The Turkish Van is a breed of domestic cat with a very long history that goes back hundreds of years. This cat is a moggie in Turkey and a purebred, pedigree cat in Europe and North America. People in America who know cats well like to call this cat “the swimming cat”. This is because people also say that it comes from the area around Lake Van in Turkey. It is said that they swim in Lake Van. This is untrue. In Turkey, this is not a purebred cat but a household cat and a street cat. The Turkish Van does not like swimming any more than any other moggie cat. It is, though, a special and beautiful cat and it has a connection with the Turkish Angora. They may even be the same cat if you go back far enough into the history of both cat breeds.

Turkish Van Cat Facts For Kids. Photos of cats copyright Helmi Flick except for original Turkish Van which is in the public domain. Background picture of Lake Van by Adam Jones, Ph.D. – Global Photo Archive.


This cat has probably been in Turkey for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. However, in Europe, Canada and the United States, the history of the breed started when a couple of Turkish Van cats were brought from Turkey to the United Kingdom (UK) in around 1955. However, this cat may have been in England well before 1955. Kids should understand that the history of the cat breeds is often not clear. There is quite a lot of made-up stuff.

In the 1970s, about 40 years ago, the Turkish Van reached the United States. In the United States and Canada the breed is accepted by the cat associations. This means that it is seen as a true cat breed by the people who are experts on cat breeds. Although, it has to be said that cat associations in different countries have different ideas about how this cat should look. This is wrong because the way the cat looks can be seen in the Turkish Van in Turkey.

In Turkey, where the cat comes from, nothing has really changed for hundreds of years. In Turkey the Turkish Van is a type of domestic house cat that is not a purebred, pedigree cat. Think of a special looking house and stray cat in Turkey that cat breeders in America and England turned into a cat breed.

How The Turkish Van Looks

The most important thing about the Turkish Van is the pattern on the cat’s fur. In Europe, USA and Canada, the pattern is always the same. The long, even fur is basically white with, usually, ginger or ginger and black fur on the cat’s forehead that is in the shape of an upside-down “V”. The body is white and the tail is usually black or ginger colored. If the pattern is ginger and black with a white body the cat would be called a calico cat in the United States and tortoiseshell-and-white in the UK. Other names for the color “ginger” are: orange, red or “auburn”.

The eyes are blue or amber (orange) colored. Sometimes the eyes are a different color. This cat is a medium sized to large cat weighing between 7 and about 19 pounds or 3 to 8.5 kilograms.

Personality  – how the cat behaves

I think it is fair to say that in Turkey the Turkish Van is a normal, friendly moggie cat with a range of characters and behaviors. As a purebred, pedigree cat in American and Europe the people who know this cat well say he or she is “independent minded” This means that he has a mind of his or her own or is “assertive”. I am not sure about this. The Turkish Van is a really nice cat breed. They are probably not lap cats but are friendly and loyal to a person who has earned their friendship. This cat likes a bit of freedom.

People who have a Turkish Van as a cat companion should feel privileged that they are living with a bit of domestic cat history and a special cat.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • This is weird. "kids" are not allowed to have facebook accounts. This is the first time I have seen a facebook add directed at kids.

    • Are you saying the Google adverts on the page sometimes advertise Facebook? I have not seen one of those.

  • Hi Michael,

    Most of pages in internet only teach us the same, repetitive information, a broader perspective is rarely considered. However your articles are very different in a good way :)

    Yes, Van patterned cats are... Anatolian moggies. Van patterned longhaired cat in Turkey - it's the same Angora, it's not about the connection - well, it's the same cat just in other coloring. In Turkey all cats come from same random-bred stock, yet when we talk about pedigree Turkish Van, it's not completely clear is it still for most of part Anatolian moggie or it is slightly changed. We can expect anything from the cat fanciers...

    We often see Van lake is always attached to ''Turkish Van'' breed. In reality, Van Lake connection to patterned cat is the same like Himalayan cat breed's relation to Himalayan mountains... Laura Lushington, a famous Van breed creator, believed that cats with auburn markings on tail and head came from Van Lake, just BEFORE she had seen the region and its cats with her own eyes. It means she got no idea which cats lived in Van (additionally, all her cats came from different cities) yet imagine the absurdity of someone who claims they know about the Van cats, but have never seen them! (The source: “The Swimming Cats of Van” by Laura Lushington in Animals magazine, 1965)

    In Turkey there is only one type of cat no matter the color or fur length. It's Anatolian moggie (Anatolian natural breed, race if you feel it describes them better ...). It's a special cat with a really long history...

    There are many things we don't know about this breed. Our Association is going to publish an article about The Turkish Van in ACA website soon. Maybe it will be useful for our further study of Turkish cats...

    Kind Regards

    • I am so pleased you are around and can find the time to comment because you add really excellent information to the page - thank you. The Cat Fancy likes to create fancy histories and stories about their cats to make them more interesting to people in the West. Personally I find the real, true Anatolian moggies far more interesting and attractive than the glossy, selectively bred show cats in Europe and North America.

      I would love to see a complete change to the cat fancy. One that was centered on the cat and its true history and origins with a focus on health.

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