with slightly rounded tips. The inside of their ears are noticeably feathered. They have round eyes set at a slant, allowing them to be quite expressive.


Eye Color

Many Turkish Vans have odd-colored eyes, meaning they can be two different colors! The Cat Fanciers' Association also allows for amber and blue. Their eye color may fade with age.


Legs & Paws

This breed has long and muscular legs with moderately large feet. Their paws have five toes in the front and just four in the back.



The Turkish Van's coat is described as semi-long. In the summer, their coat will become much shorter while their winter coat is a lot longer and thicker. As they age, their tail will become fluffier and brush-like and their frontal neck ruff will become more pronounced.


Turkish Vans can only come in white, except for the markings on their head and tail, which should be a "symmetrical pattern." The markings can come in a variety of colors and patterns. This includes:


  • Solid colors like red and blue
  • Tabby colors like red tabby and cream tabby
  • Parti-colors like tortoiseshell and brown patched tabby


Turkish Van Cat Breed Care

Did we mention this cat loves water? It's not a requirement that you have a pool or bathtub ready for your Turkish Van to use, but they will always appreciate a water fountain next to their food dish. While most cats prefer running drinking water, Turkish Vans will especially become fixated by this fixture — you might find them staring at it or pawing at it for hours.


And did we mention Turkish Vans love to jump? It's pretty important to make sure there's nothing dangerous to cats on any of your countertops, coffee tables, or tables because your cat will reach that area. Make sure you hide things that are breakable for your own sake. You don't want to find more valuable items in pieces on the floor when you wake up. Provide your Turkish Van with a tall cat tree to encourage them to perch elsewhere when they want to be up high.


RELATED: Cat Exercise: Different Ways to Play With Your Cat


Turkish Van cats have a special coat that doesn't require a lot of care. There's no undercoat to get tangled or matted. Brush them weekly to avoid excessive shedding and hairballs. This will also keep their coat shiny and healthy in appearance. Check your cat's ears for dirt and wax buildup and regularly brush their teeth to avoid tooth decay and bad breath. Trim their nails to make sure they aren't ripping up the furniture.



Health Problems

There are presently no diseases linked to this hearty and healthy cat breed. With regular vet visits and proper care, the Turkish Van often lives to be about 15 years old. One thing to remember is that even though the Turkish Van is a very active cat it's still important that they don't overeat.


While overall healthy, the Turkish Van has been reported to develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is a form of heart disease that leads to part of the organ becoming thicker than usual. This makes it harder for your cat to pump blood effectively. You'll notice them acting more tired and having shortness of breath. They may even get leg swelling. This is a disease that some cats inherit, but it hasn't been proven that the Turkish Van breed is more prone to it than others.




You should check the label of your chosen cat food to find out the recommended daily caloric intake for your cat's size, age, and lifestyle. On the label, you'll also find out more about what makes up the food inside.

Here are some ingredients and nutrients to look out for:


  • Protein: Make sure the first ingredient listed is always a protein source like chicken or salmon
  • Taurine: This is an amino acid that cats need despite not being able to produce it themselves
  • Fat Source
  • Vitamins


Always avoid cat food with a hefty amount of carbohydrates. These are often called "fillers" since cats don't need them at all. Ingredients like corn and wheat hold no nutritional value for your Turkish Van. In fact, these ingredients are often the reason cats are allergic to their food or become overweight. If you're concerned with the number of carbs your cat is getting, try switching to a 50/50 dry and wet food diet.


RELATED: Wet vs Dry Food: Why It Matters & What to Look For



cat laying on side with mouse toy



Children & Other Pets

The Turkish Van isn't as easygoing as some other cat breeds. With a careful and calculated introduction, the Turkish Van will get along with other cats and even dogs. As long as your feline feels they are the boss, they will tolerate other animals in the house. Over time they may even become good playmates since this is an energetic breed that requires more exercise than some cats.


RELATED: How to Introduce Cats: Successful Methods & What Not to Do


Like most cats, this breed thoroughly enjoys some attention from kids. Just keep in mind that this breed will need a bit more supervision around younger children. Turkish Van cats don't tolerate tail pulling and other rough petting and will let people know when they've had enough.



More About This Breed

Even though the Turkish Van was discovered in Turkey, the country didn't officially recognize the breed until the 1980s. Since then, the Turkish van has become a prized pet in the region. They are even preserved by the Turkish College of Agriculture, with most Turkish Vans coming from the area.


It's not only their love of water that sets the Turkish Van apart. Their unique coloration is called "Van markings," a mostly white cat with colored markings on their head and tail. The CFA only allows 15% of the cat's entire body to have markings to be considered a Turkish Van.


This specific feline is a rare breed that often costs around $1,500. If you're looking for an energetic, quirky cat that wows you with its acrobatics and joins you in the pool, the Turkish Van is well worth the price tag. Find out more.

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