Poised, regal and refined, the Turkish Angora is arguably one of the world’s most beautiful breeds, with its fine, silky plumage, long, elegant body, pert, pointed ears and large, lovely eyes. The Angora has a long and slender medium-size body with fine boning and firm musculature. Though muscular and strong, this breed is elegant, refined and graceful. The shoulders are the same width as the hips, and the rump is slightly higher than the shoulders. Overall balance, grace and fineness of bone are more important than size. The legs are long, with the hind legs longer than the front, ending in small, round, dainty paws. Tufts between the toes are preferred. The tail is long and tapers from a wide base to a narrow end, and possesses a full brush. Adult males weigh 7 to 10 pounds; adult females weigh 5 to 8 pounds. No outcrosses are allowed.
The head is a medium long, smooth wedge shape, small to medium in size and in balance with the length of the body and the extremities. The nose has no The head is a medium long, smooth break. The muzzle is a continuation of the smooth lines of the wedge with neither pronounced whisker pads nor a pinch.
The ears are large, vertical, wide at the base, erect, pointed and tufted. They are set close together and high on the head. The eyes are large and almond-shaped, slanting slightly upward with an open expression. Eye color has no relationship to coat color, and the color of the eyes can change, especially as the cats mature. Acceptable colors include blue (sky blue to sapphire), green (gooseberry to emerald), green-gold (any gold or amber eye with a greenish cast or ring), amber (gold to rich copper), and odd-eyed (one blue eye and one green, green-gold or amber eye). While no points are specifically allocated to eye color, deeper, richer tones are preferred. Odd-eyed cats should have similar depth of color in each eye.
The fine, silky coat shimmers with every movement. The length of the single-coated fur varies, but the hair on the tail and the ruff is long, full, finely textured and has a silk-like sheen. The hind legs have full britches. Although solid white is the best known and most popular color, all colors and patterns are accepted with the exception of those showing hybridization, resulting in the colors lavender (lilac), choclate, the pointed pattern, or these combinations with white.
The Turkish Angora, named for the former Turkish capital of Angora (now Ankara), has been around for thousands of years, although no one is sure when the breed originated or how it got its long, lovely locks. Most cat experts agree that it’s likely the recessive gene for long hair came about through spontaneous mutation, rather than hybridization with longhaired wildcats. Some researchers speculate that the gene for long hair arose in three separate areas: Russia, Persia (now Iran) and Turkey. Other researchers believe the mutation developed in Russia and then spread to Turkey, Persia and surrounding countries. Still others think the trait developed in Turkey and was later transported to other areas. Because Turkey forms a land bridge between Europe and Asia, with the Black Sea to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south, it was always an important trade route for Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East.
When a mutation occurs in an isolated area, the trait is more likely to be passed around the local cat population through inbreeding. Because of the high elevations and cold winter temperatures in some areas of Turkey, cats with long fur had a better chance of survival and natural selection therefore favored those cats. The long hair was perpetuated and developed in confined, mountainous areas that limited outcrossing. These hardy survivors with flowing, non-matting fur, lithe bodies and the intelligence to survive in an unforgiving environment passed on these traits to their offspring.
Either they already had the dominant white gene that is one of the distinctive characteristics of the breed, or at some point they evolved or inherited it. By the time the breed was transported to Europe, the Turkish Angora looked much as it does today. White was not the only color, however. Early writings say that Angoras came in slate blue and red, and in tabby, spotted and bicolor patterns.
In the 1600s, Turkish, Persian and Russian longhaired cats were imported to Europe and quickly became popular; they were prized because their beautiful coats were so different from the plush, short coats of European cats.
The distinctly different body and coat types of the three longhairs were established by that time. The longhairs of Persia were stocky, short-eared cats with long, double-layered coats. The Russian longhairs were large, powerful cats with thick, all-weather coats. The Turkish Angora was a lithe, long-bodied cat with a long, single-layered coat, beneficial for the temperature extremes in winter and summer in the areas in which it developed. The 36-volume Histoire Naturelle (Natural History, published 1749 to 1804), by French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, includes an illustration that shows the long body, silky coat and tail plume of the Angora, which he noted came from the part of Turkey located in Asia.
In the 1800s, Turkish Angoras were also imported to North America, where they quickly became popular, along with Persians and other “exotic” cat breeds. Unfortunately for the Angora, in 1887 the British cat fancy decided that all longhaired cats would be grouped into the category “longhairs.” Persians, Turkish Angoras and Russian Longhairs were interbred, and the Angora was extensively used in Persian breeding programs to add length and silkiness to the Persian’s coat. For many years, people used the words “Angora” and “Persian” to describe any longhaired cat, creating confusion.
Gradually, the Persian became the preferred type and Angoras stopped appearing in cat show halls. They virtually ceased to exist except in their native land. In 1917, the Turkish government, seeing that their national treasure was in danger of extinction, began a breeding program at the Ankara zoo. At that time, it was decided that only white blue-eyed or odd-eyed Angoras would be included in the breeding program, since they were considered to be the only pure examples of the breed-even though other colors and patterns had existed since the breed’s earliest days.
After World War II, interest in this statuesque breed was rekindled in North America, and Angoras were imported from Turkey to re-establish the blood line. Because the Turkish people valued these cats so highly, obtaining Angoras from the Ankara zoo was very difficult. Liesa Grant, wife of Army Colonel Walter Grant, who was stationed in Turkey at the time, is credited with importing the first two Angoras in 1962: Yildizcek, a white amber-eyed female, and Yildiz, a white odd-eyed male. In 1966 the Grants returned to Turkey and were able to bring home another pair to add to their breeding program. After the Grants opened the door, other breeders managed to import Angoras as well, some from Turkey and some from breeders in Europe who had managed to get cats from the Ankara zoo or from the Turkish people. A careful and cooperative breeding program re-established the Turkish Angora in North America. In 1970, CFA became the first North American registry to accept the Turkish Angora for registration. In 1973, CFA accepted the breed for championship.
At first, the North American cat associations only accepted white Angoras. It took breeders years to convince the associations that the Angora traditionally came in many additional colors and patterns. The dominant white gene masks other colors and patterns, so it’s impossible to tell what colors and patterns a cat may carry under that pure white fur. White-to-white matings can and do produce colorful kittens. Finally, in 1978 CFA accepted other colors and patterns for championship status. Today, all cat associations recognize the breed in other patterns and colors, and colorful Turkish Angoras are becoming increasingly well-known and popular. The CFA breed standard now says that all colors should be considered of equal value-a very different position than the breed originally enjoyed.
In an effort to preserve the small gene pool, in 1996 the Turkish government banned the export of white Turkish Angoras. However, Angoras of other colors are still being born in Turkey, so the North American Angora gene pool is still being supplemented by Turkish Angoras of other colors and patterns.
Turkish Angoras are generally healthy and usually live long lives—be prepared for a long-term relationship. However, some lines have the inherited heart disease feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HMC). HMC is a life threatening disease, the first noticeable symptom of which is sometimes sudden death. However, since HCM is the most common heart disease in cats, many schools of veterinary medicine such as U.C. Davis and organizations such as the Winn Feline Foundation are working to find ways to treat and cure the deadly disease.
In addition, the Angora is affected by a condition known as Turkish Angora Ataxia, since no other cat breed or species is known to possess this problem. It begins at about four weeks with tremors and progresses quite rapidly to a complete lack of voluntary muscular control. No cure and no treatment exists at this time, although the Turkish Angora Ataxia Project, a study under the umbrella of the Winn Feline Foundation, is working to find the cause of the deadly disease. Talk to your breeder about these and any other health concerns and buy from a breeder who offers a written health guarantee.
Deafness is not uncommon in pure white, blue-eyed or odd-eyed Angoras, but the Turkish Angora is no more prone to this than any other pure white cats. White cats of any breed (and of no particular breed) can be born partially or totally deaf due to a genetic defect in the dominant white gene responsible for the white coat and blue eye color. Odd-eyed Angoras with one blue and one amber or green eye can lose hearing, but only in one ear, on the same side of the head as the blue eye.
While hearing-impaired Angoras should always be kept inside for their protection (responsible breeders insist that all Angoras be kept inside anyway), fanciers say they adapt remarkably well and learn to “hear” by interpreting vibrations. And since cats also depend upon body language and olfactory signals, deaf cats don’t lose their ability to communicate with other cats and with their human family. Deaf cats make fine companions and can be shown in many of the North American cat associations. Regulations vary, however, so if you plan to show a deaf Angora check the rules of your chosen association.
Breeders usually have very long waiting lists for hearing blue-eyed white Turkish Angoras, particularly females; you’ll get an Angora much faster and less expensively if you are flexible about color, pattern, and gender. After all, unless you’re a breeder, you’ll be altering your Angora anyway, and personality is far more important than a particular color scheme. Blue-eyed white hearing female Angoras are almost always kept for breeding because if they aren’t, the breeders will not be able to keep producing those prized blue-eyed pure white Turkish Angoras. Angoras of other colors and patterns have the same great Angora personality and your wait will be greatly reduced. Plus, white cats require more bathing and their fur shows on everything you own—you won’t be able to avoid wearing white after Labor Day.
Did you know?
As the story goes, Louis XV, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were all Turkish Angora fans. When Turkish Angoras were first transported to England and France in the 1700s, they became very popular and were prized as status symbols. Only the richest cat lovers could afford them.
According to fanciers, this active breed is purring poetry in motion. When in motion (which is most of their waking hours), Turkish Angoras move with the fluid, coordinated grace of small ballet dancers in furry dancing shoes. Angoras aren’t to be admired for their looks alone, though. It’s the breed’s personality about which fanciers wax poetic. They say once you get one, you’ll never want any other breed.
Extremely affectionate and devoted, Angoras tend to bond with one beloved person rather than the whole family, and for that reason are particularly good companions for people living alone who’d enjoy spending the next 15 or so years in a committed feline relationship. Angoras will show affection to others they know well, but only their favorite people earn their full adoration. Once they bond with their special humans, they are ever-present companions who give unconditional loyalty and love. Until you’ve experienced this kind of bond, say fanciers, you don’t fully appreciate how devoted, loving, and sensitive cats really can be. If you’ve had a terrible day, if you’re down with the flu, your Angora will be there to cheer you up with face kisses or nurse you back to health with purr massages. They are intuitive and know when something’s amiss with their preferred persons.
“Active” is another word commonly used to describe the Turkish Angora. The whole world is a cat toy to Angoras, but their favorite toys are mice—real or fake ones with faux-fur. They love to toss them, pounce on them and hide them in secret stashes. Angoras can be expected to climb curtains, dash around the house knocking over anything in their way, and perch like vultures on the tops of bookcases, shelves, refrigerators and even the tops of open doors. If you’re more fond of your breakable knickknacks than of you are of your cat, this isn’t the breed for you.
Angoras need lots of interactive playtime with you and become bored and lonely if left alone for long periods. If you really must leave your Angora alone, get her a feline companion, preferably an active, playful one, to keep her company. Otherwise, she’ll find mischief to get into while you’re away.
They’re also smart! Fanciers say that Turkish Angoras are so smart it’s scary. They think circles around most other cats, and a good percentage of their human companions, too. Angoras are very good at training their humans to do as they’re told. Angora lovers credit their intelligence to the harsh environment in which the breed developed. Examples of their intellect include figuring out how to open doors, cabinets, drawers and purses—those dainty paws are marvelously flexible and deft. If they don’t want to give up a toy or borrowed household item, they’re not above hiding it from their human companions and then looking up with big, innocent eyes as if to say, “Who me?”
Like their country cousins, Turkish Vans, Turkish Angoras are fascinated by water and sometimes even join their favorite person in the shower or tub. Not every Angora enjoys taking a plunge, but some do. Their interest in swimming depends much upon upbringing; kittens raised by swimming queens are more likely to become swimmers themselves.