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The Turkish Van is a breed of domestic cat that was developed in the UK from cats that had been imported from Turkey. It is noted for its van pattern, where the colour on the cat is restricted to the head and the rest of the cat is white.
In 1955, two women were given some local cats while on a trip to Turkey and decided to bring them back to England to breed them. Laura Lushington and Sonia Halliday brought cats from across Turkey over a number of years including from Hatay Province, Istanbul, Antalya and Burdur between 1955 and 1959.
The breed spread to the US in 1982 and was accepted by the Cat Fancier's Association (CFA) in 1994. However, it remains a very rare breed with only 100 cats born each year in the country. Because cats can still be imported from the Lake Van area, the genetic diversity of the breed is very strong and these are the only cats allowed to breed with the Turkish Van to maintain purity. All cats today have some connection back to the original cats brought to England in the 1950s.
Originally, the cats were known as the Turkish cat in 1969 when the breed was first recognised. By 1979, this had been changed to the Turkish Van to differentiate it from the Angora, the other Turkish cat breed.
The Turkish Van has a semi-longhaired coat with only one of the three types of coat hairs. Normally, a cat has guard hair, awn hair and down hair making up their coat but the Van only has one with no evident undercoat. This means their fur is very soft and feels like rabbit fur or cashmere as well as giving them a very sleek appearance. Despite this, it is a very water repellent coat meaning that bathing these cats can be tricky.
In terms of size, the Van is one of the larger cats and has broad shoulders with a long body and back legs that are slightly longer than the front ones. Male cats can weigh 16 pounds while females are be 12-14 pounds and have large paws. Their muscular structure is strong meaning they are very agile jumpers but can take a long time to mature, as much as three years in total.
Early in their development, the Van could be an aggressive cat but the modern breed is very social and friendly towards people. They bond strongly with their owners and are very active and playful. They will often learn tricks such as fetching a toy. They have retained a fascination with water that may come from their ancestor's lake dwelling location and some will enjoy playing in water.
To be qualified as a pedigree Van, no more than 20% of the cat's coat can be coloured though some random spots are accepted as long as they don't give the appearance of a bicoloured cat. The rest of the cat is white. The traditional colours for the pattern include red, cream, black, blue, tabby patterns in these colours, tortoiseshells and any other colour as long as it is not a result of hybridisation with another breed, such as Siamese point markings.