* VAN KEDISI
Turks love cats, but if we are talking which cat they find most beautiful, don’t be surprised when majority will point out an odd-eyed white. These cats have a name The Van cat/Van kedisi. Turks think it is a breed and the symbol of Van city.
For foreigners who still believe that ‘’unique coloring’’ 1 of Turkish Van is prized by Turks- forget it! Any cat with a color is referred as moggie/street cat.
Any folk can describe an ideal Van cat which is always solid white and preferably odd-eyed. Both blue and amber eyes are not very special, so usually these types of cats will be excluded and referred as Ankara kedisi (The Angora).
So why Turks love the white cats most? Foreigner sources have some (baseless) explanations.
First it is Muezza, a popular and beautiful legend about Prophet Mohammad’s cat 2. Muezza was sleeping on one of the sleeves which Mohamed wanted to wear for pray. He didn’t want to disturb his cat, so he cut off the sleeve. Although this legend doesn’t appear in any religious books (the Quran or the Hadith) some people strongly believe Mohamed had a white odd-eyed Angora or Van cat, while others think it was an Abyssinian, a tabby etc. So everyone is free to use this story the way they desire.
We found another very contagious explanation, why Turks are crazy about the odd-eyed cats:
‘’By Turkish people's superstition Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, shall be reborn one day in shape of a white Turkish Angora with one blue and one golden eye. That's the reason, why cats with odd eyes are especially loved in Turkey’’ 3
It seems nobody believes this story, but it is gets repeated in every page about the Angora cats.
Another: ‘Turkey’s Reader's Digest reportedly claimed that Atatürk said "his successor would be bitten on the ankle by an odd-eyed white cat’’. 4
We don’t buy this nonsense either. Turkey has never had a magazine like’ ’Reader’s Digest’’. The source of this claim is nonexistent page Pet Publishing Inc. Atatürk was a very logical, serious and not superstitious person; the strange claim attributed to him is no doubts false. ‘’bitten on ankle by odd eyed cat’’ is a metaphor. It wants to say that Atatürk thought that no other leader will ever be able to achieve greatness like he did. While we may agree with notion that he has been the best leader, on the other hand’ Atatürk was a leader who wanted his accomplishments to not only survive him but hoped others would be able to surpass him’’ 5
We can come up with simple, less bizarre explanations. The reason why white cats were chosen as a breed probably lies in their rarity, compared with general cat population; many white cats will be odd-eyed, a trait that is not often seen in colored cats. White color could be desirable because of its association with purity and innocence or cleanness? Whatever the reason, white cats with different colored eyes are still seen more special than other Turkish cats. But it’s not necessary a good thing.
Talking about Van city and Van cats, it can be a very political matter. Both Armenians and Kurdish claim that this cat is part of their culture and belongs to them. You will see names like ‘’Kurdish Van cat’’, ‘’Armenian Van cat’’.
If you are stupid enough to pay $57 for Wikipedia propaganda
which you can read for free anyway, you should get this book!
What these people are doing, they attribute their nationalistic feelings to cats which could not care less what name is given to them.
Once you start to talk about Van cats, you can expect Armenian or Kurdish nationalistic propaganda which goes hand in hand with anything related to Van region.
In 2000, some news sources including Lost Angeles times56, published highly questionable article claiming that ''Turkish soldiers poisoned 200 Van cats''. This very obvious propaganda came from Kurdish separatist groups and probably have ties with terrorist organization PKK and its lobbies in Europe. The story was completely made up, where non-existant German group ''SOS Van Cats Rescue Action'' declared:
''"The Turkish state wants to wipe out everything that symbolizes Kurdish culture," said Florian Cremer, a spokesperson for the group (...) "The cats are Kurdish, and the Turkish authorities are unable to digest this."''
Van University who breeds white and odd- eyed ''Van'' cats responded: ''It is utter nonsense''.
However this nonsense still circulates the internet and is rarely questioned. The Turkish Van breeders Karen Hooker and Deborah Hayes also jumped on the bandwagon 57 58 publishing the same type of misinformation in their websites.
A book with name ''Van Cat naming Contraversy''59, consisting poorly written Wikipedia articles was published by company named ''VDM publishing's''. This company is known for republishing free Wikipedia content and then selling it as costly books!60
A reminder: Turkey suffered from PKK terrorism for almost thirty years. The PKK lobby and its propaganda is widerspread in USA and European countries - sadly even cats are used as political symbols by these propagandists.
Let's go back to Van Kedisi. Which cat is thought to be Van Kedisi?
Van Kedisi in Turkey is:
1) …solid white 2) odd-eyed, although majority will be born with same colored eyes 3) can be both longhair and shorthair 4) can be found everywhere in Turkey, but it is believed those cats came from Van 5) The type and anything else are not important.
In this article we will explore what are these Van cats, what place they have in Turkish culture and media, rethink why white and odd-eyed cat genetically could not a breed; we will try to answer, are really Van cats so different from the Turkish strays.
Symbols of Van: Van cat’s statue, built in 1998 (cost 6 thousand dollar). Another one was made for Van lake Monster6.
We will not be wrong saying Van kedisi enjoys much bigger fame than The Angora cat. The Angora cat is only remembered in the Turkish capital, Ankara, because people still believe that it originated from there.
The Turkish Media plays an important role in maintaining an identity of Van kedisi. It is well know that so called white Van cats may have same colored eyes, amber or blue, but they are almost never portrayed in Turkish media. It creates an illusion that Van Kedisi is always odd-eyed and other eye colors are not very valuable or they occur very ‘’rarely’’. Nothing is told about other possible fur colors except for white; if some colored kittens from Van university breeding program are captured in photos, it does not arouse any suspicion of white breed’s existence. Instead of it, an alternative explanation is offered: these cats are not Van cats, but a genetic abnormality or ‘’past outcross’’ with stray cats.
This type of thinking inspires some very racist stories like ‘’ You’re a Van cat, I’m a street cat’’51, where colored cat is shown as ugly character because it has some colors on its fur. This cat hinders herself through self-pity, asking the God ‘’why am I like this?’’.Once this street cat sees white and ‘’pure’’ Van kedisi, she begins to envy their ‘’beauty’’. However at the end of story she feels happy because she has a freedom unlike those white cats held in captivity. An author of the story arrives to conclusion, that being ‘’ugly’’ is not that bad after all.
Turkish Media loves to write about odd-eyed cats and it seems people don’t get bored from this. We are indoctrinated to believe that odd-eyes are exceptionally beautiful, rare, desirable and synonymous with the '’Van cat’’.
Turkish TV channels draw more attention to Van kedisi by making documentaries about it.
The first documentary was made in 1994 by TRT: Watch the video and read the short criticism here. The second was a creation of IZ TV ‘’Van'in Renkli Gözleri’’/’’Van colored eyes’’7. This documentary was very poorly made presentation of odd-eyed cats. A Van cat House was a main area where everything was filmed. This documentary ended with a long monologue of bakkal (an owner of convenience store, having a white cat). Bakkal concluded pessimistically: ‘'Bir Van'li Van Kedisi Gibidir, Van'dan Baska Bir Yerde Yasayamaz...‘’ (A Van cat taken from the city of Van, could not survive anywhere else’’). Again it makes no sense like documentary itself.
If some colored cats with odd-eyes are discovered by someone it’s most likely they will be photographed and will make into regional newspaper pages. Odd-eyed colored cat is an unusual event, however most of people have no idea that this phenomenon can be easily explained and it is not so rare how it seems.
Non-white, odd eyed Angora which is now famous for its eye color! 8
Odd-eyed cat was found in Kirsehir (central Anatolia). Want a piece of bread, kitty? 9
‘’Van cat looks after chicks’’ 10
In one Kirikkale’s petshop, a cat acts as mother to baby chicks. Although this cat has unusually flat face found in Persians, Turkish media still can’t distinguish a Turkish cat from a Persian outcross.
Dog nurses ‘’Angora cat mix’’ 11
While Persian outcross was Van kedisi, this cat for some reason said to be ‘’Angora mix’’!
Odd-eyed obsession does not finish with the cats. It could be anything: dogs 12, fishes 13 or a human14:
Mehmet turned into a Van cat overnight 15
Some Turkish people believe that high incidence of odd-eyes in animals is related to the Van area! For example, Siberian huskies dogs were brought to Van 12and breeding them there miraculously resulted into more odd eyed puppies. So it’s about Van city right? Wrong. A condition called Heterochromia often occurs in Siberian Huskies and if there were many of these odd-eyed ones, that’s a pure luck!
This never ending fascination with different colored eyes will fill up newspapers or internet pages from time to time. The examples above are indirect ways of promoting Van kedisi and strengthening a myth of special odd-eyed cat breed.
Yüzüncü Yil (100th Year) University in Van breeds Van Cats (‘’Van Kedisi Evi’’). This Van cat research Center always finds variety of ways to get press attention.
As examples we took the stories mostly published after 2011, October, when the strong Earthquake in Van received massive media coverage.
The nature of publications about Van University is the same:
1. Sensitivity and vulnerability of Van cats
Cats get easily stressed, ‘’depressed’’ by earthquake, moving to another place, mating season, lack of visitors etc…
‘’Van cats need love’’
‘’Van cats have been neglected’’ 16
‘’After 7.1 Earthquake Van cats were not looked after (…) because of hunger and thirst they jumped when we took pictures of them’’
It turned to be a hoax. Cats were not left alone, food and water was given as always. The cats were ‘’hungry’’ for attention from the visitors. No need to say that this lie was an effective - animal activists after reading about this horrible situation of Van cats, immediately sent 1.5 tons bags of cat food.
‘’Earthquake: Van cats traumatized’’, ‘’Therapy for Van cats’’ 17
Van university found a solution ‘’therapy’’ how to deal with stress after earthquake and coming mating season. It’s to encourage visitors to play with the cats! This is brilliant. How this idea haven’t come before! But wait a minute… Cats don’t have any toys, so Research Center asks if somebody can donate them some cat toys like balls and plastic houses (?!)
This is truth cats need some stimulation and activity… daily, not only after earthquakes…
‘’Effected by the earthquake, Van cat jumped from 5th floor’’ 18
An odd eyed cat owned by one family fell down from 5th floor and broke its leg. This cat was brought to the Hospital of Van University. Journalists were invited and Van University veterinarians posed for a photo.
The bottom line, it doesn’t matter that many cats have died and were injured during the earthquake. But who cares, they were probably not white or odd-eyed…
‘’Arabesque not pop music helps to ease the depression of Van cats’’
2. Creating illusion of rarity
Van cats are in danger being lost, so something must be done to save them. There are two ways achieve it. First you make up a story that foreigners are stealing white cats. This type of journalism became prevalent after Laura’s Lushington visit. She was a creator of Turkish Van breed, whose cats are not considered being ‘’pure’’, because they got some color on the tail and head’’ 19.
Second way is to give numbers, how many of them actually may be left.
Furthermore an idea of ‘’rarity’’ helped ‘’100 Year’’ Van University to start a breeding program of white cats and get it funded by government.
‘’Only 6 Van cats left’’, Miliyet
Because the Van cats are so on demand and ‘’stolen’’ by foreigners, the further action is to let everyone know that taking Van kedisi abroad is forbidden. It gives a stronger sense of rarity. The idea serves both ways: it increases awareness of Van cats and make them more popular and wanted.
We often hear that it is forbidden to take Van cats (in general, white cats) to other countries; however we haven’t seen this law from any reputable source.
that this legislation will come into effect in January, 2013. But legislation was not passed.
Dr. Karaca the leading person in ''Van Research Center'' said that authorities were not interested in forbidding taking the white cats out of country ''To take Van Kedisi to other countries is not forbidden'' 66
Politicians feel concerned about the ''extinction'' of their ''Van Kedisi'' breed, however the only breeding facility is Van University and most of cats even those with odd-eyes will be indiscriminately neutered by the animal activists and the government itself! Prohibiting to take white cats from the country does absolutely nothing for preserving ''Van Kedisi'', but will only increase white, odd-eyed cats popularity. Unfortunately other precious Anatolian cats with a colored fur and with same colored eyes will be easily taken by anyone to anywhere, since people have a hard time to understand that white and odd-eyed breed has no basis other than belief and tradition, and is completely racist.
3. Colored cats born to white Van cats are a threat for Van kedisi purity
According to YYÜ (Van University) Van cats are 100% pure and they are not the same like street cats from which they came from.
In 200420 regrets were expressed when out of 40 kittens born in the Van cat house only 4 were odd-eyed ‘’we were not successful to get more ‘’pure’’ Van cats this time, because the cats we gathered into our research center, have mated with various street cats in the past’’. It gives a message that cats which are not odd-eyed are somehow inferior and less ‘’Van cats’’.
Colored kittens are occasionally reared by white parents. Instead of considering it as normal color variation of the breed, It is said they are sign of ‘’genetic defects’’ or ‘’impurity ‘’. For example, Zahid Agaoglu, a professor of veterinary medicine said that Van cats face with risk of degeneration/dejenerasyon, in other words, loss of white fur and odd eyes21:
"Genetically speaking, Van cats are in danger of being lost forever. In trying to save them we are trying to save an example of the cultural inheritance of this region. In a sense, it's a living culture." 22
He does not deny that Van university got some of these ‘’ colorful accidents’’. To preserve characteristics of Van cats, especially the white fur, their aim is eliminate incidence of any colored cats. When asked how come white cats give a birth for colored kittens, Agaoglu explains, that these Van cats mated with some stray cats generations ago and later this ‘’genetic degeneration’’ was passed to other cats and in result colored kittens started to appear white cat's litters.
4. Insignificant news help to maintain constant focus on Van Kedisi
Many other ridiculous and insignificant reports concerning Van kedisi have been published in various newspapers. ‘’Eyes at risk’’23 when Van kittens got the minor eye infections; YYÜ declared that they keep male cats separated from females until the breeding season starts 24(We thought this was obvious).
In November, 2012 Van Kedisi Research Center Director Dr. Abdullah Kaya announced 52 that ''Van cats will become even whiter''. Cats that have never been bathed with water and shampoo , will be fed to a ''special'' diet and ''beautifying'' supplement, along with fish, meat and milk (no doubts the best way to cause Diarrhea) with an expectation that this diet will result in considerably whiter fur after 2 months. Good luck, let's hope they are not planning to use the bleach for faster and more efficient results!
''Van cats are much happier now: they play and sleep with a baby doll'' 54
a. Beauty Contest & the restoration of the Van Cat Home 25
Many cats refused to walk on the red carpet and one of them was so stressed that attacked its owner.
Any white and odd eyed cat despite its age could be a contestant.
One of jury greets a cat by grabbing its leg!
Later all media exposure turned to another more exciting and a cheerful event. It’s a beauty contest of Van kedisi!
Any cat no matter the age, long or short hair, could be a contestant as long it was white and of course, being odd eyed was most the important requirement. Cats were forced to walk on the red carpet like dogs. Many cats refused to obey their owners that made a contest more ridiculous than it is.
The beauty contest was a part of Van Cat Home opening ceremony. It was restorated and now waiting some interest from tourists 26
Watch the video about the contest here.
During the beauty contest of Van cats, Van gubernator expressed his sour feelings about the Ankara municipality which used odd-eyes in their logo: ‘’All Van inhabitants are sad about it. Please don’t call our cat Angora’’27
b. Ankara and Van catfight
Ankara Misket Cat (World Children’s games, 2011) & FIBA Basketball Championship symbol – Mascot (2010). Two cities fight for the same cat.
About 2 years ago, a small disagreement between municipalities of Van and Ankara occurred. And it still continues. Ankara city proudfully displayed their logo with odd-eyes “a smiling Turkish Angora’’. This was very insulting for Van municipality and Van cat lovers, as every folk knows that odd eyed cat is a Van, not Angora!
Certainly, a problem arose because both of cities see ‘’their’’ cats in very identical ways. Maybe white odd-eyed cat has deep roots in Turkish culture in general?
Although both Van and Angora are thought to be odd-eyed white cats, Van municipality feels that Ankara city has no right to claim different eyes for ‘’their’’ Angoras:
“He said the Turkish Angora has a white coat with one blue and one amber eye, which is wrong.”
“The kittens presented to the press during the statement are Turkish Van [cats], and as described those are their features. Even if these kittens were born in Ankara, their father is definitely from Van,” he added’’. 28
Yes, and there are some people29 who hold the position that there are no Angora cats with odd-eyes. Maybe a little research would not hurt?
‘’The Ankara Metropolitan Municipality press center issued a statement Sunday in response to the claims, saying that a simple Internet search is all that is required to learn about the differences between Turkish Angora and Turkish Van cats’’.
This is how Turkish people even government learns about their national cat breeds - simple internet search and a result? Repeated same outdated false information, standards that speak against our cats. Nobody seems to notice that Angora and Van cats in Turkey compared to those in abroad do look very different. Angora in Turkey and a one from USA is not the same thing; there is The Turkish Van breed recognized by major registries, but how many Turkish will accept a color for Van kedisi other than white?
It said, Turkish Angora kittens were requested from the Atatürk Forest Farm and Zoo, and the cats were introduced to members of the municipal assembly and the press in a scientific manner.
“As you might have already known from that presentation, Turkish Angora cats have completely white coats, and their fur is notably fluffy. However, as can be discerned from the literature, Turkish Vans are recognized as patterned cats with color restricted to the head and tail and the body of the cat being white. They may have blue eyes, amber eyes or one eye of each color,” the statement said.
Very scientific! Interesting, how a word ‘’science’’ can be synonymous with a repetitive dogma and laziness. Why not to do YOUR research to find out the truth about YOUR cats? Angora is only white and a Van cat is patterned? This guy is misinformed by internet, but he thinks it’s alright to apply foreigner’s sources in this situation because it goes against Van municipality; even when it is the same type of nonsense. Quick Google search was the only research they have ever done. What a shame!
Don’t they realize that this fight is meaningless? They don’t ask themselves a question ‘’If it’s the same cat?’’ What kind of differences they are talking about, if eye color is the only known way to disguise between those two breeds?
The entrance of ‘’Turkish Van Cat Home’’
Van Kedisi Evi (Van Cat Research Center) was established in 1992 by ‘’Yuzüncü Yil’’30University, the Van Cat Home was build 3 years later. It appears like a large breeding facility. A short look around:
Van Kedisi Evi Today
This was before the restoration…
No cat toys. Fortunately kittens have balls!
Van University (YYÜ) thought that these cats are going to be extinct soon, so something needed to be done about it. In 1992 they conducted a breeding program using only white cats, both longhair and shorthair. These cats were probably taken from the streets of Van (from where else? It's a naturally occuring cat!).
In 2004 a local government of Van, trying to increase a population of Van kedisi, decided to support owners of Van kedisi, paying them 50 TL a month. This program however was discontinued in the same year.31
What are the aims of this breeding program? It’s to produce more odd-eyed cats as possible. It’s hard to find any new information or any scientific research done by Van University about Van Cats or such a research is usually unavailable for a general public. It seems that their internet page about the Van cats has not been updated since 2001! 32
Yüzüncü Yil University is educational and supposedly scientific institution. Furthermore a Van Cat Home is funded by government.
The description of Van cats made by YYÜ33:
~ One of two swimming cats in Felicia world; (what is this new term ‘’Felicia world? ‘’ Sounds like a hero from comics books or video games. Maybe they wanted to say ‘’feline’’?)
~ As loyal as dogs (it’s enough to take a few examples of Van cats which are not loyal at all and this statement is no longer meaningful)
~ Di-estrus sexual behavior (March and November)
~ Average number of still births; 3-6
~ Kitten survival rate; < 50 % (why survival rate is so low?)
~ Conservation efforts: Physiologic and behavioral (Senler, 1986) and biochemical studies conducted by Faculty of Veterinary-Medicine of Selçuk and YYU on the Van cats (Altunok et al., 2007) To measure a distribution of heterochromatic eye phenotype (Inal, 1992; Ates, 2000) – sure, the most important study is about odd-eyes!
Objectives for the Van cat
Ø To search for old, rare, and healthy lineages of the Van cats for both preserving healthy genetic diversity and perpetuating the critical historic traits of the breed. (Historic traits they probably mean one trait – odd-eyes?).
Ø to develop and maintain a breed standard and guidelines for breeding the Van cats for genetic testing and screening and to encourage the breeding of registered, pedigreed Van cats only. (What kind of breeding standard?)
Ø To detect, track and comprehend characteristic genes, with emphasis on the Van cats phenotypes; white fur, heterochromatic (blue/yellow) eye structure and deafness (white fur, odd eyes and prevention of deafness – major aims)
Ø To establish phylogenetic tree to figure out genetic distance among the Van cats and the Angora cats (try to find as many as possible differences between Angora and Van cats. Biased? Well yes, a word ‘’distance’’ shows the intentions of this breeding program. That would be disaster if they find out Angora and Van cats are not very different! We expect they will try to make that distance longer than it is).
The philosophy of the Van cat breeding like we have stated before is simple: to get more odd-eyed cats, it doesn’t matter its fur length, the body type… If it’s odd eyed it means it’s a Van cat. This is what all folks believe, but we can forgive them for their lack of knowledge, but what about professors, veterinarians who should know the basic genetics of the cat colors?
Some people have already accepted that Angora has many colors, not only white. However the same question is never asked about the Van cats. It seems a topic about the colors of Van cats is taboo and avoided at all costs.
So can Van kedisi be only white? No, and here is why:
1. White coloring results from a dominant masking gene (W), which is also associated with deafness. A cat that lacks any pigment is albino, but it’s very rare and albino cat never has odd-eyes.
2. White color gene (W) is not a color it only masks other colors. So a cat only appears white, but it is not. White cats ALWAYS carry a color in their genes. If two white cats are heterozygous (most are) they will produce colored kittens.
3. About Odd eyes: this condition is called Heterochromia. What causes it? It is white (W) and white spotting (S) genes (a cat with some white). These genes prevent the melanine pigment granules from reaching one eye during the development of the cat. This will result in a cat with one blue since no melanine will be present and another colored eye yellow, green or brown.
4. White cats bred to colored ones, will have mostly white kittens, because the gene (W) is dominant, so there is no reason to worry that white cats will be extinct because of breeding with colored cats.
5. White van cats were selected from a population of Turkish street cats, same way like the Angora cat; therefore they are genetically related to street cats. If a white ‘’Van’’ cat mates with a colored street cat it cannot be considered as an outcross.
The Picture of white cat breeds: Any white cat can have ‘’Van eyes’’:
Click for larger size
When Turkish people find a colored cat with odd-eyes they can’t stop wondering how is that possible. But genetics have an answer. It’s all about the white spotting gene (S):
Turkish street cats with odd eyes; Any cat that has some white color on its fur may have odd-eyes.
Excluding colored cats as mixed and undesirable hybrids, is a purely racist idea. Such a type of thinking is neither based on genetics, nor does it has anything to do with a purity of the breed.
No, this is Not Van kedisi!
You should know that there is another cat breed like Van kedisi and it is already recognized by British GCCF. It’s Khao Manee - a Thailand’s native odd-eyed cat. We should put emphasis that those who breed Khao Manee do not hide the fact that this cat comes in various colors. Crissy Russel, a secretary of Khao Manee club said:
‘’White is not a colour. It is "epistatic", and it masks the true colour of the cat. The homozygous Khao Manee will carry two dominant white genes (WW). Heterozygous will carry one gene for epistatic white and one for true colour (Ww). Therefore if two heterozygous cats are mated, a percentage of the kittens born ""will be homozygous recessive (ww) and will show their true colour. These coloured cats are important, and are used in our breeding programme, being mated back to white Khao Manees.’’34
And what about the Van kedisi?
The authors of a book ‘’Van kedisi’’ 35 portray Van cats as solid white cats, however they make some exceptions to red spotted and calico cats. This could be because of exposure to foreigner sources where the Turkish Van is often seen in those color patterns. Unfortunately still those cats are referred as ‘’different’’ and not same like white ones.
On the other hand, they speak about the tabby and black kittens as ‘’an example of impurity’’
Tabby and black kittens are said to be impure, but red and calico are still considered as Van cats. Aren’t they hypocrites?
Black kitten born in Van university from couple of white parents. This is normal and expected, however media says us that this cute black kitten is not a Van cat. 36, 37
This colored kitten is also a ‘’mixed’’ breed? 38
Another example of calico kitten. 39 and Van patterned odd-eyed cat.
Caught on video: Can you see a black2 and a red1 cat? These are Van cats too. 40
Many people in Turkey agree that Angora and Van cats in Turkey are very similar to each other. It’s very hard to distinguish one from another.
So how do they know which cat is Van and which is Angora? Well, this is not easy, how it seems.
Most of people refer odd-eyed ones as Van cats and everything else is Angora. But if you read ‘’The Truth’’ you may realize that any white cat can be odd-eyed. It means this is no longer the difference or characteristic of any breed.
However the desire to find some nonexistant differences is very strong. Happily the differences can be easily introduced by copying a foreigner standard of The Angora and Van and uncritically applying it for Turkish cats.
Due to lack of accurate information, Turkish people don’t really know about their native cats. They, like everybody else educated themselves about The Angora and Van cat breeds using available media and internet sources. Many Turkish websites translate whatever they find from foreigner webpages.41
Not only a description conflicts with reality, but also it spreads like a virus, causing a collective delusion!
Angora or Van? The Angora Cat documentary says that face of Angora is much slimmer ‘’more elegant’’, For comparison they took 2-3 Angora cats with a narrow than usually face and called it a difference, ignoring the fact that the majority of Angora cats have similar face shapes to Van cats. The same goes for statement ‘’delicately build’’, which again fails to describe many Angora cats.
Exercise: Can you see those differences?
Van cat’s eyes are almond-shaped and Angora’s more round
Van cat’s face is more round, Angora’s – is slimmer and angular.
Van cat’s fur is shorter than Angora’s.
Sadly, nobody is willing to do any research to understand the Turkish cats better. Not even the Turkish government.
Take a look at a short review of standards that were made for the Angora and Van cats by governmental institutions 42. Once again information was a literal interpretation of what they found in internet and foreigner written books. The only change is of course, a restriction of allowed colors. The Angora is accepted as only white cat breed, while Van cat is also white but has red patterns like ‘’Turkish Van’’.
Delicate, elegant & deaf stereotype
The Angora's standard 43 was developed mainly by Fatih Atasoy and according to it, Angora cat is: thin boned, ‘’elegant’’, head smaller than body (?), long tail, neck and nose, ears broad at base, prone to deafness more than other cat breeds, to improve coat Persians were used (do they mean it was crossbred with Persian and is hybrid?). Loves warm, hates water.
Strong, active and swimming copycat
A standard of Van cat43 was made by - Poultry Research institute (Tavukçuluk Arastirma Enstitüsü 44). While those people maybe experts of poultry, they are not competent enough to talk about the cat breeds. What we got is a remade standard of the Turkish Van – a cat that looks drastically different from stereotypical Angora (TUA), big, sturdy, large chest, can be with yellow (red)) patterns (because it’s written in many foreigners standards), loves water.
By the way liking for water is based only on anecdotal evidence and testimonials, primary from Turkish Van breeders.
Why this standard is wrong in many ways: In reality the Angora does not look anyhow different from Van cats! If you identify every cat which is young and slender as Angora, but ignore many others which look more like Van cats, then you are probably very biased. This phenomenon is also called a selective thinking: one tends to notice and look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for what contradicts them.
Standards: Strong claims but lack of scientific research
A study comparing body measurements of the Angora and Van cats 45:
The Van cats had slightly higher Body Mass Index (BMI) than the Turkish Angora cats, but most of Van cats from AOÇ were males (5 out of 6)! They were 20% heavier than females.
The cats in Ankara Zoo had higher BMI than the cats in Kirikkale University.
Body weight difference of Van and Angora cats - not significant and other measurements were almost same.
Limitations: A study had very small sample sizes: 20 - Angora cats, 16 Van cats. The age of the cats ranged from 1-8 years old so it could give inaccurate results.
Although no significant differences were found from this small study, but authors stated:
‘The crossbreeding causes these cats to be mixed and makes it hard to distinguish, which breed is Angora and Van. Therefore, crossbreeding of these cats should be avoided’’
Crossbreeding? First we should know how different The Angora and Van kedisi are and then talk about ‘’crossbreeding’’!
The claim that white Angoras tend to have a higher incidence of deafness than other cat breeds is not supported by any evidence. It was told that white Angora cats are very often deaf, however only 2-3 % of Van cats will be deaf. The only sources of this claim are a book chapter written by A. Güre ‘’Van Kedisi (‘’Van Kutugu’’) and Demirulus article in Ekoloji Magazin 46. NONE of these authors support their claims citing a scientific study. A study about the deafness seems has not ever been done.
Cats from Ankara Zoo and longhair Vans (Van University) are hardly distinguishable and display similar types. Variations in type of individual cats (longer face, smaller size, longer hair etc.) do not make those cats as different cat breeds.
If you know anything about Selective breeding, it is possible that a breeder can exggerate the features of the cat which he/she finds attractive, like body size, face, ears, color etc. by selecting the cats with these desired traits. If you choose the longer and more angular faces like ‘’Aphrodite cat’’ breeders did, you get a bit longer faced Angoras with stronger chin; If you want stockier and rounder types like Turkish Van, this also can be achieved. The bottom line, it doesn’t change the breed. It may not fit your stereotypical idea, what it should look like, but it’s still the same Angora cat.
Correct answers: YYÜ Van cats: 1,3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 15, 16., Ankara Zoo cats: 2, 4, 7, 10,11, 13, 17.
Shorthair Van cat – a variation of Anatolian Shorthair?
The demand for exotic pets is on increase and some people are ready to spend a lot of money for their dream cat. If you one of these uninformed individuals, who doesn't bother to do a little research before buying a cat, you could be at risk for internet scams.
One family from Istanbul who describes themselves as ‘’Van kedisi’’ breeders (‘’over 15 years’’) are not registered in any cat registry. The only evidence of their existence is their 3 years old webpage http://www.vancats.com. The website aims to sell cats for English speaking individuals, particularly Canadians.
These breeders believe they have some rare breed and the price they offer for it - 15-10 thousand of dollars! It's hard to believe that anyone would be so naive to pay such amount of money for a white cat with odd-eyes!
Persian cats?! Odd-eyed, doll faced white Persians sometimes are believed to be Van Kedisi by some Turks.
In order to understand how cat can be worth that much amount of money, we investigated some of their claims :
1. Breeding phyosophy: is based on infamous legend 61: ''According to legend when an expecting mother sees the magical mist of the Van Lake divide in two betweens its baby blue waters and the honey color sunset shimmer on the lake; it replicates two different color eyes onto her unborn child. '' Does it make any sense for anybody?
2. They deceive people into believing that Van Kedisi is one of the most expensive breeds in the world62. Of course, it's all lies. A white odd-eyed cat still can be found in the streets of Turkey... for free! If anybody wonders which cat breeds are the most expensive, these are wildcat hybrids like Bengal or Savannah. On the other hand, their price rarely reaches $5000!
3. ''They are famous for swimming and as far as we know are the only cats that love water''63. No such an evidence to support this popular but very dubious claim.
4. ''The most important factor to remember is when Van Cats are cross bred with regular street cats regrettably the breed of Van Cat dies''62. Isn't so called Van cat originated from the street too?!? It's the same nonsense we hear from Yüzüncü Yil University. However Ilkin family forgot to mention that this University sells their cats considerably cheaper. Highest priced odd-eyed ones were sold for 500 TL or 282 dollars!65
5. ''Van'' cats with same colored eyes are sold 10 times less of price of odd-eyed ones! Those cats are said to be crossbreeds, even if their parents are odd-eyed cats.
6. ''(Odd-eyes) cats are not allowed to be exported outside of Turkey''. No such a law, forbidding exports of the white odd-eyed cats, exists.
7. If you buy 10 000 dollar kitten, ''Please keep in mind all these fees do not include veternarian costs and custom brokerage fees for the ones allowed to be exported.''
8. ''Our funds are 100% allocated to the preservation of Van Cats and the assistance of street animals in Turkey''64. Don't be surprised if funds only reach the pockets of website creators.
We wonder how one native Turkish speaker could do such an obvious mistake: Instead of Van Kedisi it's written ''Van Kedisileri''!
Don't Be A Victim of similar Scams!
1. Angora and Van cats originated from the random bred Turkish cats’ populations – in other words, Turkish street cats. They were selected for their coat and eye color, but nothing else. They must be genetically similar to other stray cats, unless some secret outcrossing with other cat breeds took place (unlikely).
2. An odd-eyed cat breed is not really possible. Modern genetics refute that odd-eyes and white fur are specific characteristics of Van or Angora cats, because the gene responsible for this coloring are found in almost all cat breeds.
3. White shorthair cats are genetically the same like any other colored Turkish cat. We call them ‘’Anatolian Shorthair’’ and they have the only one difference from the Angora cats. It’s a short fur.
4. Both Angora and Van cats can have various colors. When a color is no longer a difference, so what makes them unique from the rest of population of Turkish cats?
5. Historical sources tell us that the Angora – longhair Anatolian cat was widely found in Eastern part of Turkey, maybe a part of Syria and some other neighbor countries (Cyprus) 47. These cats were traded to Persia, even India and sold there as ‘’Persian’’ cats. If Angora lives in Eastern Anatolia including Van city, how Van cats managed to preserve their purity and uniqueness?
6. Turkish professor Ataman Güre 49 holds a belief that Angora cat might be a variety of Turkish Van cat. This opinion could be not very far from the truth, because the Eastern part of Anatolia was populated with the oldest settlements and these areas belong to Fertile Crescent, a location where cat domestication took place; however if we accept this hypothesis is true, it means the Angora and Van cats are the same breed.
7. Van university with a help of media tries to convince turkish people that Van cats are a special breed and stray cats – brothers and sisters of Van cats, are impure and hybrids. Main reason is, they are not white, therefor impure. This is an obvious racism.
8. Media misinformation: an idea that Van cat and Angora are different breeds and other related myths are repeated many times by mass media. Evidence is however not given (and nobody asks for it). Over time an idea reinforced to become a strong belief or even a fact in many people's minds. Mass Media contributes to the process by uncritically supporting all these false claims. People don’t have time to research so they believe everything they're told.
9. Kurdish, Armenian political disagreements put more emphasis on Van cats.
10. Cat fanciers abroad have a vested interest to promote Turkish Van and The Angora as two different cat breeds. You can NOT trust the information from them about the Turkish cats. Moreover their TUA – ''Turkish Angora'' is a crossbreed and not Angora at all! Because they replaced a real Angora with another created cat breed, now they can freely invent more cat breeds out of it, like for example, The Turkish Van and The Aphrodite.
11. There is no well-designed DNA study that confirms Angora and Van cats in Turkey are two different cat breeds. V. Altunok's 49 genetic study (2007), affiliated with Van University is useless, because of small sample numbers, questionable sources and strong biases. It had two co-authors from Van University. One of them was Zahid Agaoglu, who expressed his radical views on the Turkish stray cats.
12. A large genetic study of cat breeds 50 confirmed that ‘’Turkish Angora’’ abroad is not related to Turkish street cats. Turkish cats related to Israel, Cyprus and most likely some other Middle Eastern cat populations (although not included in the study). So what’s left for Van cats, where do they live?
13. Certainly Anatolian cats- longhair/shorthair, in any color and from any place of Turkey, without doubts, are real naturally occurring cat breed with ancient origins.
14. Killing, neutering stray cats from Turkey means a destruction of the natural Anatolian cat breed, be it Angora or Van. This should be very well known for Van Research Center. They cannot always inbreed their cats; the new cats from the street are very important in mantaining the future health of the Anatolian cats breed.
Sources & Links
1. Complete Cat Encyclopedia, edited by Grace Pond (1972)
5. The Atatürk Revolution – A Paradigm of Modernization by Suna Kili
(Persian outcross shown as Van kedisi)
‘’ Ankara Kedisinde, hiçbir sekilde farkli iki göz rengine rastlayamazsiniz.’’
35. ‘’Van kedisi’’ Odabasioglu, Ates; Yüzüncü Yil Üniversitesi, 2000
47. Lottin de la Val ‘’Sur le chat d'Angora’’ (1857), Evligi Çelebi ‘’Seyahatname’’ Divrigi/Sivas cats; Peiresc (Ancyra/Angora from Damascus);
48. A. Gure, A ‘’Van kedisi’’. In: Abdulkadiroglu ‘’ Van Kutugu’’, No. 8. Yuzuncu Yil Universitesi, Van, Turkey. 1993; 722-726
60. http://www.massage-research.com/blog/?p=1199 (''But what’s worrying are the scam companies that me money out of selling books where the contents are from free materials such as Wikipedia. It is on sale in many of the famous online book sellers including Amazon.com.'')
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