by Dolores Reiff
Originally published in The Cat Fanciers’ Almanac, November 2001

Do you want a cat that is elegant, yet easily groomed? Slender, yet muscular? Content on its own, yet affectionate to its owner? A breed with a very long and fascinating history? Then you want a Turkish Angora. In addition to being bred by dedicated and responsible breeders, this strikingly beautiful longhair cat is still kept at the zoo in Ankara, Turkey, and is being bred and maintained in its native country

The Turkish Angora may well have been the first longhair cat seen in Europe. In 1520, a longhair white cat was brought to Europe from Angora, later Ankara, Turkey. In his 1889 book Our Cats and All About Them, Harrison Weir wrote about the top quality Turkish Angoras, which were described this way: “The best are. . a pure white with blue eyes, being thought the perfection of cats. . . and its hearing by no means defective.” Weir also mentions that the beautiful Turkish Angora was seen in black, the “slate colors,” blues and also smokes. This beautiful breed was fascinating to cat fanciers in Europe but was later surpassed in popularity by the Persian.

At that time, the Turkish Angora was largely ignored and almost became extinct in Europe. If some cats had not been kept in a Turkish zoo, the breed may have been entirely lost. The Ankara Zoo began a massive undertaking to save and protect the Turkish Angora, one of the two native Turkish breeds of cat. They concentrated on the whites, but bred whites with blue eyes, gold eyes and odd eyes. The zoo kept these cats in impeccable condition and their breeding program was both scientific and genetically sound. They kept exact records but were extremely reluctant to let any of their Turkish Angoras go elsewhere. The Turkish government and people took great pride in this breeding program.

While it was extremely difficult to get a Turkish Angora from their protectors in the Ankara Zoo, finally in 1963, a breeding pair was released to Colonel and Mrs. Walter Grant. This pair of Turkish Angoras was unrelated and became the beginning of the breeding program in the United States. The female of this pair was named Yildicek, an amber-eyed white; the male, Yildiz, was an odd-eyed white. In 1966, the Grants were able to go to Turkey and buy another unrelated breeding pair of Turkish Angoras.

Turkish Angoras are generally medium-sized cats and have long, slender bodies with fine boning, making them appear extremely elegant. They are muscular, alert and active cats, and as if they know their heritage, they are very proud of themselves. They love to run and play and should be provided with perches and cat trees for this purpose. Turkish Angoras love interactive play with their owners but are also content when playing by themselves, so they should have a selection of toys for amusement. They are very affectionate cats and are extremely intelligent. As a result, they learn by watching, so owners must be aware of hazards and make certain the cats cannot get to them. Females make excellent mothers and keep constant watch on their kittens. This is one breed that just loves to show off, whether at home or on the show bench.

The coat of the Turkish Angora is medium long, and has a single coat with no undercoat which makes this longhair cat easy to care for. The coat has seasonal variations but even when shorter, it should be soft and silky with a flow when the cat is walking or running.

Many people ask if all Turkish Angoras are deaf. Absolutely not! Just because some cats have two blue eyes or odd eyes, this does not necessarily mean that they are deaf. Even if a cat is deaf, the degree of deafness varies widely among individual cats. The concern about deafness in cats and the breeding of these cats is more a matter of politics rather than of scientific ethics. Cats who are deaf do very well in a home environment. You may find that they cannot modulate their voice as a hearing cat can, but that distinction is minimal. In addition, to get the attention of the cat, you may have to touch him or her or gesture to it, because the cat cannot hear your voice.

In The Beginning…

In November 1962, Walter and Liesa Fallon Grant obtained Yildi (“Star”) an odd-eyed white male, and Yildizcik (“Starlet”) an amber-eyed white female from the Ankara Zoo. In March 1963, their first litter was born: Mustapha, an odd-eyed white male, and Suna Aisha, an amber-eyed white female. The Grants sold their kittens as pets until May 1967, as there were no more unrelated pairs in the United States. In August 1966 they returned to the Ankara Zoo to get another unrelated pair: Mav’s, an odd-eyed white male, and Yaman, an amber-eyed white female.

Catteries using Angoras from the Grant breeding and other imports were:

  • LeShin-Wieler
  • Chin Hill
  • Kukkula Acres
  • Meera
  • Rindy’s Haven
  • Casto
  • Thornton
  • Briar Brae

Among the most famous descendants of the Grant line were:

  • CH, PR Sevda of Chin Hill
  • CH Ahududu of Casto
  • CH Kukkula Acres Metaxa of Meera
  • CH Leshin-Wieler Snowflake
  • CH Ulku of Kukkula Acres
  • CH Kukkula Acres White Shade

In 1964, Sgt. and Mrs. Ivan Leinbach of Arizona imported Sam Olgum and Aliya’s Snowball, who passed in 1972. The Leinbach imports include Zeus of Kukkula Acres and CH Tyke.

In 1965, Mrs. Ray Porter, another service connected importer, returned from the Ankara Zoo with Belkzar, an odd-eyed white female. She was bred to a zoo stud, Sam of Mountain Home, an odd-eyed white male, owned by a Mrs. Brown. The offspring, Damuk of Thorton and CH Rise of Thornton were obtained by Lee Thornton and used with her Leinbach and Grant cats to establish her line of Thornton Turkish Angoras, otherwise known as Thornton’s Desert in non-CFA associations.

In the early 1970’s, other cats from the Ankara Zoo were exported to breeders in Germany and Holland. In 1975, Thomas and Virginia Torio of New York obtained Gelin of Torio, a six-week-old amber-eyed white female, from the Ankara Zoo.

In June 1967, the Grants appeared before the CFA Board with Yidizcik, their original female and two of her daughters, Talihli, an odd-eyed white and Yalvaran, a blue-eyed white. In January 1970, CFA officially recognized the breed for show purposes. At last, the Turkish Angora was in its rightful place among the most beautiful cats in the cat fancy.

The groundwork was laid by a very hard working group of breeders who loved and respected this most unique and interesting breed. The breeders and owners of today’s Angoras should thank and remember them for their efforts to keep the breed alive. May they last another 31 years in CFA.