The breed was developed in Britain from a selection of Van cats obtained from various cities of Turkey. It was first recognised by a breeder/fancier organisation, the U.K.-based Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), in 1969. The term "Turkish Vankedisi" is used by some organisations as a name for all-white specimens of the formal Turkish Van breed, and is easily confused with the landrace Van cat, the Turkish name of which is Van kedisi.
The coat of this cat is considered semi-longhaired. They only have awn hair which makes their coat feel like cashmere or rabbit fur, and the coat dries quickly when wet. Lake Van is a region of temperature extremes and the cats have evolved a coat that grows thick in the winter with a large ruff, and bottlebrush tail for the winters. The coat sheds out during the warm summers but the full tail is kept year round. (Strangely enough, although of course she is just a moggy, our Precious also grows a thick coat in the cool weather and sheds during summer).
The Turkish Van is one of the larger breeds of cats. It is moderately long and its back legs are slightly longer than its front legs, but neither the cat itself nor its legs are so long to be disproportionate. These cats are large and muscular. They have massive paws and rippling hard muscle structure which allows them to be very strong jumpers. Vans can easily hit the top of a refrigerator from a cold start on the floor. They are slow to mature and can take up to 3 years to reach full maturity. Their fetching skills are also quite good and they are quick to learn.
One of the incredible attributes of the Turkish Van is that they enjoy water and love swimming. The breed is noted to have an unusual fascination with water whereas most cat breeds dislike getting wet. The alleged unusual trait could be due to the breed's supposed proximity to Lake Van in their native country. It could have acquired this trait due to the very hot summers and having extremely water proof coats that makes bathing them a challenge. Most Vans in the United States are indoor cats and do not have access to large bodies of water, but their love and curiosity of water stays with them Instead of swimming, they stir their water bowls and invent fishing games in the toilet. The Turkish Van is nicknamed "the swimming cat".
Turkish Vans are very intelligent and will easily take over their home and owners. Vans are people cats that want to be with people wherever they go. They like to play and jump and explore anything in their reach, which is quite large. They are energetic; they play hard and sleep hard. Many Vans are dedicated to fetching their particular object of interest, and many owners describe them as "dogs in a cat suit" because of their unusual personalities. This is a very social breed with a friendly, lively disposition and they develop a great fondness for their owners with whom they enjoy interactive games. They are playful and tend to 'teach' their owners. Many know how to play fetch and will drop toys at your feet until you join in the game with them.