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The Turkish Angora is a semi-longhaired variety of cat, which originated in the Ankara region of Turkey formerly known as Angora. It should not be confused with the Oriental Longhair cat, which was first known in Britain as an Angora until changing its name in 2002 to avoid confusion with the Turkish Angora. Neither should it be confused with the Turkish Van or the Turkish Vankedisi, which are two different breeds in their own right. Despite being a very ancient breed, the Turkish Angora is not yet recognised by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), and cannot be shown at GCCF shows. However, it is recognised by The International Cat Association (TICA), which exists as an alternative registry in Britain with its own shows, and there are a small number of breeders in the UK. The Turkish Angora may look familiar to fans of the James Bond films, as one of the well-known villains, Blofeld, had a white Turkish Angora which sat patiently on his lap.
The Angora is known to have existed in Turkey way back in the fifteenth century, although there are different stories about how it arrived there. Some say the Vikings introduced it as long ago as the tenth century (and it became one of the foundation breeds for today's longhaired Persians), whilst there are other stories claiming that it arrived with the early Egyptian traders. There are known to have been Turkish Angoras in Britain from the 1500s, when Turkish Sultans offered them as gifts to the nobility of France, Italy and England, but as the longhaired Persian gathered popularity during the nineteenth century, so the traditional Turkish Angora became very rare in America and Europe. However, they were known here as late as 1889 when Harrison Weir (the founder of the modern cat fancy and organiser of the first UK cat show at Crystal Palace in 1871) described them in his book 'Our Cats and All About Them', which was the first book about pedigree cats. The Turkish Government became concerned about the decline of the Angora and set up a breeding programme at Ankara Zoo in the early 1900s to preserve the white 'odd-eyed' Angora (regarded as the national cat of Turkey), which proved to be a great success, and is still continuing today. The first Turkish Angoras were exported to the USA during the 1960s, and formally recognised by the Cat Fanciers' Association in 1973, and by The Cat Fanciers Association (TICA) soon after. Only white Angoras were accepted until 1978, but nowadays many other colours and patterns are also recognised.
The Turkish Angora is a small to medium-sized cat, with a muscular body, silky semi-longhaired coat and a full feathered tail which is often held in an upwards curve. It is a very graceful yet athletic-looking breed, and the coat shimmers when the cat moves. The original Turkish Angoras were white with 'odd eyes', one being orange and the other blue, but other coat colours have now been added to the Angora palette (apart from the dilutes such as chocolate, cinnamon and lilac), and many patterns including tortie, tabby, shaded and smoke, although pointed varieties are not permitted under the Standard and out-crossing to other breeds is not allowed. The eyes are almond shaped, and can be blue, green or amber, as well as the original odd-eyed whites who have one blue eye and one amber. It can take up to two years for the Turkish Angora to reach full maturity.
This is a very intelligent and people-focused breed, and makes an excellent family pet. They always want to know what's behind locked doors and closed cupboards, and are quite capable of finding out for themselves if they are not shown! Unusually for a longer-haired breed, they can be very demanding of attention, and also love following their own obstacle course around the house jumping on and off cupboards and wardrobes. Angoras are a very sociable breed, and get on well with other family members both human and pet, and they ideally need a feline companion if their owners are out at work. They are also very affectionate and will love sitting with their owners when they're not up to a spot of mischief around the home.
The Turkish Angora is generally a very healthy breed of cat with no breed-specific problems detected so far, and they should live well into their mid teens. However, in common with other breeds of cat, the white variety is sometimes (but not always) prone to deafness, although this should not be a problem if the cat is kept indoors. It is though that developing other colours within this breed has helped to eliminate the frequency of deafness. The other area for consideration in the white Angora is the lack of skin pigmentation, and they may become sunburned with an increased risk of skin cancer if they spend much time in direct sunlight. Kittens should always be purchased from a reputable breeder, and in common with other cats, they need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors.
The semi-longhaired coat of the Turkish Angora will need regular combing to keep it free from knots and to remove any loose hairs that could cause fur balls. Although they are a very active breed they will be happy to live indoors as they tend to focus more on their humans than their physical envirnment, although they will need to be kept well occupied with attention and toys if they stay in. They will eat most good quality brands of cat food, and will enjoy treats of chicken, ham and even grated cheese. However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available.