"Saving The Van Cats" - NOT!

February 15 2015 at 4:09 PM

The activities of the Van Cats Research Center, which is given much praise in this article, are actually a major contributing factor towards the extinction of the Van Cat. As long as this "research centre" continues, the eventual extinction of the cat is assured. Thanks to it, the Van Cat is already all but extinct as a living presence in Van, and it inflicts a quite horrible life sentence on all the inmates of its overcrowded cat prison who go through their entire life without feeling sun on their fur or grass under their paws, with may of them driven literally insane.


February 8, 2015

Al Monitor - The world-famous Van cats, snow-white, with odd colored
eyes and found in Turkey's eastern province of Van, have been saved
from the threat of extinction. Their number, both in Van and other
Turkish regions, is now near a thousand. The Van Cats Research Center,
established by Van's Yuzuncu Yil University in 1992, has played a key
role in saving the species from extinction. The number of purebred
Van cats at the center has increased from 30 in 1992 to 144 in
2014. In the 23 years since its creation, the center has also given
away hundreds of cats to animal lovers in Van on the condition that
the felines remain under the center's scrutiny. The cats have been
issued ID cards and the university has banned them from being sold
or given away as presents. Taking the cats abroad is also prohibited.

Distinguished for their white silky coat and mismatched eye color --
usually one amber, one blue -- and their swimming talent, the Van
cats were declared a "national species" in a communique published in
Turkey's Official Gazette in 2006. The same year, the International
Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources included
the Van cat into itsreport on endangered species, listing it among
16,111 species across the world faced with the threat of extinction
due to human abuses. The report contributed greatly to accelerating
the project to save the cats, which have lived with the peoples of
Anatolia for millennia.

The Yuzuncu Yil University continues to work hard to save the
"aristocrat" felines, found only in the Van region. It uses controlled
mating methods to make sure the cats are purebred.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, the head of the university's Van Cats
Research Center, Abdullah Kaya, explained the characteristics of the
purebred Van cat. "A genetic work is not something that starts and
ends at a stroke. The genetic pool must not include alien genes. The
Van cat has to be fully white, with one eye turquoise blue and the
other amber. The roundness of its face and the length of its tail
are very important. We decide scientifically which cats are to be
reproduced by checking a number of criteria," Kaya said.

The Yuzuncu Yil University's Cat House is currently home to 144
purebred Van cats, including 65 females, 34 males and 45 young ones.

The bloodlines of all felines have been registered, including mothers,
fathers and even grandfathers. Each cat has a chip. ID cards have
been issued also to hundreds of Van cats outside the Cat House.

"The cats we give away to animal lovers are also Van cats, but with
both eyes blue or amber, or fur not impeccably white. When a cat gives
birth to five kittens, they are not all the same. Only one or two
possess what we call purebred characteristics. We keep those at the
Cat House and give the others away to animal lovers, again with IDs.

Those people can later seek our assistance on issues related to
feeding, vaccination or diseases," Kaya explained.

The cats have become the subject of 12 doctoral and post-graduate
studies as well as a number of other projects.

Kaya, who has headed the center for the past two years, commented also
on the "in-vitro cats" idea brought up by the previous administration
and the latest work at the Cat House.

"The 'in-vitro cats' idea entailed the freezing of embryos of
purebred cats. This, however, is something difficult, a method not
fully mastered yet. It can't go ahead before other technologies are
tried and everything is thought out in detail," Kaya said.

"Researchers willing to work on the cats undergo a tough questioning.

We ask them to explain the purpose of their projects, their thoughts
and objectives. Cloning and other similar work is out of the question.

Our aim is to breed and reproduce a pure species and raise researchers
in this realm," he added.

The research work on the cats has contributed to boosting tourism in
the city. "An average of more than 20,000 people visit the Van Cats
Research Center each year. This is a five-star hotel for the cats.

Their sheets are changed every 15 days, their rooms and outdoor
spaces are cleaned on a daily basis, their food bowls and toys are
sterilized. Eight workers take care of the cats, giving individual
attention to each of them. Visitors are required to wear shoe-covers,"
Kaya said.

He voiced confidence that the Van cats had been saved from the threat
of extinction, saying, "The Van cats are now more secure. With the
work of our center and all arduous efforts, the threat of extinction
for purebred Van cats has receded. Some new projects are under way,
but we can't reveal them before they are put into practice. Yet,
I can say we have ... achieved great progress in making sure that
the species lives on."

The Van cat has a prominent place in the lives of locals. Retired
biology teacher Gulseren Apaydin, who spent her childhood in Van,
recounted how she remembered the felines: "Half a century ago,
snow-white cats wandered the streets of Van. Their tails were like
fox tails. In the summer, I would go to the Van Lake with my elder
brother Tayyip and other children. The cats ... would go into the
water and play with us. Some children would press their heads into
the water. The cats were very resistant and funny. When I went back
to Van 17 years ago, there were almost no cats in the streets. I paid
visits to relatives. The Van cats, which used to be the emperors of
every household before, had disappeared from the city. I bumped into
a crossbred feline and, by habit, I tried to take it in my arms. It
pushed me and snarled. I was astonished. What had we done to those
docile cats?"

Van cats deserve to be called "aristocrats." According to the Van Cats
Research Center, they originate in the Altai Mountains. The earliest
information of the cats is found on Hittite jewelry and seals. Later,
when the Romans ruled the region in 75-387 A.D., they appeared also
on Roman shields and banners.

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