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Turkish Van Cat Facts

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white Turkish van cat with one green eye and one blue eye and blue collar being held by a human

Turkish Van cats are magnificent felines that have an equally memorable personality. While they are a rare breed, if you are lucky enough to meet one, then chances are you won’t forget them anytime soon.


The Turkish Van is an ancient breed, and the exact date of their origin is unknown—though it’s believed they are a few thousand years old. Similar to other cat breeds, a few legends exist around this cat’s origin.

One of these stories states that the Turkish Van sailed aboard the ark with Noah. When the boat reached Mount Ararat, the cats supposedly hopped off the boat and swam until they found dry land. Coincidentally, Mount Ararat is not far from Lake Van, which is the believed location where this breed began.

More likely, this breed did originate around the Lake Van region of Turkey, the extreme weather of the area affecting their unique cashmere coat.

Though they have been around for quite some time, this breed was not introduced to other regions until more recently. Around the 1950s, some Turkish Vans were taken back to Britain, and some breeding efforts followed. It wasn’t for another few decades before this breed found their way to the United States.

Not being overly common, the majority of this breed’s population can still be found in their native lands, but even then, their numbers are not nearly as high when compared to other felines. However, today exports of this breed are pretty rare, so chances are if you want to find a Turkish Van, you may have to travel to Turkey to find one.

white Turkish van cat with a blue eye looking up and to the right


Turkish Vans are genuinely a breed all their own. Both their physical appearance and personality set them aside from most other cat breeds.

Turkish Van Cat Personality

These felines are friendly and loving. They enjoy spending time with their family, and it’s not unusual for them to make a stronger bond with one family member, who they deem as “their person.” These cats can get along with cat-friendly dogs and other cats, though they are often said to prefer the company of another Turkish Van. This breed is not the best choice for people with children, particularly those of a younger age.

If you are sitting on your couch, don’t be surprised if your Turkish Van comes to seek out your attention. These cats love to play all sorts of games, and they can even learn to play fetch. Besides being physically active, these cats also enjoy exercising their mind. Providing various puzzle games or toys that require them to think through a problem can help keep your cat mentally healthy. 

This is a naturally intelligent cat breed that, if bored, will find some way to entertain themselves. However, you may not always approve of what they find to do. For instance, Turkish Vans have an affinity for water, and they adore playing in it or even going for a swim. This means it is not unusual to find them playing in their water dish, the toilet, shower, or sink. Many of these cats have even learned how to turn on faucets at their heart’s desire.

Turkish Vans are also known for their love of jumping on top of the highest spot in a room. That said, these cats are not the most graceful, so you may want to take your valuables off of your top shelves.

While Turkish Vans may seek people out for attention, these cats are not lazy cuddle bugs, and there’s no forcing them to spend time with you. Turkish Vans are not known for being lap cats, and most do not like being picked up or carried around.

Turkish Van Cat Characteristics

There’s no doubt about it—Turkish Vans are stunning. Their coat color pattern, the Van pattern (named after them), is when color is only found on their head and tail, and the rest of their body is white.

On occasion, these cats will have a patch of color between their shoulder blades. This is referred to as the “Mark of Allah” or “the thumbprint of God,” and it represents good luck and that the cat has been blessed. Besides their majority of white coloration, typical colors for their patches include red, brown, blue, cream, black, and tortoiseshell.

These cats can have blue or amber eyes. Turkish Vans can also be odd-eyed, which is when they have one eye of each color 

Turkish Vans are medium to large size cats, weighing anywhere from 10-20 pounds. Females, on average, weigh less than males, but every cat is unique in their body size.

Part of the reason Turkish Vans weigh so much is that they are pretty muscular. With powerful hind legs, these cats can jump to great heights. These felines not only weigh a surprising amount, but they are also rather long. From their head to the tip of their tail, some cats of this breed have measured up to three feet.

The expected Turkish Van cat lifespan is 12-17 years. Although this is the average life expectancy for cats of this breed, a cat’s longevity can be affected by numerous factors, including their diet, exercise regimen, living environment, and whether they have any health problems.

Grooming and Care

Because Turkish Vans have a semi-longhaired, single coat, their grooming needs are not extensive. Typically, they will need to be brushed about once a week, but if you notice that your cat is shedding more than usual, then a few extra brushings won’t hurt. 

Your cat’s teeth should also be brushed multiple times a week. Use a cat-safe toothpaste and toothbrush, and don’t forget to reward your pal afterward. Anywhere from every few weeks to about once a month, your cat’s nails will need to be trimmed. Don’t forget to check and clean your Turkish Van’s ears periodically—never use a cotton swab as this could accidentally hurt their ears.

In order to help your feline friend become acclimated and comfortable with their necessary grooming routines, it can be helpful to start these routines at a young age and always make them a positive experience.

Besides your cat’s grooming routine, another implemental part of your Turkish Van’s daily care is their diet. All felines require a nutritious and age-appropriate food plan. If you are unsure what type or how much food your cat needs, talk with your veterinarian about recommendations. It’s essential that you do not overfeed your cat as this could lead to weight gain or even obesity.

white Turkish van cat with one amber eye and one blue eye resting atop a cat tree

    Common Health Issues

    Turkish Van cats are a relatively healthy cat breed. By looking after and staying on top of your four-legged friend’s basic care needs, there are greater odds that you can keep your cat healthy for their entire life. Although cats of this breed are known to have few health issues, every cat is unique and can still develop some problems. According to our claims data,** the top five issues that affect Turkish Vans include:

    1. Elevated liver enzymes
    2. Respiratory issues
    3. Cancer
    4. Ear infections
    5. Diabetes

    Though these are common problems for this breed, there is no guarantee your cat will develop any or all of these issues.

    As a cat parent, one of the best ways to look after your pal’s health is to take them for their yearly veterinary check-ups. If you have any concerns about changes in your cat’s behavior or health, these appointments are a prime time to discuss your worries with a professional. These annual examinations are additionally vital to your cat’s overall health because they provide a time for your veterinarian to update your cat on any necessary shots or medications and these appointments allow your veterinarian to monitor any new health issues.

    Many cats may at first be hesitant about visiting the veterinarian. To help your Turkish Van be more comfortable, begin these appointments when your cat is young, continue them throughout your cat’s life, and reward your cat afterward (or even during the visit). This can help reassure them that the veterinary office is a safe place.

    Fun Facts

    Turkish Van cats are fun felines to be around. Learn some more interesting facts about this breed.

    • The Turkish Van, Turkish Angora, and Van cat are three separate breeds—careful not to get them mixed up.
    • Turkish Vans used to be called Turkish cats, but their name was later changed to help clear up confusion with the Turkish Angora cat.
    • These cats have an unusual water-repellant coat, which only adds to their love of water.
    • Turkish Vans are slow to mature, and it may take anywhere from three to five years for them to be fully grown.
    • In Turkey, these felines are considered a national treasure, and their breed is being preserved with help from the Turkish College of Agriculture and the Ankara Zoo.

    There are always new and interesting facts to learn about this unique breed, especially because these cats are so rare.

    Name Suggestions

    After choosing your cat, the next important decision is picking a name. To help with that process, here are some cartoon-inspired cat names to match your Turkish Van’s animated personality.

    • Crookshanks
      Harry Potter
    • Diego
      Ice Age
    • Duchess
      The Aristocats
    • Dinah
      Alice in Wonderland
    • Figaro
    • Mochi
      Big Hero 6
    • Rajah
    • Sergeant Tibbs
      101 Dalmatians

    Before bringing your new cat into your home, it may be helpful first to pet-proof your home.

    **Internal Claims Data, 2015-20

    The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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