Friday 28 October 2011

What is a van cat?

1st registered Van cat
The Van cat is a Turkish Van, a breed of purebred cat. The word "Van" refers to the town of Van in the southeast of Turkey which is on the shore of Lake Van.  This is the place from which the Turkish Van originates.

The proximity of the town to the lake resulted in these cats being good swimmers, it is said! The town was in the news recently (late October 2011) because of an earthquake in the region that destroyed parts of Van. On a sad note I would expect that a number of Van cats were killed as well as over 500 people.

The Van cat is semi-longhaired cat with a very particular coat that is unique to this cat breed. The coat is a chalky white except for an inverted "V" shape pattern on the forehead and a colored tail in the same color as the V pattern. The pattern is auburn colored or auburn and black (does that make it a calico cat?). The inverted V is said to symbolize Allah's thumbprint. The coat is designed to cope with harsh conditions. It is waterproof but there is no undercoat making it easier to maintain.

The cat can be all white in Turkey and odd-eye color is not uncommon as the gene that makes the hair white (the piebald or white spotting gene) can also affect the pigmentation in the iris of the eye. The eye color is blue, amber or odd-eyed.

Turkish Van cat - photo copyright Helmi Flick

Purebred cats are obviously selectively bred by breeders but you will see this pattern or a less precise versions of it on stray and semi-feral cats in the Mediterranean region.

The Turkish Van is quite a rare purebred cat even though it has been around for many years in Europe (1955 in the UK) and America.

The Wikipedia authors say this is an all-white cat. This is incorrect. It is not all-white in the cat fancy. Although as mentioned, in Turkey it probably is frequently white. In Turkey it would be a cat that is not necessarily registered with a cat association (i.e. it is purebred but not formally).

Were the Turkish Van and Turkish Angora the same cat before separated by the cat fancy?

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