By B. Iris Tanner and Barbara Azan
Graceful, elegant, refined yet possessed of strength, intelligence and a will that belies its delicate appearance. This is the study in contradictions that comprises the Turkish Angora. No other breed has a coat so sensuously silky or a body that combines the elongated shape of the Oriental breeds with the solidity and firmness of a more moderate cat. Their extra large, erect ears are set high and close together on the head, giving the Turkish Angora a unique "bunny-rabbit" look, which is enhanced by large, soulful eyes. Another distinctive feature is the tail, which billows out into a glorious plume of fur.
The beauty of these exquisite creatures is best appreciated by seeing them in motion (which tends to be during most of their waking hours). Ornamental though they may be, sitting still to be admired is not one of their favorite pastimes. The hidden treasures that may be con-cealed in an owner's purse or the ray of sunlight that briefly flickers across a room are far more important to them. As a Turkish Angora leaps off in pursuit, it moves with fluid, coordinated grace, its gossamer coat shimmering with the movement of each muscle and its tail carried proudly erect, like a flag. The high activity level, ethereal appearance and predilection for height make the Turkish Angora appear only loosely anchored to the earth.
All Turkish Angoras registered with CFA can still trace their ancestry back to imports from Turkey and consequently, to original wild stock. As a result, their natural instincts are closer to the surface than those of many other breeds. This may account for their innate intelli-gence and strong wills. They make excellent hunters, stalking a mouse or a feathery toy with equal zeal. Once captured, prey is not willingly relinquished and breeders quickly learn that the best way to take anything away from a Turkish Angora is to distract it with a toy while quickly withdrawing the first object. Seasoned owners realize that firmness with these cats is an impor-tant part of loving them. However, this strength of will is part of the innate intelligence that makes them such fascinating cats to their admirers.
The Turkish Angora personality is as striking as its appearance, surpassing many other breeds when it comes to playfulness and affection. They quickly form devoted attachments to their owners, lavishing adoration unstintingly upon them.
However a well-adjusted, properly raised cat will often appear equally friendly to strangers, welcoming them with the level of en-thusiasm which you would be more likely to expect from a dog rather than a cat. Their curiosity and interest in their human companions knows no bounds, few indeed are the household activi-ties that do not benefit from a bit of Turkish Angora assistance. Their intelligence enables them, among other things, to devise ways of opening doors, cabinets and drawers that you would never expect of a cat. Consequently, they often conceal themselves in surprising places. It may be a necessity to search your clothes closet before leaving the house in order to extract the cat playing hide-and-seek there.
This is a cat that approaches everything with an intensity that often surprises newcomers to the breed. When a Turkish Angora is happy, a simple purr alone does not suffice; the cat rolls over on its back with its feet kneading joyfully in the air and accompanies this exhibition with an extremely loud purr. When in a playful mood, you can expect to find him walking across curtain rods or door tops and playfully attacking pens, keys or any other unattended small objects. Push-ing interesting objects off tables onto the floor is also one of their favorite games (similar to pool or golf). This has the added side benefit of teaching the owner to put things away. It is a rare Turkish Angora that is able to resist the temptation of a roomful of baubles and knickknacks, which they regard as toys placed in the room for their pleasure. Owners of the breed generally believe that changes in housekeeping habits are worth the effort, because of the devotion, beauty and entertaining antics of this breed.
Anything involving water holds a particular fascination for Turkish Angoras; in their wild state they once swam in pursuit of fish, like their Turkish Van cousins.
While both these breeds came from the same ancestral stock, selective breeding over the past fifty years has clearly separated them into two entirely distinct looks. The Turkish Van is larger, stockier and more muscular, with shorter, thicker fur and lower set ears. These differences are important to keep in mind when comparing the two, since the characteristic Van markings can also occur in bicolor Turkish Angoras.
Grooming a Turkish Angora is relatively simple in comparison to the grooming of other longhair breeds. The Turkish Angora's silky, single-coated fur rarely mats. Regular combing is recommended twice a week to keep the coat in its best condition and prevent the ingestion of fur, although heavily coated, older animals may require more frequent attention. It is important to regularly bathe and trim the nails from early kittenhood so that they get used to these procedures and accept them as a normal part of their routine.
Bathing is recommended every eight to ten weeks for white cats, while colored cats can go a few weeks longer. The difference between regular maintenance bathing and a show bath is simply the number of lathers and the drying method used. Bathing methods vary widely, de-pending on the equipment available. The two most popular approaches employ either a kitchen or laundry sink equipped with a sprayer or a bathtub with a hand-held shower.
Maintenance baths should include two lathers and show baths from three to five lathers, depending on the age of the cat and the length and thickness of coat. Because the silky coat can become oily with time and handling, the first lathering should generally be with a special de-greasing shampoo, a clarifying shampoo or a dilute solution of dishwashing liquid and water. Subsequent lathering should be with a conditioning shampoo best suited to the cat's color. Many good brands of whitening shampoos are available and should be used for bicolors and smoke or cameo cats as well as whites. Be sure to work up a rich lather all over the cat's body, legs, and tail and do not forget the stomach, paws, and hocks, which usually need special attention in white cats. Use a washcloth around the face, muzzle and top head and be careful to avoid getting water in the ears since that may be a cause of ear infections. Cleaning the ears gently with a cot-ton swab after bathing is a good safety measure.
The rule of thumb when rinsing is to rinse until all the soap seems to be gone, then rinse for at least two minutes longer because insufficient rinsing leaves the coat looking flat and greasy. Creme rinses are not generally recommended for this breed, because they can be too rich and leave the delicate coat with a greasy feel. It is better to stick with a conditioning shampoo and use a light spray-on conditioner or texturizing spray after the bath, if needed.
Drying is most easily accomplished by putting the cat in a carrier and propping up a dryer to blow into it. A coffee can is the perfect support for a regular hand-held dryer. Inexpensive stand-up dryers (known as Ducks) are available from most pet supply catalogues. When using this approach, it is best to use a medium heat setting and place the dryer six to eight inches from the carrier. Monitor the cat every few minutes to make sure it is not becoming overheated. When preparing a Turkish Angora for a show, many breeders like to hold the cats on their laps and comb out the fur while blow-drying. This adds volume and silky texture to the coat and also helps remove dead hair and prevent tangles. To use this method, comb first in the direction of the hair growth to remove any minor tangles, then gently reverse comb until dry. Females are not prone to birthing problems. They usually produce kittens quickly and ef-ficiently and make excellent mothers. The average litter contains from three to five kittens, but larger litters are not uncommon, with seven or eight occurring frequently in some lines.
If you think you'd like to show your Turkish Angora, it's a good idea to attend cat shows and see how judges handle these cats, stretching out the long, lean body, checking the tail length and feeling the face to check for bumps, breaks or undesirable curves. Judges also use toys to get the cats' attention and evaluate ear set, shape and size. Kittens destined for a show career should be handled in the same manner at home, so that they will become accustomed to the rou-tine. Many breeders begin to stretch kittens even before their eyes are open, as part of the daily handling that is so important when raising kittens of any breed.
While the traditional white cats are still the most frequent choice of pet owners, colored cats are fast gaining ground. One reason for the increasing popularity of nonwhite Turkish Ango-ras is that white cats are subject to deafness because of a defect in the dominant white gene. Blue-eyed white cats are most susceptible; approximately 50% are affected. Since a hearing blue-eyed white is the most frequently requested choice for a pet and most breeders prefer to re-tain such cats for their breeding programs, many buyers quickly decide to compromise on the eye or coat color of their desired pets. However, those who do accept a deaf cat quickly learn that there is virtually no difference in terms of daily interaction and personality. In fact, many breed-ers believe that the deaf cats are even more affectionate and interactive than their hearing sib-lings.
The other eye colors of whites, gold, green or odd-eyed (one blue and the other either gold or green), are much less likely to be affected by deafness. Including colored cats in a breed-ing program is the only way to reduce the incidence of deafness. Today even breeders who focus on white cats usually have a colored cat or two in their breeding programs. Other beautiful and popular color choices now available are the nonwhite solids, black, blue, cream and an occa-sional (but very rare) red; tabbies (in brown, blue, red, cream, silver and cameo); particolors (tor-toiseshell and blue-cream); bicolors (any of the previous colors in combination with white) and smoke and shaded colors.
The survival instincts of a self-sufficient, independent animal live on in even the most playful and loving pet Turkish Angora. Understanding their heritage is essential to understanding the breed today. It is the oldest of all longhair breeds, first documented in the 16th century but with a history that undoubtedly goes back several hundred years before that. Although they first came to light in the vicinity of Ankara, Turkey, some sources claim that the cat was brought to Turkey in the 12th century, that it was originally domesticated by the Tartars, and that its charac-teristic long, silky coat is a gift from some far-off wild ancestor.
What is known is that the Turkish Angora came to Europe during the Renaissance, and entered the pages of history in the writings of 16th century French naturalist, Nicholas Claude Fabri de Peiresc. From France, it was a short trip to England and the beginnings of the Cat Fancy. However, this was also where the Turkish Angora and the Persian were first interbred, in a process that eventually led to the virtual extinction of the Turkish Angora. By World War I, the interbreeding had merged the two to such an extent that the Turkish Angora virtually ceased to exist as a separate breed.
The breed still had some of its nine lives left, however. In the 1930s, the Turkish gov-ernment realized that their country's national breed had become almost extinct. A rescue opera-tion was set up. From all over the country, Angoras (or cats that looked like them) were gathered in the Ankara Zoo. This was not an easy task, for reports tell us that in 1966, there were fewer than 30 Angoras present in the zoo. The Turks concentrated only on white cats, removing any colored cats from the program.
In 1954, the first Turkish import was brought to the United States. Others arrived in sub-sequent years and by 1968, the Cat Fanciers' Association was accepting Turkish Angoras of all colors for registration. However, the white cats still had an edge. Provisional Status was granted only to the whites in 1970, and they were approved for Championship Competition in 1972. The first Grand Champions were achieved in 1975 and 1976. However, it was not until 1986 that the breed produced its first National Winner.
In 1978, after a long struggle, the colored Turkish Angoras were finally given the same Championship privileges as their white relatives. Some breeders still prefer the pure white cats extolled in the Turkish legends. However, colored cats have achieved considerable recognition in recent years, with a calico female achieving the National Best of Breed award in 1999. She was the first non-white TA to achieve this high honor.
Turkish Angoras though dainty of structure, are hardy, long-lived cats that become even more beautiful as they mature. They never lose their love of toys and games and can enrich a pet owner's life for as long as twenty or more years. The playful nature and loving disposition of this breed make the Turkish Angora an excellent choice as a pet for children or older persons. They get along very well with dogs and other cats. When considering compatibility with other cats, however, there are breeders who recommend more reserved breeds such as Persians or the Rus-sian Blues. Pairing them with these breeds is a wonderful combination. The Turkish Angora's influence makes a sedate cat more outgoing, while the calm demeanor of such a cat offsets the Turkish Angora's intensity. However, it is not uncommon for the Turkish Angora to adapt well to the companionship of equally active breeds such as the Abyssinian, Siamese, another Turkish Angora or any other breed for that matter.
In the final analysis, though, the only thing a Turkish Angora really needs in life is a hu-man companion who will give it the loving attention, affection and respect it deserves. This will be repaid many times over by the all-encompassing affection given in return.
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The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.
This program is supported by The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.