Turkish Van

The Turkish Van Cat looks like a slightly larger version of the Angora, with the same long, silky fur. Its coat is white except for the head and the plumed tail, which are auburn in color. The eyes are often of different colors -- one amber and one blue. Turkish Vans are found in the Lake Van region, in Eastern Turkey, close to the legendary site of Noah's Ark. A local folk-tale tells that when the Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat, and the floods receded, the cats left its protection and made their way down the mountain slopes and into the ancient settlement of Van. As they left the Ark the cats were blessed by Allah and the patch of auburn hair at the front of their bodies is believed to be the place where he touched them.

Turkish Vans were introduced to the West around 1955, when two British photographers visited the Lake Van region and were given two kittens to take back to Britain. Driving through Turkey in the intense summer heat, one of the photographers stopped to cool off in a river and, without prompting, the newly acquired kittens joined her in the water. They subsequently became known to the public as "Swimming Cats." In fact, the cat's coat lacks an undercoat and has a unique cashmere-like texture that makes it water-resistant. Its interest in the water is primarily a response to the intense heat of the Turkish summers.

This breed is adaptable, affectionate, independent, tranquil, sociable, soft-voiced, friendly, intelligent and modestly playful. A 1965 feline dictionary says, "It's the answer for those people who dislike Labradors and are afraid of otters, but who simply must have a furry ornament to enhance the pool."

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