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Get to Know the Turkish Angora: The Ballerina of the Cat Fancy

This active, agile, assertive cat has a graceful look and an endless supply of love and mischief.

JaneA Kelley  |  Apr 9th 2015


The Turkish Angora is considered a national treasure in his homeland, and it’s easy to see why: He lives his life with the elegance and grace of a dancer costumed in long, sparkling fur. For a small and dainty-looking cat, though, he rules his home with an iron paw inside a velvet-furred glove. Read on to get the scoop on this amazing breed.

Photo: Shutterstock‘>

Photo: Shutterstock

Origins

The Turk, as the Turkish Angora is affectionately called, has origins in the mountains of Turkey, where her coat provided great protection against bitter winds and snow. The earliest western European references to the Turk date from the 16th century, and the breed was a hit at cat shows in the 19th century. Persian breeders began using Angoras in their own breeding programs, and the Turk almost disappeared as a distinct breed.

Concerned about losing its national treasure, the Turkish government began a controlled breeding program at the Ankara Zoo, where American servicemen stationed in Turkey saw them. The first Turkish Angoras were imported to the U.S. by Colonel and Mrs. Walter Grant in 1962, and became the foundation of North American breeding programs.

Today, the Turkish Angora is recognized for championship status by both the Cat Fanciers’ Association and the International Cat Association.

Photo: Shutterstock‘>

Photo: Shutterstock

Appearance

Turks look slender and delicate, but they’re surprisingly rugged. They are small cats, typically weighing between five and nine pounds, but their lean bodies are solid muscle. Their heads are wedge-shaped, with almond-shaped eyes and large, erect ears that sit high on the head.

Turkish Angoras are known primarily as white cats, and for a long time, the cat fancy deemed white the only acceptable color for Turks. That’s changing now, and breed registries are accepting Turks in a wide array of colors.

Photo CC-BY-SA Nickolas Titkov ‘>

The Turkish Angora comes in colors beyond the traditional white, like this ribbon-winning tabby Turk. Photo CC-BY-SA Nickolas Titkov

Health and longevity

Because the Turkish Angora is a natural breed, the cats are overall quite healthy and can live an average of 15 years. Blue-eyed white Turks are prone to deafness, and odd-eyed white cats may be deaf on the side with the blue eye. Turkish Angoras may be more prone to develop a heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy than other breeds.

Some Turkish Angora kittens suffer from hereditary ataxia, a condition that causes shaking, uncoordinated movements, and other neurological problems. These kittens typically don’t survive to adulthood.

Photo: Shutterstock‘>

Photo: Shutterstock

What it’s like to live with a Turkish Angora

Your Turk will greet you at the door when you get home and follow you around, wanting to be involved in everything you do. He’s so smart that he needs exercise and intellectual stimulation to keep him from developing bad habits, so if you do have to leave him alone, get puzzle feeders and other toys that can keep him on his toes and give him lots of interactive playtime.

Turkish Angoras are known for their loving and affectionate nature, quick wit, and mischievous sense of humor, which makes them a good fit for children who know how to behave around cats. If you have a dog, your Turk will quickly put him in his place, and they’ll get along well from that point on.

If you’re interested in doing agility work, the Turkish Angora might be your perfect match: His intelligence and willingness to learn tricks, combined with his boundless energy and outgoing nature, would make him a great candidate.

Photo: Shutterstock‘>

A black Turkish Angora cat was the inspiration for the name of a computer operating system. Photo: Shutterstock

Turkish Angora trivia bits

  • All Turkish Angoras registered by the Cat Fanciers’ Association must be able to trace their ancestry back to Turkey.
  • Turkish Angoras have had lots of time in the spotlight: Some notable roles include Duchess, the main protagonist of the movie The Aristocats; Gabriel, owned by Eric Draven in The Crow; and the lap cat of Bond baddie Ernst Blofeld.
  • The computer operating system MidnightBSD is named after a 10-pound black Turkish Angora owned by developers Lucas and Carolyn Holt.

Photo: Shutterstock‘>

Photo: Shutterstock

Do you have a Turkish Angora in your home? What’s it like to live with her? Please share your thoughts and photos of your Turkish Angora in the comments.

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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal rescue volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.