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Dora's blog


The Van cat is a striking, silky cat with a white body and colored head and tail. True to its name, it's thought to hail from the eastern Lake Van region.
Like many cat breeds, no one quite knows Van’s cats true origins. According to legend, ancestors of the Van cat sailed aboard Noah’s Ark. Once the boat reached Mount Ararat that serves as the Biblical vessel’s mythical landing-place - the cats hopped off and swam for dry land. God blessed them, and his divine touch caused their white coats to develop their signature coloration. These cats became the progenitors for the Van cat breed.
In reality, the Van cat breed probably developed in central and southwest Asia. It's believed that the furry cat has lived in the isolated Lake Van region - a mountainous area that’s home to the country’s largest lake - for generations, thanks to local legends, traditional folk songs, and ancient artifacts that reference the cat and its unusual markings. The Van cat has reportedly also been spotted in neighboring countries including Iran, Iraq, and parts of the former Soviet Union.
If you’re a cat aficionado, you’ve likely heard the term Van cat markings, which describes a mostly-white feline with colored markings that are restricted to its head and tail. This phrase was originally coined to describe Van’s cats unique coloration. The Van’s cats markings can come in multiple shades, including red, cream, black, and blue, and patterns like a tabby and tortoiseshell. Cat registries have rules about how many colored markings can cover the white portion of Van’s cats body before it’s considered a bicolor cat instead of a Van cat. The CFA, in particular, only allows for 15 percent of Van's cats entire body, excluding the head and tail color, to be colored.
You’ll also find solid white Van’s cats, and Van’s cats that have been “blessed” with a color patch between their shoulder blades; cat fanciers refer to this as the “Mark of God.”
Aside from its markings, the Van cat is known for its beautiful fur. It has a plumed tail, and a silky, semi-long coat that’s water-repellant. The coat is thick and dense in the winter, sheds to a shorter length in the summer, and has no undercoat, so it’s tangle-free and easy to groom.
Armenians often consider the breed to be historically Armenian, as the Lake Van area was inhabited by Armenians since antiquity until their local extermination during the genocide of 1915. Some authors associate the cat with the Armenian people, a population of whom have historically lived in the Lake Van area, who have been said to have "revered" the cat. Prior to 1915, the area had a large Armenian population, and the Armenian homeland is centered on Lake Van, which was important even in ancient Armenian culture. The Armenian inhabitants of Van have been said to have "loved" Van cats.
Among them was post-impressionist and surrealist artist Arshile Gorky, later an immigrant to the United States, who sculpted Van’s cats in the early 1910s. Armenian writer Vrtanes Papazian wrote a short novel in which the cat has been used as a symbol of the Armenian liberation movement. Armenian authors Raffi, Axel Bakunts, and Paruyr Sevak have featured Van’s cats in their works.
The Van region has a large Kurdish population, and Van’s cats have been referred to as "Kurdish cats" 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’s cats. These claims ultimately seem to have come from an animal rescue group called SOS Van’s 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’s cats, let alone poison them, is utter nonsense".

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