Let's talk Tonkineses

What do you get when you cross a Siamese with a Burmese? A Tonkinese. Tonks, as they’re nicknamed, are all cat:  active, curious, and team players. Super social, they enjoy the spotlight immensely - but want you to share it - and can be quite gabby, one of their many endearing qualities. Human, animal - no being is ruled out when it comes to companionship as far as the Tonkinese cat is concerned.

Official name: Tonkinese Cat

Other names: Tonk

Origins: Mynamar, Thailand

Black and white portrai of sitting Tonkinese cat
 Hair length

Medium

 Family Pet*

 Shedding level  Medium  Cohabitation with other pets
Grooming needs  Medium  Can stay alone*
Low
 Energy Level* High  Environment (indoor/outdoor) Low
 Vocal tendencies Low

 

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.

All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.
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Illustration of standing Tonkinese cat
Male
4.5 - 5.5 kg Weight
Female
3.5 - 4.5 kg Weight

 Baby age  Birth to 4 months
 Puppy age  4 to 12 months
 Adult age 1 to 7 years
 Mature age  7 to 12 years
 Senior age  From 12 years

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Get to know the Tonkinese

All you need to know about the breed

The beautiful short-haired Tonkinese cat is a stunner and their human admirers are aplenty. Smart, and hugely convivial, they enjoy time with others - playing, socialising, sleeping, anything as long as the company is good. Yes they are inquisitive, like most cats, but Tonkinese-type cats seem to push it up a notch.

The breed shares the distinctive point colouration of their Siamese ancestors - that splendidly pale body with darker extremities, a black muzzle, and piercing blue eyes. If a repeat cat owner, you will be one satisfied customer; if new to the cat kingdom, this is a fantastic cat to have out of the gate.

Call them overly social: Tonkinese cats get a thrill out of having pals over! Other cats, dogs, people of any age - all are welcome. They revel in being the centre of attention. Warm and sociable, this is a cat who truly does not like being home alone. Consider some company for them, if you’re out of the house a good deal.

The Tonkinese cat breed is the perfect marriage between the Siamese and Burmese cat breeds, which combines the intelligence and curiosity of the former and the chilled-out vibe of the latter. There aren’t different types of Tonkinese breeds, just the original robust and healthy cat. Another super aspect of the Tonkinese personality:  They emit more dulcet tones than their Siamese cousin, whose meow is known to be high-pitched. A chatty catty, the Tonkinese cat enjoys a good convo and will never hesitate to express themselves.

A curious cat through and through, they’re never too busy to stop for a petting session, preferably held in your lap. Just make sure you’re sitting comfortably – they’re a lot heavier than they look.

Lively and playful as well, there are many positive Tonkinese cat characteristics, primary among them that they are very intelligent. Keeping their minds occupied with playing, puzzles and fun toys is pretty essential to a pleased feline. A Tonkinese cat can even be taught tricks and welcomes the challenge. So full of personality are they that any Tonkinese owner should get used to the odd bit of mischief. The breed makes a good pet for owners who truly enjoy cat play time as much as the cat in question.

Tonkinese sat in draped dark fabric

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2 facts about Tonkineses

1. This cat thinks she's a dog

Active, intelligent and feisty, a Tonkinese cat’s behaviour ranks up there with some of the best. They are known for their capacity to learn tricks, like a dog. Some of their more celebrated feats:  opening doors, turning off lights, and playing fetch till you – not they – get tired. 

2. Look who's talking 

Tonkinese cats are very vocal and communicate their needs to their owners out loud. And when they do so, it’s a good idea to listen. If not, theyre likely to find a less vocal – and more rascally – way to get your attention, which may involve claws and furniture.

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History of the breed

Although some people believe that there were Tonkinese cat types back in the 19th Century, most consider the breed to be a recent cross between the Burmese and Siamese. The founding feline was likely a Burmese cat named Wong Mau, a small walnut-colored cat imported to California by Dr. Cheesman Thompson in 1930. Wong Mau was actually a type of Tonkinese mix cat, though the budding breed was not recognised as such at the time. Some of today's Tonkinese cats, as well as Burmese, can be tracked by pedigree back to Wong Mau.

Then, in the 1960s, American breeder Jane Barletta and Canadian breeder Margaret Conroy began working separately to breed Burmese to Siamese cats. They hoped to create the perfect combination of both breeds’ looks and personalities. Eventually in 2001, the Tonkinese cat breed left behind their crossbreed classification and earned their status of a pure breed.

The breed’s name was initially spelled Tonkanese, said to refer to the island made famous in the musical South Pacific as a place where no one discriminated against half-breeds. It was then changed to Tonkinese in 1971, after the Bay of Tonkin in Vietnam, although the breed is not associated with the Asian country. All in all, a somewhat befuddling history for a most exceptional breed.

Black and white portrait of Tonkinese cat looking into the distance

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Tonkineses

1. Head

Long, lean head, broader at the eyes, tapering to muzzle

2. Ears

Small ears, flat against the head and held back

3. Body

Strong, muscular but lean body with deep chest

4. Coat

Fine short coat in grey, brown, white, tan and grey

5. Tail

Long tapering tail

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Labrador Retriever
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Hybrid and health

Overall, the Tonkinese breed has enjoyed an excellent state of health since they started life as a hybrid, which limits their ability to be too inbred. However, because the Siamese is their ancestor, they can be susceptible to a few of the health issues that Siamese cats potentially go through, including respiratory illnesses, congenital heart defects, certain gastrointestinal conditions or oral hygiene problems. The Tonkinese type of breed may also be vulnerable to amyloidosis, the heavy deposit of amyloid protein in a cat’s organs. A regular round of visits to the veterinarian will keep your Tonkinese cat in top form.

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Use the buddy system

The Tonkinese cat isn’t an independent, leave-me-alone cat. Their incredibly social nature and lively intelligence mean they require a lot of interaction with others – whether that is animal or human. They epitomise the curious cat, but mostly want to know what you’re thinking and when you’ll pet them next. When you have to step out, the Tonkinese will appreciate a cat or dog friend to play with during the day. Let the games begin! The Tonkinese temperament is confident and fun - they’ve even been known to play hide-and-seek with their feline friends.

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Kind of a brainiac

The Tonkinese has high intelligence and will have a good time displaying it, including a healthy game of fetch here and there, even if they don't bring you the toy each time. It's all part of the fun - and the more toys, the better, as far as this breed is concerned. Anything to keep them active and their smart minds occupied.

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Caring for your Tonkinese

Grooming, training and exercise tips

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The Tonkinese coat is unmistakable; keep it stunning and in its super-soft state with a course of good grooming; as they are a short-haired cat, the breed requires moderate care. A weekly brushing should be sufficient to rid them of dead hair and stimulate the natural oils in their fur. Bathing is rarely necessary, especially since Tonkinese don’t shed much, and, being more of an indoor cat, may not get into anything too messy. Teeth will require brushing at least once a week, if not more frequently, to prevent gingivitis. Clip their nails regularly too and provide a scratching post (or they’ll likely find a convenient couch).

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The one thing to know about the Tonkinese breed:  They are highly intelligent, which makes them easy to discipline. Receptive to any attention that comes their way, Tonkinese will gladly repay you in spades (head butts and purring galore) when it comes to rewards for good conduct. They can even be taught to fetch, such is their need for fun. The breed is also super gregarious, welcoming people, cats, and dogs into the mix - as long as their canine brethren show respect. All that said, reinforce good Tonkinese behaviour so everyone gets along.

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Active and athletic, the Tonkinese cat lifespan is a long and healthy one - sometimes up to 20 years! They are high-energy and will always find a way to move. The Tonkinese breed is fairly muscular for their size, so will need a daily workout. Easy for a cat you say but make sure to engage in play - they’ll be thrilled! This is a breed that’s more than pleased to frolic, endlessly learning tricks and making up some of their own. They’re blessed with a high metabolism so are unlikely to gain weight. The Tonkinese also like jumping to high places so keep a watchful eye on kitty to make sure she doesn’t get into anything she shouldn’t.

All about Tonkineses

It’s probably not the best idea to let your Tonkinese cat explore the outside world. Despite their natural inquisitiveness, the Tonkinese cat is bred for the great indoors. If you want to keep them safe outside, the breed can actually be trained to walk on a leash.

You can tell the Tonkinese breed by the shape of their ears, which are quite large, quite pointed, and set quite high. Another defining characteristic of a Tonkinese cat:  their surprisingly heavy weight, solid despite their lithe, medium-sized body. And their character too, is a good indication. A Tonkinese is a velcro cat, and will always want to be right by your side.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/