Turkish Van Breed Profile

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  • At a glance

    • Lifespan: 12-14 years
    • Eyes: Blue, amber or odd
    • Energy: Medium to high
    • Temperament: Playful, outgoing, curious, loving
    • Weight: Males 6 – 7 kg (13.2 – 15.4 lbs),
      females 5.5 – 6  kg (12.1 – 13.2 lbs)
    • Colours: White with red, black or blue
    • Grooming: Daily
    • Cost: $1,000-$1,500


    Also known as the swimming cat, the Turkish Van (pronounced varn) is a natural breed occurring in the mountainous region of Lake Van in Turkey.

    During a photography holiday in Turkey in 1955, British women Laura Lushington and Sonia Halliday observed longhaired white cats with ginger on the head and tail. Laura and Sonia were given a pair of Van kittens which they brought back to England. When mated these cats bred true, producing offspring with the same colours and markings as the parents. They went on to acquire two more cats from Turkey to increase their breeding programme.

    The breed was recognised in Britain by the GCCF 1969 and received official recognition from the FIFe in Europe in 1971. The CFA awarded them Championship status in 1994.


    Turkish Van

    The Turkish van is a large and muscular breed of cat. The legs are of average length with round paws. The tail is in good proportion to the body.

    The head is triangular, with round eyes, ears are set quite close together and pricked up. The nose is long, with a slight dip. Eye colour can be amber, blue or one of each.

    The body is mostly white with a coat that is semi-longhair; it doesn’t have the woolly undercoat most cat breeds have.

    Turkish Vans don’t reach full maturity until they are 3 – 4 years of age.


    The Turkish van carries the piebald gene and the coat is primarily white with colouration limited to the head and tail. It comes in the following colours: white and red or cream; white and black; white and blue.

    The standard requires that the cat has no more than 20% colouring of the entire body.


    The Turkish Van is an extremely active cat who has a great love of heights. They are very dog-like and happy to follow their owners around the house; however, it is on their terms. Turkish Vans can sometimes form an attachment to a particular member of the family.

    They are most well known for their love of water. Many owners have watched their Turkish Van jump into a pond while chasing a bird, or happily sit outside in the rain. They are fascinated by dripping taps and don’t even bother trying to discipline a Turkish Van with a spray gun; he will think it’s a great game.


    Brush the coat daily to keep it mat-free.


    12-14 years.


    • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

      Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio