Tonkinese breed is a domestic cat breed developed by crossbreeding between the Burmese and Siamese. This breed is medium-sized with a solid body and silky coat. These cats are active and alert with good muscular development.
The personality of a Tonkinese cat is very similar to other Siamese cats; they're sociable and love being around people. Tonk has a calm and sweet temperament and is known for being a loyal companion.
If you think of cats as independent and aloof, you might not have met a Tonkinese yet. In this blog, we’ll share all the personality traits and habits of tonk. Let’s start with her characteristics!
Tonkinese Cat History
Tonkinese is a result of a cross between Siamese and Burmese. The first Tonkinese was probably the product of natural coupling. Burmese and Siamese were neighbors in their hometowns in southeast Asia and became friends with each other. They have produced an intelligent cat with moderate body type, aqua eyes, and a less piercing voice than siamese.
The story of the Siamese and Burmese breeds began with the case of mistaken identity. Dr. Joseph Thompson had a dark brown and small cat named Wong Mau. At first, she thought to be a Siamese with a chocolate-colored cat. These Siamese were not unheard of and were described as ‘Chocolate Siamese’ during the 1880s.
Burmese, originally called ‘Copper Cats’ have existed in Southeast Asia, the same region as Siamese. An unintentional cross between them produced solid brown and Chocolate Siamese cats. The blue-eyed Siamese and Chocolate Siamese became the first feline who came to England from Siam in the late 1800s.
Chocolate Siamese was the offspring of natural mating between free-roaming Burmese and Siamese. Early records describe the chocolate siamese as siamese with greeny-blue eyes and burnished chestnut coat color. Breeders believed that these imports were not the same genetic but rather known today as Hava Browns, Tonkinese, Chocolate point Siamese, and Burmese.
At that point, it was hard to distinguish these cats from the available description. Eventually, the Chocolate Siamese disappeared in Britain, but they still existed in Myanmar. However, it was Wong Mau destiny to become the matriarch of Burmese and Tonkinese. In 1930, she was brought to the United States and recognized as a Siamese Burmese hybrid and today would be considered a Tonkinese.
The planned breeding of Tonkinese began in the 1960s with Milan Greer, who named the cats ‘Golden Siamese’. It was unknown earlier, but this breed has been around for hundreds of years. Eventually, Milan stopped his breeding program, but other breeders did not and continued to produce dark brown cats with points.
Notable breeders of New Jersey wrote the first breed standard and presented it to the Canadian Cat Association (CCA). The Tonkinese was the first cat breed to be developed in Canada. CCA began registering the Tonkinese in 1967 and granted her the championship status in 1971. The Cat Fancier Foundation (CFF) recognized the breed in 1974, followed by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1979 and Cat Fancier Association (CFA) in 1984.
The original spelling “Tonkinese” refers to the musical South Pacific that featured an island where no one discriminated against “half-breeds”. However, to remove the confusion about spellings, the name was officially changed to “Tonkaniese” in 1971. The name was given after the exotic-sounding Bay of Tonkin off southern China and North Vietnam.
Tonkinese is one of the oldest cat breeds, but one of the youngest officially recognized breeds. In 1984, they finally became an established breed and by 1990 got accepted by all major associations for the championship.
Tonkinese Cat General Description
Tonkinese cat breed is a medium-sized cat, considered an intermediate between British Burmese and long-bodied Siamese. Like her Burmese ancestor, they are deceptively muscular and heavier than they actually appear. Her legs are slim and perfectly proportionate with the slim and solid body with oval paws. Their head is gently rounded and slightly wedge shades having almond-shaped eyes.
The American style Tonkinese has a rounder but sculpted head with a sturdier appearance and shorter body. She was originally bred in the United States in 1930, reflected the rounded Burmese and old-fashioned Siamese. Most of the American breeders avoided using the extreme contemporary Burmese and rather used traditional Burmese. The original Tonkinese was based on the extreme spherical style of the Burmese descended from Wang Mau.
Currently, the Cat Fancier Association (CFA) has registered Tonkinese with four base colors: platinum, blue, champagne, and natural (medium brown). While some European cat associations accept fawn, cinnamon, tortoiseshell, apricot, caramel, cream, and red. However, The International Cat Association (TICA) has always accepted all colors and patterns.
Each of these colors is divided into three categories:
- Solid: Similar color to the Burmese. The color is uniform over the body with light points and green or golden eyes.
- Point: The dark face, legs, tail, and ears similar to the classic siamese style. The dark color contrasted with the cream or white base and blue eyes.
- Mink: An intermediate between Solid and Point category. This style has a lighter shade base harmonious with the point color. The eye color is usually a light blue-green called aquamarine.
Owing to the recent developments of Tonkinese, there is still some acceptable variation in these patterns and colors. However, below is the complete description of the Tonkinese cat breed.
||Legs & Paws
- Medium length
- Well developed muscular body
- Taut and firm abdomen
- Slightly slim legs
- Hind legs are longer than the front
- Oval paws
- Proportionate to the body
- Slightly rounded wedge
- Wide and blunt muzzle
- Slight whisker break
- Slanted toward the outer edge of the ear
- Soft and silky
- Medium length
- Platinum, blue, champagne, natural in mink, point, and solid patterns
Tonkinese Cat Personality and Temperament
The Tonkinese cat breed possesses many of their parents’ distinctly active, intelligent, and playful personality traits. They are generally people-oriented, lively, vocal, easy-going, and interested in almost everything happening around them. However, this means that they are easily susceptible to becoming bored or lonesome.
The tone of their voice is similar to the Burmese but less piercing and softer, and sweeter than Siamese. They enjoy playing fetch games and jumping to great heights and sometimes engage in dog-like behavior. Not surprisingly, they have a winsome personality since the Siamese and Burmese are prized for their docile temperament.
People familiar with Tonkinese, Burmese, and Siamese say that the Tonkinese is the best combination of both breeds. Everything is toned down in Tonkinese, the tone of voice, temperament, tendency to vocalize, etc. However, Tonk would love to share all of the day’s adventures with you when you come home. She craves love, attention and returns the same amount becoming the best companion.
Unlike any other cat breed or your busy family members, Tonk will definitely join you for dinner. She is a people-oriented breed, loves to interact with you, and would happily adapt to your schedule. She has an unwavering enthusiasm for life and life’s pleasure and loves interactive toys.
Tonk demands affection and attention, so you should be up for that all the time because she won’t rest until she gets it. You will see her getting involved in all of the family activities and hanging on your shoulder to roam around the house. You will not have any problems when guests arrive as she loves to meet people. She is not the type of cat who prefers to stay alone and sit in some corner of the house.
If you have a busy schedule, you need to make sure that there is someone in the house to keep her company. She is an active and brainy breed, so you need to keep her occupied with something like toys. Or just get two Tonks, so they can keep each other company and not show any destructive behavior due to loneliness. She is considered a highly intelligent breed; therefore, you can easily teach her anything like walking on the leach.
Teach her different tricks with positive reinforcement and provide her interactive toys to keep her mind and body exercised. Tonk can be stubborn sometimes in her quest to get her own way, but her clownish behavior is so endearing that it doesn't really matter. She also has a softer side and loves to sit in your lap and would claim yours as soon as you sit down.
Tonk believes that people exist to love and serve her and her rightful place is on your shoulder or in your lap. You'll observe her watching over everything you do.
She is smart and social, and you’ll see her answering the door and escorting guests inside, and putting up a show for all to enjoy. Moreover, she loves to eat, so you’ll see her breaking into a pantry where you have stored treats. Cat Proofing your homes becomes essential when you own a Tonkinese; otherwise, she'll pick up the lock and go out.
This clever and active breed will ruin your plants and toys, so make sure you keep all the plants and breakable things out of her league. These cats are extremely talented, intelligent, athletic, and curious. This is the reason why they have been called ‘the dog of the cat world’.
Coat Care and Grooming Needs
Tonkinese has a soft and short coat which is easily cared for with weekly brushing. The short coat comes in medium thickness and feels very soft and smooth. A weekly hair brushing is sufficient to remove dead hairs and distribute skin oil. She often needs a bath, so a bath after every three months or so is enough.
The other grooming the Tonk needs is nail trimming and ear cleaning. Trim her nail every week and clean the ears with a soft cotton ball whenever they look dirty. Use a vet-approved gentle cleaner. Frequently brush her teeth with a vet-approved toothpaste to maintain overall dental hygiene.
Start grooming your Tonk early, so your feline becomes accepting of this activity. Tonks is very particular with bathroom hygiene, so make sure they always get a clean spot. Keep the litter box spotlessly clean. It is important to keep your feline healthy and happy.
Moreover, keep your Tonk indoor to protect her from disease and attack by dogs or coyotes. She is not an outdoor cat, so it is recommended to keep her indoor unless you can keep a strict eye on her.
Tonkinese Cat General Health Problems
As Tonkinese is a mixed breed, she tends to inherit health issues from both of her parents. Tonks are generally healthy, but most of their health problems are genetics in nature. As they are descended from Siamese, they can be prone to gingivitis and may be sensitive to anesthesia. They can also develop some other diseases that are common in Burmese and Siamese.
Here are some common health issues that you might be observing in your Tonkinese.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy: An eye infection, very common in cat breeds. It causes the degeneration of the retina, which eventually leads to vision loss.
- Nystagmus: It is another eye problem in which the eye causes uncontrolled and repetitive movements.
- Lymphoma: It is a cancer of a lymphatic system that infects the immune system’s fighting cells.
- Hyperesthesia Syndrome: It is a neurological problem that causes obsessive scratching and grooming needs. It is also known as rolling skin disease or pruritic dermatitis of Siamese.
- Amyloidosis: It occurs when amyloid -an abnormal protein- builds up in your tissues and organs. It interferes with all the normal functions of the body, primarily the liver.
- Gastrointestinal problems like megaesophagus
- Crossed eyes
- Congenital heart defects like aortic stenosis
- Bronchial disease
- Crossed eyes
What Makes Tonkinese Cat a Good ESA
Tonkinese is a medium-sized cat but has a big personality. Her nature is a mixture of Siamese and Burmese sweet temperaments. She craves human attention and returns the same amount of affection and companionship in kind. They love to follow their human family and be around them wherever they go.
This makes it a great emotional support cat and you can easily get one by having a valid ESA letter.
Tonk gives constant companionship to her family. If you’re going to the bathroom, you’ll see her in the bathroom. If you are in bed, she’ll be lying with you in bed and enjoy cuddling. Even if you are immersed in work, they stick around and always observe whatever you are doing.
Moreover, she gets along with everyone, including cats, children, and cat-friendly dogs. She is a perfect choice for families with children who treat them politely with respect and love. She also lives peacefully with dogs and gets along well as long as the dogs know who the boss is.
Tonkinese cats are highly intelligent, which means they are interested in almost everything. They love interactive toys, which include the tails of their feline friend and human fingers. They quickly master the puzzle toys, so make sure you provide them lots of things for mental stimulation. However, they get bored easily when they do not have anything to do.
Everyone is a friend to a Tonkinese. She is a ‘door greeter’ who cannot wait to see who is coming over to play. These cats are also highly energetic, but their energy is offset by their strong attachment to humans. However, despite their energy, they are a constant to be a lap cat.
You might be convinced until now to bring a Tonkinese home. Therefore, it is important for you to know that this breed is highly vocal. So you should be prepared for lots of talking. But their voice is softer and sweeter than that of Siamese, so you would definitely love her voice.
They do not just talk to hear their voice but to get your response. They expect you to talk to them and have long chit-chat sessions. If you are dealing with some loneliness and feeling alone, get a tonk. She will keep you company and make the best emotional support animal you could ever have.
Ask your doctor to provide you an emotional support animal letter and bring the friendly feline tonk home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Tonkinese cats expensive?
No, as compared to other cat breeds, Tonkinese is comparatively less expensive. Moreover, if you adopt a Tonkinese, you may have to spend around $75 - $150. However, if you buy a Tonkinese from a reputable breeder, you may have to spend around $600 - $1200.
What is the difference between Siamese and Tonkinese cats?
Tonkinese inherited many personality traits from her parents. However, there are still some differences between them. The Tonkinese is more docile as compared to talkative and highly vocal Siamese. At the same time, both love human contact and are highly affectionate cat breeds.
Do Tonkinese cats shed a lot?
No, Tonkinese cats shed moderately. Their coat is very easy to handle, and it requires only weekly brushing. However, the amount of shedding varies from cat to cat; some shed a lot while others keep their coat long.
Are Tonkinese cats hypoallergenic?
No, Tonkinese is not a hypoallergenic cat breed. However, it is often branded as a hypoallergenic cat breed. But that is not true; allergic people would be allergic to Tonkinese cats.
How do you know if you have a Tonkinese cat?
A Tonkinese is a medium side cat and heavier than she appears. She has pointed and upright ears with rounded tips and wide at the base. Her blue-green eye color makes her easily distinguishable from other breeds.
Why do Tonkinese meow so much?
Tonkinese is a very talkative cat breed, and they love to talk with everyone. They crave human attention and want to play with people all the time. They have a very distinctive meow which they use to interact with people.