The Chickenloaf Papers: Stories from the Kitten Room
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turkish van

friday, december 15, 2000

Sugarlips, the Turkish Van

"I was the only cat who could swimm all the ways across the pond except for the Turkish Vans with rubber heads and no ears."

~ Chickenloaf

There is a silent and empty spot on the library table where Sugarlips used to sit in breadloaf position with her silky white fur skirting all around. This is where she reposed for hours, watching over her kittens at play. She smiled at at us from there, paws tucked into her brisket ruff, wrapped up in her feather-boa tail.

Sugarlips was a quiet, unobtrusive little cat. If it weren't that she was too nice to ignore, you'd hardly know she was around. She was no trouble, no trouble at all.

Ironic that the day before she left us, we should learn that she is a rare and ancient breed known as the Turkish Van .

It transpired like this. I was poring through cat books for information on Turkish Angoras. But the auburn-blotched fluffy faces of Turkish Vans kept beaming up at me from the opposing pages:

"The cat known in the United States as the Turkish Van is a rare and ancient breed that developed in central and southwest Asia, which today encompasses the countries of Iran, Iraq, southwest Soviet Union and eastern Turkey. . .The coloration of the Turkish Van, which is considered by many to be the original breed to carry the piebald gene, calls for a white, semi-longhaired cat with colored markings restricted primarily to the head and tail. . .The coat lacks an undercoat and has a very unique cashmere-like texture that makes it water-resistant. This brings us to another interesting feature of this breed ~ they love water and in their native region they have been termed 'the Swimming Cats.'" *

It all started to piece together: Sugarlips' spun-silk fur; the snowy head dabbed with two tawny blobs; the tabbyish tail seemingly recycled from another make and model entirely; Little Chessie, her kitten, identical to dozens of Van kitten photos across the Web.

Most of all, her kittens' propensity for paddling in water. For, the day after Nosegay was gone, Snooples began plunging in her mitts. We now frequently find her plowing a soggy arm through the drinking bowl, or with both paws submerged up to the elbows, observing the magnification of her toes.

I first learned about the "Swimming Cat" ** a decade or so ago. I read a story about this guy who shared his home with a Turkish Van who strolled down to the lake every morning to take a dip. Sometimes they'd go for a swim together, the man in his baggy trunks and the big white cat paddling among the bluegills. Ever since I read that story, I have wanted a furry naiad of my own.

Imagine the good times!

* * *

*From the Web Site of the Cat Fanciers' Association

Photo: the last photo of Sugarlips

More about Sugarlips...
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