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Home > Cats > Cat Breeds > Turkish Van Cat Breed: Info, Traits & Pictures

Turkish Van Cat Breed: Info, Traits & Pictures

Turkish van

Turkish Van cats are an ancient breed with quite a history. They originated in modern-day Turkey (hence the name) and are thought to have been around for centuries.

The breed is rugged and large-bodied with a very distinctive color pattern. This “van” pattern refers to bicolor cats with white coats and coloration on the head, tail, and sometimes in patches throughout the body. While other breeds can have van pattern coloring, the Turkish Van is the only breed that only has this coloration.

Breed Overview


10 – 14 inches


7 – 20 pounds


12 – 17 years


White, red, cream black, blue, tortoiseshell

Suitable for:

Families with older children, people who don’t want a lap cat, homes with a lot of space for exploration


Highly intelligent, affectionate, athletic, ungraceful, talkative, attention-seeking

Cats of this breed are known for their high-energy antics, and they are often less than graceful presence. Cats don’t always land on their feet, at least not when they’re a Turkish Van.

This breed is unique from others in that they love water. In fact, it’s such a prevalent part of their personality that they’re often lovingly referred to as “The Swimming Cat.”

Turkish Vans are rare and hard to find, but they make such a great pet that finding a breeder is worth the hassle. Keep reading to find out more about this breed to see if they’ll be a perfect match for your family.

Turkish Van Cat Characteristics

High-energy cat will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy cats require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a cat to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train cats are more willing and skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Cats that are harder to train are usually more stubborn and will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some cat breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every cat will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds' potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some cat breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other animals. More social cats have a tendency to rub up on strangers for scratches, while less social cats shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your cat and expose them to lots of different situations.


Turkish Van Kittens

Turkish Van Cat with Vegetables
Image by: Aldam666, Shutterstock

Turkish Van kittens are surprisingly affordable to adopt, given how rare the breed is. You might need to do a fair bit of searching before finding a Turkish Van breeder near you, though. Ultimately the price of the specific kitten you adopt will come down to its origin, where it was bred, its body proportions, and its coloring.


Temperament & Intelligence of the Turkish Van

Turkish Van cats are highly intelligent and very easy to train. Clicker training is a great way to get your cat excited about performing tricks for you. Training your cat is very mentally stimulating, which is something every Turkish Van loves. Challenge their brain by offering puzzle toys and providing kibble or treats when they teach themselves how to manipulate them.

They have a lot of energy and are quite athletic. They tend to sleep much less than other cat breeds. Their powerful hind legs will propel them onto the highest structure in your home. Don’t confuse their athleticism with gracefulness, however. Turkish Vans can be a little bit clumsy, so you best put your valuables away from the tempting high perches in your home. You should be prepared to provide tall cat trees and scratching posts to keep them engaged and occupied.

Turkish Vans are very social. If you’re out of the house a lot for work or travel, you should consider getting them a companion. It’s not unusual for social breeds to get separation anxiety if they’re left alone for too long. You should also provide plenty of enriching and interactive toys to play with while you’re away.

Though they’re very affectionate and social, they don’t enjoy being held unless it’s on their own terms. They aren’t typically lap cats, but they’ll follow you around and rub up on you to show their affection.

Are These Cats Good for Families? 👪

If you have small children who don’t yet have boundaries with pets, you might want to wait until they’re a bit older before adopting a cat of this breed. They often stand up on their hind legs while playing and can play rather aggressively, which might be too much for smaller kids. They can play nicely with children but keep a close eye to ensure your little ones can read your cat’s body language and know when to back down.

Turkish Van cat standing on a bench
Image by: Vadim Petrakov, Shutterstock

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

One of the best traits of the Turkish Van breed is how adaptable they are. They fare quite well in single-pet homes but can be quick to accept new company provided the introduction is done correctly.

It’s important to choose a companion for your Turkish Van carefully, though. While they can get along with all sorts of different pets, they still need to be in charge. This is truly an Alpha cat breed. If you already have a cat or dog that thinks it rules the household, you might have a hard time introducing the two.


Things to Know When Owning a Turkish Van:

Food & Diet Requirements

The Turkish Vans’ high energy level needs to be met with a high-quality diet to ensure they’re getting all their nutritional needs. It’s important to strike a balance between providing the perfect amount of food and overeating. Since this breed is already large by nature, it’s very important for you not to overfeed them.

There is no specific diet one should follow when feeding your Turkish Van. They usually fare quite well on high-quality commercial cat foods and require the same nutrients as other cat breeds.

They are obligate carnivores, so you need protein in the form of animal meat to survive. Of course, some cats can tolerate some plant-based foods, but their diet needs to be high in protein.

In addition to protein, your Turkish Van will need healthy fats to thrive. This macronutrient provides energy as well as metabolic regulation and transportation of nutrients.

You should tread lightly when it comes to free feeding your Turkish Van. This feeding method allows your cat access to their food at all times. They’ll typically have a self-filling feeder with a receptacle that drops food down as the bowl empties. The problem with free feeding is that it can easily lead to overeating and obesity. Since this breed is so active, you may find that they’re constantly at their bowls eating. You know your pet best, however, so if you think they might fare well on this feeding method, you can give it a shot.

We recommend having set meal times for your Turkish Van as you can closely monitor their food intake. Meal times will also allow you to keep track of how much your pet is eating.

You will need to provide your pet with plenty of fresh drinking water. Cats can be finicky about how and where they drink, so you might need to try a few different bowls before you find one that jives with your Turkish Vans personality. If you find they’re not drinking from their bow, try adding an ice cube or two or buy a fountain with running water. Turkish Vans love moving water because it’s natural to them. They will be less likely to splash around in their water bowl if they’re drinking from a fountain versus a bowl of sitting water, too.

Turkish Van cat
Image by: Gabriele M. Reinhardt, Pixabay

Exercise 🐈

Turkish Vans are very active cats that love to play. As an owner, you’ll need to set aside some time every day to engage in playtime with them. Buy toys that they can ‘fetch’ or wand toys they can jump for.

You should provide plenty of opportunities for climbing for your Turkish Van, too. Invest in tall cat trees or climbing towers for them to scale. They can use this structure for not only exercise but surveying their surroundings, too. The key to matching a quality cat tree with your Turkish Van is stability. This breed is large, so they need a tree that can withstand their size. If there’s one thing a cat can’t stand it’s a wobbly or unsteady cat tree.

Since this breed loves to swim, you might consider providing them with time in the water. Take your cat with you next time you go to your local pond or lake. Do not take them to swim anywhere where there’s moving water like creeks or rivers. Be sure to always keep a close eye on your pet because even the best swimmers can run into problems.

Training 🧶

Turkish Vans are known for their high intelligence level. This trait makes them exceptionally easy to train.

There are many different tricks you can train your cat to do. If you plan on taking your Turkish Van outside to explore, leash training him is an absolute must. The outdoors provides a great amount of enrichment and having him on a leash is the safest way to do so.

They can also excel at performing dog commands. They can learn to sit, stay, and come amongst other verbal commands.

Turkish Vans tend to be very food-motivated so using treats to reward positive behavior is best.

Do not force a training session on your pet. It’s best to keep them short and sweet, as cats tend to have a much shorter attention span than dogs. Plus, if you’ve ever had a cat before, you know that they do things on their own time, when and how they want to do it. Let them decide the length of the training session. Once you notice their attention waning, it’s time to stop.

Be calm and patient during training. Don’t give up if your pet isn’t progressing as quickly as you’d like them to. Cats are very strong-willed and stubborn, but they’ll come around if you make their training sessions short and treat-filled.

Grooming ✂️

Don’t let their high maintenance look fool you. The Turkish Van is rather easy to care for grooming-wise since they don’t have an undercoat. Their single coat has a beautiful silky texture making it very simple to groom. You should expect to brush their coat once a week. They tend to shed only in the springtime when their old coat falls out to make room for their new one.

It’s important to note that cats of this breed are not fully mature until around three to five years of age. Their coat will continue to fill in as they grow and mature.

Their fur is water-resistant so you will rarely, if ever, need to bathe your Turkish Van. Of course, they do love playing in the water, so you might want to offer him a bathtub to play in from time to time.

As with other cat breeds, you’ll need to perform regular nail trims and teeth brushing.

Turkish Van
Image by: Gabriele M. Reinhardt, Pixabay

Health and Conditions 🏥

One of the biggest perks of the Turkish Van is that it is a naturally occurring breed. This means that they’re typically free of genetic and hereditary issues that present themselves in other breeds.

Minor Conditions
  • Obesity
  • Dental problems
Serious Conditions
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
  • Cardiac Disease
  • Diabetes

Serious Conditions

  • Like most cats, the Turkish Van can develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). This commonly diagnosed cardiac disease in cats causes the walls of the cat’s heart to thicken, effectively lowering its ability to work as it should. HCM can develop in certain cat breeds due to genetics. This is not the case with Turkish Vans but that doesn’t mean they can’t develop it anyway.

Minor Conditions

  • Turkish Vans burn a lot of energy as they run around and play. Excessive activity levels can lead to an increase in appetite. Cats that eat too much and don’t burn it off during playtime are at risk of obesity. This is a big problem as a large majority—59.5 percent—of cats in America are overweight.
  • Even though Turkish Vans are extremely active, they can still gain too much weight if you offer too much food. Obese cats are at risk of other serious health conditions like arthritis or diabetes.
  • Since this breed tends to be quite large, some vets may suggest delaying the spaying or neutering process. This is because adjusting their hormone levels too early in their life can affect the way their muscles and bones grow.
  • Turkish Vans can be prone to dental problems. Owners should aim to brush their teeth once a day to help reduce any plaque build-up on their teeth. You may find special food or water additives that can help reduce future dental issues.


Male vs. Female

The only real difference between male and female Turkish Vans is their size. Males are much larger and more muscular than their female counterparts. They can weigh between 10 to 20 pounds, while females weigh around the 7 to 12-pound mark. Personality and character traits will differ depending on the individual cat and not their specific gender.

You may find your male Turkish Van displaying territorial behaviors like spraying or same-sex aggression. These types of behaviors diminish after they’ve been neutered, though, and aren’t breed-specific. Male cats of any breed are more likely to display these behaviors.

turkish van cat
Image Credit: 0804Creative, Shutterstock

3 Little-Known Facts About the Turkish Van Cat

1. The Turkish Van Breed Has Been Around for Centuries.

The Turkish Van was named after Lake Van in the mountains of Turkey, where the breed was first found. It is thought that they existed in this area for centuries before being discovered by Westerners in the mid-1950s. Historical records suggest that the Turkish Vans’ isolation in the mountainous region of central and southwest Asia is part of what has contributed to its long lifespan.

2. Turkish Van Cats Are Sometimes Called “The Swimming Cat.”

As you can probably guess from the nickname, Turkish Vans are known for their love of water. It’s just one of the many traits that make this breed so unique. Their soft coat has water-resistant qualities to it, which is likely a major reason they seem to take to water so well. It’s not unusual for this breed to take a dip in your pool or bathtub. They aren’t picky about what kind of water they’re playing in and will even play in your toilet if you don’t close the lid.

3. Many Turkish Van Cats Have a Marking Called the “Thumbprint of Allah.”

The folklore surrounding Turkish Vans is abundant. Many believe that the breed was aboard Noah’s ark, and that’s how they came to be in the mountainous region of Turkey. The belief is that Allah blessed every animal coming off the ark, and as the Turkish Vans were disembarking, he accidentally touched their shoulders, leaving a mark that’s become known as the Thumbprint of Allah.


Final Thoughts

The Turkish Van is a beautiful and fun cat to welcome into your home. Their high energy levels and love of water ensure there will never again be a dull day in your household.

While their people-oriented nature makes them a great companion, owners must realize that Turkish Vans operate of their own volition. You can’t force your love on them as much as you may want to. It’s important to know that your Turkish Van will become the Alpha in your home if you have other pets.

Since only a handful of kittens are born every year in the United States, finding a breeder with kittens available might be quite a task. You may need to be put on an adoption waitlist for some time before a kitten becomes available. The good news is that the wait will be more than worth it once you are welcoming your new Turkish Van kitten into your arms.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Lea Rae, Shutterstock

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