Van cat

Van Cat

Van cat is a rare and unique cat breed that is widespread in the area of Van Lake. The name comes from there. Van cat is considered endemic breed of the Armenian Highland. These cats are distinguished by their freedom-loving character. The body of the Van cat is elongated, strong, the brain is well developed. They walk like tigers and have wide, developed chest, typical for swimmers. The back narrows towards the tail, which looks like fox tail. The eyes can be either blue or copper. Sometimes one eye can be blue and the other one copper. There is a misconception that the eyes of a real Van cat should be of different colors, but this is not necessary. This breed never has yellow or green eyes.

Van cat

Van cat / Photo: Sputnik Armenia

Coloration of Van cat

Van cats have a thick, water-repellent coat that has a special coloration. The cats are completely white, but there are ginger spots on their head and left side. The bushy tail is colored with ring-shaped patterns. Van cats are great hunters. They hunt mice, lizards, birds, insects, and fish. They eat some fruits, such as melon, watermelon, etc.

Van cat

Van cat / Photo: Sputnik Armenia

Van cats are not afraid of water

Van cats are the only cats in the world that love to swim and are not afraid of water. Since ancient times, they hunted fish in Lake Van, even when it was freezing cold (-35°С). They can measure the temperature of their food with their front paw.

Van cat

Van cat swimming

Newborn kittens have brown eyes. The color begins to change only on the 25th day. Usually cats of this breed have one or two ginger spots between their ears. Van cats with different eye colors have two ginger spots. The mating season lasts from February to March. Van cat needs about 20-30 days to get used to the new environment.

Van cat

Van cat

The worship of cats in Armenia

Back in the times of the Urartu Kingdom, when mice were found in barns, people brought Van cats there to get rid of rodents. Because of this, cats gradually became pets. Van cats were so good at hunting that over time they became a cult. Some objects found during archaeological excavations are also evidence of the antiquity of this breed. For example, large white cats with tails with round-shaped patterns were depicted on jewelry from the times of the Urartu Kingdom.

Van cat

Van cat

Van cat as a national treasure

Years after the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish people declared Van cat a legacy of their ancestors and a national treasure. In 1987, the Van Cat Research Center was established in Turkey, to breed them. However, in reality Turkish breeders were engaged in the exclusion of the breed. They crossed Van cats with Angora cats. This can completely change the breed of Van cats and put it in the danger of extinction.

Now Van cats live and breed in different countries, including Armenia.

There is an interesting legend about the ginger spots on the head and tail of Van cats. According to this legend, when the cat swam in Van Lake, only these body parts remained above the water, and the sun scorched them.

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