Cat Breed Profile: Turkish Van

Turkish Vans are often called “swimming cats” because they love to play in water. These large cats are active and fun, but they can also be a bit clumsy.

Turkish Van cats can have amber, blue or different colored eyes. By: Tambako the Jaguar
Turkish Van cats can have amber, blue or different colored eyes. By: Tambako the Jaguar


Turkish Van

Physical Description

Turkish Vans are large, active cats who love water, so much so that they have been called the “swimming cats.” They are slow to mature, reaching full maturity at 3 to 5 years of age. They have long, plumed tails, and their eyes can be amber, blue or odd-eyed (heterochromia iridum, in which each eye is a different color). The odd-eyed coloration is believed to be a trait of the original cats and is preferred.

The coat is semi-long with no undercoat. The coat is waterproof and soft, repelling dirt and water. The outer coat can be shed in order to grow a shorter coat in hot climates. Alternatively, hair can be grown between the paw pads to protect the feet in cold climates.

Coat color is usually white with patches of color on the head and tail. The patches can be any standard color but are usually auburn. All-white Turkish Vans with no color patches are referred to as “Van Kedi.”

Male Turkish Vans weigh between 10 and 20 pounds. Females are slightly smaller at 7 to 12 pounds. The life expectancy of the breed averages 15 years but can be as low as 10 years and as high as 17 years or more.


The history of the Turkish Van dates back to the Middle Ages. They lived in isolated mountains in the Eastern Anatolian region, which probably prevented their unique features from being changed. They were discovered in the 1950s in Turkey by tourists Laura Lushington and Sonia Halliday.

The two tourists returned to England with one male and one female kitten in 1955. The cats were named Turkish Vans to avoid confusion with the Turkish Angora cat breed. The cats are considered rare treasures in their area of origin and can be difficult to obtain for importation.

Many towns in Turkey are referred to as “vans” and includes a lake called Lake Van, areas that likely influenced the name of the breed. The International Cat Association recognized the breed and awarded it championship status in 1979. The first Turkish Vans appeared in the United States of America in 1982.

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Turkish Van cats are companion pets and may participate in conformation (cat shows).


Turkish Vans are intelligent, curious, affectionate and active cats. They have been known to follow people from room to room and get along with other animals, dogs included. They usually don’t like to be held or cuddled for long periods of time; although they are affectionate, they prefer to do so on their own terms.

Exercise Needs

Being an active cat breed, Turkish Vans love to run and are great jumpers because of their strong back legs. They enjoy playing, fetch and will even play in water. Cat towers are recommended to entertain the breed, although their sometimes rambunctious nature may cause delicate items in the home to be moved or broken.

This video shows a curious Turkish Van cat purring in a pool:

Grooming Requirements

The coat does not mat and will repel dirt and water, so grooming is minimal with just a weekly brushing. Since they enjoy water, Turkish Vans typically tolerate bathing very well. The nails should be trimmed as needed, and the ears and teeth should be cleaned regularly.

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Common Health Problems

Turkish Van cats are healthy and do not have any specific health problems worth noting.

Is the Turkish Van the Right Cat for You?

Turkish Vans are busy cats. They love to run and jump and can be clumsy, so a house filled with small antiques could end up messy. They have great personalities and get along with other pets. They have been known to follow people around like a dog and enjoy playing in water.

Although they are affectionate cats, Turkish Vans prefer to show affection on their own terms. They are more likely to curl up to sleep next to you than endure being held or cuddled for long periods of time. Because of the single, waterproof coat, grooming is minimal for this breed. If you are looking for a playful cat who can live with dogs and won’t shy away from water, consider getting a Turkish Van as your next pet.

Adopt, Don’t Buy

Turkish Vans are rare, and finding one can be difficult. Check with local rescues and shelters before contacting a breeder. If you do contact a breeder, ask to meet the cat’s parents and view the breeder’s home or facility to ensure all cats are receiving proper care.

Additional Resources

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, is an author, poet and pet lover from Louisiana. She is the author of an award-nominated book, One Unforgettable Journey, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. She was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. She is also employed as chief operating officer for a large mental health practice in Louisiana. Kristine has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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