|An adult odd-eyed Van cat, 1973|
|Origin||Lake Van area of Turkey|
|Variety status||Not recognised as a formal breed by any major registry.|
|The Van cat is a landrace, not a formal breed.|
|Domestic cat (Felis catus)|
The Van cat (Turkish: Van kedi; Armenian: Վանա կատու Vana katu, Western Armenian pronunciation: Vana gadou; Kurdish: pisîka Wanê) is a distinctive landrace of domestic cat, found mainly in the Lake Van region of eastern Turkey. It is relatively large, has a chalky white coat often with ruddy coloration on the head and hindquarters, and has blue or amber eyes or is odd-eyed (having one eye of each colour).
The naturally occurring Van cat type popularly believed to be the basis of the Turkish Van breed, internationally selectively bred to consistently produce the head-and-tail colouring pattern on the white, as standardised and recognised by many cat fancier organisations. However, one of the breed founders' own writings indicate that none of the original cats used to found the formal breed came from the Lake Van area, but other parts of Turkey. The capitalised and run-together term "Turkish Vankedisi" is confusingly used by some organisations as a name for all-white specimens of the formal Turkish Van breed.
The Van cat has been reported living in the vicinity of the city of Van and the general Lake Van area for centuries. Genetic research has shown that the domestic cat's ancestor, the African wild cat (Felis silvestris lybica), was domesticated about 10,000 years ago in the Near East when tribes transitioned from hunter-gathering to crop farming and settled life. In addition, the white-spotting in domestic cats appeared at the earliest stage of cat domestication, and is one of the points of evidence of early artificial selection. However, this does not necessarily mean that white cats have been in the Van area the entire time.
The cats are notable for their lean, long-legged appearance. Van cats are known for swimming in Lake Van (This may be the source of the popular but possibly false or exaggerated belief that the formal Turkish Van breed is innately more fond of water than the average cat.)
Their most notable genetic characteristic is their almond-shaped eyes that often are mismatched colours. The most valued and valuable members of the type generally have one amber-green eye and one blue eye.
Lushington wrote of them: "Apart from their great capacity for affection and alert intelligence, their outstanding characteristic is their liking for water, not normally regarded as a feline attribute. They not only dabble in water and play with it, but have been known to enter ponds and even horse-troughs for a swim – they soon became famous as the 'swimming cats.'"
The Van cat is a landrace (naturally occurring variety), not a formal breed of cat. They can still be found in east Turkey, near Lake Van, although their numbers have diminished (a 1992 survey found only 92 pure Van cats in their native area).
There is a breeding programme for the all-white variety, the Van Cat Research Centre (a.k.a. the Van Cat House),[clarification needed] established in 1993 at the campus of Yüzüncü Yıl University. However, reports have suggested that the living conditions for the cats held there leaves much to be desired, and the breeding programme seems to be ineffective in reversing the Van cats' declining numbers. As of 2006[update], the center housed about 100 young adults and kittens, and is open to the public for a nominal entrance fee.
In regional culture
Ottoman and modern Turkish
Cat breeder Laura Lushington (co-founder of the "Turkish Van" formal breed, from cats procured from various parts of Turkey), wrote of the local Van cats, "they are much loved and prized by the Turks for their exceptional character and unique colouring."
Turkish folklore has it that the Van cat was aboard Noah's Ark, and that as the flood waters receded, Allah blessed the cat with a ruddy patch of fur on its head when it left the ark, after which it made its way to the city of Van via Mount Ararat. Many Van cats are all-white, however.
At the end of the 19th century, Sultan Abdul Hamid II is said to have owned a Van cat, and having one is still seen as a status symbol: a Prime Minister of Turkey received one as a gift, and an ambassador from Greece put himself on a waiting list to get one. Kittens for the breeding center could be purchased for $282 in 2011, and currently the Turkish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock does not regulate the export of these or any other cats from Turkey.
During the late 1990s, the Van cat emerged as an informal municipal symbol of the city of Van—an enormous statue of a Van cat and her kitten now stands at the entrance to the city. The cat appears in a locally published comic strip, and in the logos of bus companies, shopping centres, and various other Van businesses.
The mascot of the 2010 FIBA World Championship of basketball, hosted by Turkey, was an anthropomorphised Van cat named "Bascat". He had a white coat and odd eyes, one blue and one green, and his head was shaped with design cues from the crescent moon on the Turkish flag.
Armenians often consider the breed to be historically Armenian, as the Lake Van area was inhabited by Armenians since antiquity until their extermination during the genocide of 1915. Some authors associate the cat with the Armenian people that have historically lived in the Lake Van area, who have been said to have "revered" the cat. Post-impressionist and surrealist artist Arshile Gorky, a later immigrant to the United States, sculpted Van cats in the early 1910s. The Armenian inhabitants of Van loved the Van cat. Armenian writer Vrtanes Papazian wrote a short novel where the cat has been used as a symbol of the Armenian liberation movement. Armenian authors Raffi, Axel Bakunts, and Paruyr Sevak have mentioned the Van cat in their works.
The Van region has a large Kurdish population, and the Van cat has been referred to as the "Kurdish cat" or "Kurdish Van cat", and made a symbol of Kurdistan in Kurdish nationalist circles. Some media sources reported that Turkish soldiers poisoned about 200 Van cats. These claims ultimately seem to have come from an animal rescue group called SOS Van Cats Rescue Action, a spokesperson for which stated: "The cats are Kurdish, and the Turkish authorities are unable to digest this." Van University's Van cat breeding project responded: "That the Turkish army would be able to find 200 Van cats, let alone poison them, is utter nonsense".
- "Turkish Van Cats". Retrieved 8 April 2014. This is a tertiary source that clearly includes information from other sources but does not name them. Like many sources, this one conflates the Turkish Van formal breed, which is actually British, with the local Van cat landrace of Turkey, and so must be interpreted with caution.
- "Van Kedisi". "VanKedisi.net: En Güzel Kedilerin Sitesi (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 12 February 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013. Machine translation into English.
- //newspot.byegm.gov.tr/2006/february/ns11.htm[dead link]
- Lushington, Laura (1963). "The Swimming Cats". Animals 1 (17): 24–27.
- Pond, Grace, ed. (1972). The Complete Cat Encyclopedia. London: Walter Parrish Intl. p. 114. ISBN 0-517-50140-6. This is a tertiary source that clearly includes information from other sources but does not name them.
- "Recognized and Admitted Breeds in the WCF". WCF-Online.de. Essen, Germany: World Cat Federation. 2012. Archived from the original on 13 February 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- Rob Stein, Washington Post (23 March 2008). "Using DNA to track the origins of cats". Sfgate.com. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
- Lipinski, Monika J.; Froenicke, Lutz; Baysac, Kathleen C.; Billings, Nicholas C.; Leutenegger, Christian M.; Levy, Alon M.; Longeri, Maria; Niini, Tirri; Ozpinar, Haydar (2008). "The ascent of cat breeds: Genetic evaluations of breeds and worldwide random-bred populations". Genomics 91 (1): 12–21. doi:10.1016/j.ygeno.2007.10.009. PMC 2267438. PMID 18060738.
- Vinogradov, AE (1994). "Locally Associated Alleles of Cat Coat Genes". The Journal of Heredity 85 (2): 86–91. PMID 8182285.
- "Eastern Anatolia: Van". Travel Guide to Turkey. Guide Martine. 2012. Archived from the original on 13 February 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2013.[unreliable source?]
- Hart, Robert (2010). Hart's Original Petpourri, Vol. 1. Langdon Street Pr. p. 4. ISBN 9781934938621. Hart cites a Cat Fancy magazine article as his source.
- Wright, Michael; Walters, Sally (1980). The Book of the Cat (1st ed.). London: Pan. pp. 50–52. ISBN 0-330-26153-3.
- "The Turkish Van The Swimming Cat". Cats and Kittens Magazine. Pet Pubg. 2000. Archived from the original on 4 December 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
- Van City Guide. Ankara. 2005.[clarification needed]
- "Van City Guide", Ankara, 2005.
- "Yönetmelik: Yerli Evcil Hayvan Genetik Kaynaklarinin Kullanilmasi Ve, Yurt Dişina Çikarilmasi Hakkinda Yönetmelik [Regulation: The Use of Genetic Resources and Domestic Pets, Regulation on the Removal of Abroad]". Resmî Gazete [Official Gazette], Issue 28418 (in Turkish). Ankara, Turkey: Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock. 21 September 2012. Archived from the original on 12 February 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013. Machine translation into English.
- "2010 FIBA World Championship Event Guide: Mascot". FIBA. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- "Van Cats". TACentral.com. Tacentral.com. 2011. Armenia Travel, History, Archeology & Ecology | TourArmenia | Travel Guide to Armenia. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
- Gebhardt, Richard H. (1995). Complete Cat Book: Expert Advice on Every Phase of Cat Ownership. p. 159.
- Conway, Deanna J. (1998). The Mysterious, Magickal Cat. Llewellyn Publications. p. 190. ISBN 978-1567181807. "The Turkish Van (pronounced von) gets its name from Lake Van in western Turkey, but is actually an Armenian cat. Armenian people settled in the Lake Van region and revered this breed of cat." Like many, this source incorrectly equates the modern Turkish Van breed, which is actually British, with the Van cat landrace.
- Mooradian, Karlen (1980). The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky. Gilgamesh Pr. pp. 84, 87.
- Waldman, Diane (1981). Arshile Gorky, 1904–1948: A Retrospective. H.N. Abrams Books. p. 255.
- Papazyan, Vrtanes (1988). Vana Katu. Yerevan: Arevik Publ.
- Raffi (1884). Կայծեր [Sparks] Book II (in Armenian). "Գալով այդ քաղաքը, թեև ծիծաղելի է, բայց պետք է խոստովանվիմ, որ իմ ամենամեծ բաղձանքներից մեկն այն էր, որ տեսնեմ Վանա հռչակավոր կատուները: Approximate translation: "Although it is funny, I have to admit that coming to the city one of my greatest expectations was seeing the famous Van cat.""
- Bakunts, Axel (1927). Մթնաձոր [The Dark Valley] (in Armenian). "Ներս մտավ պառավը, Վանա կապույտ փիսոն հետևից: Approximate translation: "The old woman came in after the Van cat.""
- Sevak, Paruyr (1959). Անլռելի զանգակատուն [The Unsilenced Bell Tower] (in Armenian). "Լող էին տալիս հազա՜ր ու հազա՜ր Վանա կատուներ՝ Վառվող աչքերով. Approximate translation: "Thousands of Van cats were swimming with burning eyes""
- Grossbongardt, Annette and Zand, Bernhard, "Kurdische Katzen", Der Spiegel 44/2007
- Sor, Dara (11 January 2006). "Kurdish National Pride: Pişika Wanê - The Van Cat". Land of the Sun: Kurdistan. BlogSpot. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
- Zaman, Amberin (6 October 2000). "German Group Pounces on Kurdish Cat 'Eradication'". Los Angeles Times.
- Karen Hooker (14 October 2000). "Turkish Van articles #3". Swimmingcats.com. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Van Kedisi.|
- "Van Cat" page at the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism website.
- VanCat.org, an independent website about Van cats
- Study about the Van Kedisi Van Kedisi, The Angora Cat Association, Turkey.
- Everything you wanted to know about Van Kedisi