Van Cat Watch System introduced in Turkey's Van

Meow! Meet Turkey's Van Cats

These odd-eyed wonders are being safeguarded from extinction.

Thought to be one of the oldest domestic cat breeds, Van cats — named after the Lake Van region of East Turkey that they call home — are distinguished by their long legs, snow-white coats, and amber or pale blue eyes (sometimes hauntingly mismatched because of a genetic condition called heterochromia). Van cats are often referred to as "swimming cats" due to their affinity for water.

With their numbers reaching dangerous lows in the 1990s, Yuzuncu Yil University in Turkey established the Van Cat Research Center to provide feline healthcare and study the breed's genetics. Chris McGrath/Getty Images With their numbers reaching dangerous lows in the 1990s, Yuzuncu Yil University in Turkey established the Van Cat Research Center to provide feline healthcare and study the breed's genetics. Each cat is microchipped as part of the Van Cat Watch System, which tracks pedigree information, since the center's goal is to increase the pure-bred population. In 2006, Turkey declared the Van cat a "national species." Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Each cat is microchipped as part of the Van Cat Watch System, which tracks pedigree information, since the center's goal is to increase the pure-bred population. In 2006, Turkey declared the Van cat a "national species." The Van Cat Research Center is actually a tourist destination, but don't get any funny ideas about taking one of these cute kitties home with you — Turkey has cracked down on exporting Van cats in order to maintain the local population. Anadolu Agency/Getty Images The Van Cat Research Center is actually a tourist destination, but don't get any funny ideas about taking one of these cute kitties home with you — Turkey has cracked down on exporting Van cats in order to maintain the local population. So console yourself by staring into these big beautiful eyes. And, perhaps, if you stare long enough, you'll dream of Van cats tonight. Chris McGrath/Getty Images So console yourself by staring into these big beautiful eyes. And, perhaps, if you stare long enough, you'll dream of Van cats tonight.
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