As we know, cats come in all shapes and sizes and their behaviors can be as induvial and unique as their appearance. One beautiful, yet often overlooked, breed is the Van Cat, which originates from Turkey and has a rather striking appearance. Most notable about this furry feline’s looks is its white coat and distinctive colored pattern on its head and tail. This pattern, amongst several other aspects of its appearance, are unique and make this gorgeous kitty desirable to many cat enthusiasts. The breed also has an ancient and interesting history which potentially dates back 5 millennia! Despite its long history, the Van Cat is rarely domesticated and has only recently been recognized by Cat Associations.
If you’re looking for some top facts about this wonderful breed or if you’re searching for tips and tricks about how to look after the Van Cat, you’re in the right place! We’re going to cover some of the most important aspects of this breed’s information, including its history, characteristics and essential cat-care. Let’s get started!
History of the Van Cat
The Van Cat is believed to have originated around 5,000 years ago in the Lake Van region of Eastern Turkey and is perhaps one of the oldest cat breeds in the world. Archeologists have found many works of art such as carvings, drawings, jewelry and ornaments from this area which are adorned with depictions of cats matching the appearance of the Van Cat and date back roughly 5,000 years. This region of Turkey faces contrasting climates during the winter and summer months and, since Van Cats grow a thick, fluffy coat during winter and shed during summer, this strengthens the belief that the beautiful breed originated there. The breed is widely believed to have been brought to Europe by Crusaders during the 11th and 13th Centuries. Due to its long history, the Van Cat can be spotted all over the world and has had many different names including the Turkish Van, Eastern Cat, Russian Longhair and Ringtail Cat. While these are often used as alternative names for the Van Cat, many people believe these are in fact separate breeds which originate from the Van Cat.
Although the breed is believed to be the base or parental breed to the Turkish Van, it is slightly different in appearance and has developed naturally, without human intervention. Because of its original development through natural selection, the Van Cat wasn’t recognized by any major breed registries until 1969 when The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy gave it pedigree status. This recognition was from the work of Laura Lushington, a British photographer who was gifted a Van Cat while working in Turkey in 1955 and bred three purebred generations to help ensure the breed standard was maintained.
The Van Cat only made its way to the United States sometime around the 1970s/1980s. It was carefully bred by only a few individuals, as it is today, in order to maintain the breed standard. In 1985 and 1988 the Van Cat was recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association and The International Cat Association, respectively.
While the breed is recognized in countries all over the world, it is predominantly found in its home region in Turkey as it is widely considered as a national treasure there. However, even in Turkey the breed is more often found in the wild than as a domesticated pet.
Quick Facts About the Van Cat
The Van Cat is a beautiful breed with so many fascinating facts stemming from its long history and its presence all over the world. We’ll try our best to cover all of these wonderful facts throughout this article. The list below is some of the top facts you might want to know about the Van Cat – from height, size and weight to coat color and length, these are some of the most important things to know about this beautiful breed!
- The Van Cat gets its name from the colored patches on its coat called the ‘van’ pattern. This pattern consists of a white coat with dark patches on the top of the head and on the tail, occasionally with a colored patch on the back, in between the shoulder blades.
- An incredibly interesting and unique feature of this breed’s appearance is its unique eye color. The Van Cat often has two differently colored eyes. While these can vary in shade and hue, the most common colors are blue, green or amber and appear in any combination. However, odd eye color isn’t always a desirable feature, particularly to Western pet owners, so Van Cats are often selectively bred to ensure they have matching eye color.
- The Van Cat typically loves swimming! The old saying that cat’s hate water couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to this water-loving feline. Since the breed has a single coat (no undercoat) which is thick and fluffy, yet silky too, it is naturally water-resistant which makes it ideal for swimming.
- This fashionable feline changes its coat with the seasons! During the winter, the Van Cat’s coat is medium-long and thick but during the summer it sheds this coat, leaving behind a light and short coat. The coat is soft and fluffy during adulthood but short during childhood, giving the impression that the cat is slim and shorthaired before maturing. This maturing process typically takes 3 to 5 years and results in a larger, fluffier and broader appearance.
- The Van Cat’s appearance is broad, muscular and sturdy in adulthood with a relatively long body and tail. This muscular appearance is instantly recognizable and gives the cat a unique, athletic appearance.
- In adulthood, male Van Cats can weigh up to 16lbs while females typically weigh around 13lbs. However, some Van Cats have weighed up to 18lbs!
Things You Should Know
Guessing how your pet might look or behave when they grow up is a difficult task, as any pet parent will agree. However, if you look after your cat carefully and attend to their needs, you can expect to raise a healthy and happy feline friend with barely any problems, or maybe none at all. The section below comprises some of the key areas of cat-care you should research before adopting or purchasing a Van Cat. After all, the key to successfully raising a healthy and happy pet is to research and learn as much as you can about the breed so you’re prepared for anything during pet parenthood.
Health problems can be difficult to notice, diagnose and monitor in cats and, unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to guarantee an animal doesn’t develop a medical condition at some point in its life. However, there are number of animal breeds which are typically unaffected by medical or genetic conditions due to the way they are bred. Specifically, breeds which develop naturally in the wild (through natural selection) develop over time to be strong and healthy and suited to their environment.
Since the Van Cat has developed naturally in the wild, it is robust and can thrive independently in its environment. This means the breed is typically strong and healthy throughout its life with no genetic or general medical problems being expected. However, some Van Cats may be prone to hearing disorders or complete deafness if they are all-white. This medical condition is found in many all-white animals and isn’t limited to this specific breed. Although there isn’t any way to remedy this, deaf cats (or cats with hearing problems) can be looked after perfectly well, albeit with some extra-special care and support. Deaf cats will likely need to be kept indoors to keep them safe and to prevent injury, but they can be looked after and have a happy life, nonetheless. Alternatively, you could ensure your cat will grow up strong and healthy by buying or adopting a cat from a trusted breeder and learning about the parents. This is the best way to ensure your new feline friend is healthy and that they come from a healthy family too.
The Van Cat has similar eating habits and dietary requirements to other cat breeds of a similar weight, size and physical build. However, as this breed is naturally muscular, athletic, and active, they’ll need lots of high-quality animal protein to sustain them, particularly during adolescence as the majority of their growing takes place at this time. This growth period typically occurs between 3 to 5 years so you’ll need to monitor their diet especially carefully during this period. As the breed is naturally broad and muscular, it’s also important to ensure they aren’t gaining too much weight, especially fat. Likewise, the breed should lose weight and become too slim or skinny. Through close observation and decreasing or increasing your cat’s caloric intake respectively, you should be able to maintain their weight. If, after some time and trial and error, your cat still isn’t able to maintain its weight, you should seek professional medical advice as there might be a more serious problem to blame. Take a look at our review of cat food for weight loss for more info.
As we’ve mentioned, Van Cats are naturally physically active and athletic creatures so it’s no surprise that this busy breed will require lots of exercise and stimulating play. Scratching posts, climbing towers, and toys which they can chase are all perfect ideas to keep your crazy kitty occupied and mentally and physically stimulated. In particular, toys for chasing and puzzles with a reward are recommended as they fulfill the animal’s instinctive needs to hunt and work for their food. You can improve their playtime when using chasing toys by offering them treats for successfully ‘hunting and catching’ the toy. For a wider selection of choices, check out our interactive cat toys guide.
Since this breed has a natural fondness for water, it’s important to keep all bathroom doors closed properly to prevent your cat from investigating the toilet bowl too closely or to stop them taking a dip in a running bath without supervision. However, to simulate this, you could supervise your adorable kitten as they play with water from a faucet or in a small bowl. This should enable them to have fun playing with water while keeping them safe.
Check out our guide on the Best Cat Water Fountains for more info.
Despite the Van Cat’s long and fluffy winter coat, they are surprisingly easy to look after due to the soft, silky texture of the coat. This texture prevents matting and means you’ll only need to brush your feline friend once per week until they begin to shed. During this time you might have to increase brushing to a few times per week, which is still a lot less than some other long-haired breeds require. For more options head over to our guide on cat brushes.
Other essential aspects of cat-care involve ear and eye cleaning and teeth brushing. These should be done regularly (at least once per week) to ensure your cat stays clean and will reduce the risk of medical problems. You might also need to trim your Van Cat’s nails when they get too long for their own good, although this can be assisted by a scratching post which helps to keep the nails trimmed and blunt. Find out more about cat nail clippers here.
As you might expect, the Van Cat is highly active and energetic, most likely due to its wild origins where it had to hunt prey and fight for survival. In fact, many Van Cats still live in the wild, particularly in their natural habitat in Turkey. This breed (domesticated or wild) loves to stay busy by running around, jumping on furnishings or other scalable objects, climbing surfaces and watching people or things from a high vantage point. This is widely believed to be a result of their natural instincts to monitor prey from above, much like lions do in the wild too. So long as the breed stays physically active and receives an appropriate diet, you can be sure your Van Cat will be happy and healthy.
While Van Cats aren’t typically as affectionate as other cat breeds, they like attention from one or two members of their family. So, if you look after one, you might expect to find them following you around and seeking attention by loudly meowing or purring. A quick play session or petting should usually be enough to satisfy your cat’s needs in this situation. The Van Cat is also typically protective of its favorite owners and for this reason they might not be suited to some families. However, they might just be perfect for single or married pet parents looking for a feline companion.
- Turkish Van – International Cat Care