Van cat center raising awareness, protecting felines
Interest in Turkey’s unique Van cats is growing both at home and abroad, according to experts of the distinctive breed.
With its project “A Van Cat in Every Household,” which started five years ago, the Turkish Van Cat Research Center is raising awareness and interest in the felines.
The research center, located in the eastern province of Van, was founded in 1995 working under the auspices of Yüzüncü Yıl University with the goal of preventing the prized breed from going extinct.
Van cats can be categorized according to the color of their eyes and their fur.
While some feature mismatched eyes, with one blue and the other amber, others have two blue or amber eyes. Also, while some have completely white fur, others have a dash of brown above their ears, head or on their body.
Interest in the campaign to protect the Van cat species is steadily growing, with the center receiving around 500-600 visitors daily.
People who want to raise the city’s most important living cultural heritage in their homes apply to the center, which can only meet 5 percent of the domestic demand for Van cats.
Up to this year, a total of 150 cats were distributed to new owners across the country, but in the first nine months of 2018, this number reached 200.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Abdullah Kaya, head of the Turkish Van Cats Center, said that cats are a unique species worldwide.
Saying that interest in Van cats is on the rise, Kaya said the cats are loving, trainable and make excellent housecats.
“Van cats and all their distinctive features are protected. If Van cats have a feature, we are trying to protect and develop it,” he said.
“We are trying to develop its features related to water by doing selection and scientific research,” said Kaya, referring to Van cats’ famed love of swimming.
“Interest is rising both in Turkey and abroad, but sending the cats abroad is banned, and we can only meet 5 percent of the domestic demand,” he said.
Kaya said the center is planning to do a census of all Van cats in the region to get an accurate head count.
“We will also do a study on the visual aspects of these cats,” he added.
Gül Kanbay, visiting the center from Istanbul, said she supports its projects.
“Human love begins with animal love. Let’s raise our children with these cats,” she said. Hikmet Kapıcı, who for years has been raising Van cats at his home, also supported the project.
“These animals are very special,” he said, stating that not only Van cats, but other animals living on the streets deserve care as well.