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Turkish Van at a GlanceTurkish Van Full Body copy

Known as ‘the swimming cat’, the Turkish Van is an ancient breed thought to have originated in eastern Turkey. The breed doesn’t reach full maturity until they are three to five years of age. These active, robust cats enjoy swimming and water games. In addition to being loyal and loving, they are highly intelligent with a mischievous streak. They get along with other pets, including dogs, after making sure the other pets know they are the one in charge. The Turkish Van’s coat does not shed much and is easy to groom with weekly combing. Find out more about this breed and if the Turkish Van is right for you and your family.

  • Temperament: Social, Playful, Intelligent

  • Size: Large-sized cat

  • Colors: White with dark coloring on head and tail and sometimes on the back of the neck (referred to as the "Van pattern"). Their patterns may include rings on the tail, and a “thumbprint” on the shoulder blades. Pure white is also an accepted color.

  • Life Expectancy: 13-17+ years

About the Turkish Van Breed

The Turkish Van is considered a mischievous and cleaver clown-like cat that is entertaining to live with, despite being a handful. Loving and affectionate, they like to follow their favorite person around the house and enjoy being petted but aren’t necessarily fond of being held or cuddled. Most cats flick their tails when they are angry or upset, but the Van’s tail seems to be in constant motion, even when they are in a good mood, which is most of the time.

Activity Level:
Active and energetic, the Van likes to jump and climb to the highest point in the room. They can often be found running, playing in water, and retrieving their toys. They like to play with water and have been known to turn on the water faucet. Highly acrobatic, Vans have been known to catch toys mid-air and roll in somersaults. When not following their family around, they are highly intelligent and good problem-solvers. Challenge their brain and by teaching them tricks and providing puzzle toys that reward with treats. Other favorite toys are big peacock feathers, furlike toys on a string, and small balls that they can chase and fetch. The Van is tough on toys so be prepared to replace them on a regular basis.

The Van is very social and gets along well with families with children and other pets. They require a lot of attention from their families and don’t like to be left alone for long periods of time.

TICA Regions, Clubs & Rescues

Want to connect with fellow cat lovers and those who love the same breed as you?
TICA is a large resource made up of smaller regions and clubs around the world.
Click here to find a club near you and contact information for your regional director and website.

Wherever you are, you’re in TICA’s world!® 


Find a Kitten: Turkish Van TICA Breeders

The TICA website is the only place where you can find TICA member breeders who have signed the TICA Code of Ethics.
Click here to find Turkish Van Kittens.

Turkish Van Breed Head ShotCare

The Turkish Van may look high maintenance, but their single coat is easy to care by combing just once a week. They will need coat care more frequently in winter when their coat is heavier. Regular baths are not necessary.

As with all cats, keep their nails trimmed, ears cleaned and teeth brushed regularly with a vet-approved pet toothpaste and provide a nice tall scratching pole to help their natural scratching instinct.


Turkish Van’s do not have any particular nutritional needs other than good, quality, wet or dry food.

As with all cats, it is important to give your cat fresh, clean water daily. Fresh, clean water is best, so cats don’t hesitate to drink. If you worry about your cat drinking enough water each day, here's a tip from cat behaviorists - place the water bowl at least three feet away from any food. Cats’ noses are sensitive and an overwhelming smell of food may cause them to drink less. Filtered drinking fountains can also be used in place of a water bowl.


The Turkish Van breed is considered an overall healthy breed. All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people are capable of inheriting diseases. It is recommended that their vaccinations and parasite treatments are kept up to date.


This ancient breed has existed in the isolated mountainous area of the Eastern Anatolian region since the Middle Ages and the isolation is thought to have helped preserve its unique features until it was discovered by the West in the mid-1950s. At that time, Laura Lushington and Sonia Halliday were touring Turkey in 1955 photographing people and places of interest to tourists. While there, they encountered some longhaired white cats with auburn (red) markings on the head and tail. They were given two unrelated kittens-a male and a female-who traveled with them. When they stopped near a stream or pond to cool down from the heat, they were amazed to see the kittens paddling around in the water.

On their return to England, they took the two kittens with them and began to promote them as a unique breed. The rarity of the cats in their native homeland means there are few cats available for export but breeders around the world have worked together to preserve the magnificent cats.

TICA granted them championship status to the Turkish Van in June 1979.

Did You Know?

  • The occasional solid white Turkish Van is sometimes known as the Van Kedi.
  • Many Turkish Vans have a small mark between their shoulder blades called “the thumbprint of God” or the “Thumbprint of Allah.” It is considered a sign that the cat is blessed or is thought to be good luck.
  • Vans enjoying swimming, they may even want to join a family member in the bathtub or swimming pool.
  • Historically, they were known to swim in Turkey’s Lake Van.

The Breed Standard

The Turkish Van is a natural breed cat that originated in the rugged and climatically varied region of Lake Van, Turkey. In the Van Region, Turkish Van Cats are traditionally a solid white cat or a white cat that has colored markings of a distinctive pattern known as Van Pattern. Van Pattern restricts color on a white cat to the head and tail. The Vans are solidly built semi longhaired cat with no undercoat and display seasonal variations in coat appearance. The strength and power of these cats is evidenced in a substantial body and legs, well-developed chest, and muscularity. These cats take a full 3 to 5 years to reach full maturity and development; therefore, allowances must be made for age and sex. Despite age and sex, as adults, individuals should convey an overall impression of a well-balanced and well-proportioned appearance in which no feature is exaggerated to foster weakness or extremes. These cats should appear alert healthy, and be well-groomed. Males should be large and imposing, females medium to large and well-balanced. These cats should not be restrained too tightly, but should be handled with a firm and gentle pressure. As they are very intelligent and alert cats, they feel more secure and perform best when allowed to stand on their own on the table (if temperament allows).

Click here to read the full TICA Turkish Van Breed Standard.

Turkish Van Breed

Turkish Van Full BodyAccepted For Championship in TICA in 1979

Photos used courtesy of © Helmi Flick Cat Photography. 

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