5 Things to Know About Turkish Vans

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 or blue eyes, or sometimes even one of each. By: iStock.com/sahmay

1. Key Characteristics

  • Weight: 10–20 pounds for males, 7–12 pounds for females
  • Life Expectancy: 15 years, on average, but can be as low as 10 years and as high as 17 years

Turkish Vans are large, active cats who love water — so much so that they have been called the “swimming cats.”

They reach full maturity at 3–5 years of age and have long, plumed tails. Their eyes are fascinating; they can be amber, blue or odd-eyed (heterochromia iridum, where each eye is a different color).

The coat is semi-long with no undercoat. It’s also waterproof and soft, repelling dirt and water. The outer coat can shed to grow a shorter coat in hot climates. Alternatively, hair growing between the paw pads protects the feet in colder climates.

Turkish Vans’ coat color is usually white with patches of color on the head and tail. The patches may be any standard color but are usually auburn.

2. Where They Came From

The history of the Turkish Van dates back to the Middle Ages. So, yeah — a while ago.

They lived in isolated mountains in the Eastern Anatolian region, which probably prevented their unique features from changing over time. In the 1950s, English tourists visiting Turkey brought 2 cats back to Great Britain, and the breed continued to flourish.

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.

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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The long coat of Turkish Vans doesn’t mat easily, if at all. By: Wikimedia Commons

3. How Friendly Are They?

Turkish Vans are intelligent, curious, affectionate and active cats. They’re known to follow people from room to room, and they get along with other animals — dogs included.

Sad news for cat cuddlers: Turkish Vans have great personalities, but they usually don’t like to be held for long periods of time. Although they’re affectionate, they prefer to come to you for attention rather than the other way around.

4. Is This the Right Cat for You?

Exercise Needs


MEDIUM: An active cat breed, Turkish Vans love to run; their strong back legs make them great jumpers. They enjoy playing, fetch and can even play in water, but they may be a little clumsy.

Install some cat towers to entertain Turkish Vans, but note that their sometimes rambunctious nature may cause delicate items in the home to be moved or broken.

Grooming Needs


LOW: The coat doesn’t mat and will repel dirt and water, so grooming is minimal — just a weekly brushing is all that’s needed. Since they enjoy water, Turkish Vans typically tolerate bathing very well.

Trim the nails as needed, and clean the ears and teeth regularly.

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Health Problems


LOW: Turkish Van cats are super healthy and don’t have any specific health problems worth noting.

Learn a little more about Turkish Vans here:

5. Where to Adopt One

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, has been researching dog and cat breeds for nearly a decade and has observed the animals up close at dog shows in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has researched and written about pet behaviors and care for many years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, another bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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