'A Van cat for every home' saves the breed from extinction

A Van cat, one of the most important symbols of Van province of Turkiye, Van cats are taken under protection in Van, Turkiye on August 05, 2023 [Özkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency]

Purebred cats are often hard to find, especially in countries like Turkiye where the stray cat population is high, and interbreeding is commonplace. But for the people behind 'A Van cat for every home project', this is a serious issue which needs to be addressed to stop the unique Van breed of cats from becoming extinct.

Van cats are distinctive in their look, with their white, fluffy coat and startling eyes; often one amber and one blue. These traits are being preserved through a breeding programme run by the Van Cat Research and Application Centre within Van Yuzuncu Yil University.

Cats are bred and then rehomed as part of the scheme, with 100 finding families annually. Each is microchipped, vaccinated and receives a full health check before moving into their new home.

"In certain historical periods, there were concerns about the lineage. Our centre addresses this, and we're vigilant. Currently, the primary cat lineage is not at risk. Our situation is good. Cat numbers are rising, and we connect 100 new families with Van Cats each year. We're a growing family, locally and nationwide," centre Director Prof. Dr. Abdullah Kaya said.

"We assess kittens with 20 criteria. We're making progress in maintaining their uniqueness and excluding altered forms," he added.

"Van cats are a provincial symbol and a tourism attraction, deservedly so. Visitor numbers are rising daily, reaching around 600 on weekdays and over 1,000 on weekends. We ensure their comfort in hot weather with pools and air conditioning," he continued.

READ: Over 1,500 animals after earthquakes in Turkiye

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