Introduction to Breeds – Tonkinese Cats

Introduction to Breeds – Tonkinese Cats

As an extremely loyal and loving cat breed, Tonkinese cats are the ideal lap cats. They dote heavily on attention and affection. It is like as if this breed came about to be loved by humans!

Continue reading to learn more about this popular and intelligent breed to see if they fit your home and your family.


We will never be sure about how long these cats have been in existence. Their breed officially only came about as late as the 1960s. Tonkinese cats are a cross-breed of a Burmese and Siamese. This resulted in a perfect blend of a cat with a cry less piercing than a Siamese but still possess their loving nature that possessed the intelligence of both breeds. 

Siamese and Burmese cats are native to Southeast Asia. However, they were one of the first few to be brought over to England in the late 1800s. They are the Chocolate Point Siamese, Havana Browns, Burmese and Tonkinese Cats that we popularly know today. Unless one is familiar with all the above breeds, it can be quite a challenge to distinguish which is which.

The first Burmese foundation cat made its way to the United States in 1930 and is the first known hybrid of the Burmese and Siamese cat. All of which we know today are descendants of the female cat, Wong Mau.

The Siamese Cat Club only allowed blue-eyed Siamese cats to participate in their competitions. Subsequently, all thanks to Canadian breeder, Margaret Convoy, Tonkinese cats were able to make their way into cat shows. She cross-bred a Seal Point Siamese cat with a Sable Burmese. Resulting in what she originally called a “Golden Siamese”. Due to the often confusion with the actual Siamese cat, the name “Golden Siamese” became “Tonkinese” in 1967.

Becoming an Official Breed

Later on, in 1971, the Tonkinese cat breed became official. All in the same year, Jane Barletta from New Jersey composed the first standard Tonkinese cat and the Canadian Cat Association granted this breed a championship status. The International Cat Association made the Tonkinese cat breed official in 1979. Followed by the Cat Fanciers’ Association in 1984.


With a medium length torso, Tonkinese cats are muscular but not coarse. Their rounded head is longer than it is wide, and they have adorable high cheekbones and oval-tipped ears. They have an almond-shaped set of eyes and are typically yellow-green, aqua or blue.

Their slim legs are proportionate to their body with hind legs just a little longer than their front legs. They have oval-shaped paws and a tapered tail proportion to the length of their body. Their fine coat is soft, silky and lustrous. Their fur is short to medium in length.


Tonkinese cats typically weigh between 6 to 12 pounds/2.3 to 5.5 grams.


  • Blue Mink/Solid/Point
  • Champagne Mink/Solid/Point
  • Natural Mink/Solid
  • Platinum Mink/Solid/Point


Tonkinese kitten lying down


Tonkinese cats are not for those who want an aloof and independent cat. They will not rest until they have your full attention. Tonks love to follow their owners around and be an active member of the family. They enjoy meeting and greeting guests in the house. They preferably do not want to be left alone for long periods of time. If you work away from the home, it is advisable to have another pet to keep them company.

Once you have bonded with your Tonk cat, he/she will be your new best friend. They will follow you from room to room and demand your attention. Take care when you are walking because they love to walk as close as possible to your feet. It won’t be a shock to find this clingy breed waiting by the front door as soon as you return home.

Playful and Intelligent

As an extremely intelligent breed, they love puzzle toys and other interactive toys. Although, you should always supervise their playtime to prevent injury. You may train them to fetch and walk with a leash. They have a playful nature and find a thrill in heights. Therefore, don’t get a fright if they suddenly climb up your lap or shoulders. As what every owner wants in a pet, the Tonks love to cuddle too!

They can be a little stubborn but because of their adorable mischievous nature, you will most likely overlook their stubborn streak. For the most part, they are active, but not hyper-active. Once they have tired themselves out, they are only too happy to snuggle up on your lap to take a catnap.

Relatively Loud

This breed is relatively brassy. Despite that fact, they have a softer side than the usually loud Siamese cats, who are very shrill when they get vocal. Tonks make different meowing and cooing sounds to express their needs and feelings to their humans. Try your best to differentiate these sounds and learn how to communicate with them.

Friendly and Sociable

Being very social and active, Tonks are ideal for families with both children and cat-friendly dogs. As long as children treat them with respect, Tonks and kids can get along just fine. They can also get along with other cats and most dogs. Putting a Tonk‘s authority or boundary to test may be one of the things that tick them off. Always take your time when introducing new pets into the household to properly socialise them.

Health and Lifespan

Tonkinese cats typically have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years. Although they are generally healthy cats, Tonkinese can develop some of the same illnesses and diseases that affect Siamese and Burmese cats.

Some of these include:


A disease in which a type of protein deposit known as ‘amyloid’ is present in certain tissues and organs. This may cause a dysfunction in the affected areas. Most cats affected by Amyloidosis are those that are 7 years of age or older.

Some symptoms may include mouth ulcers, extreme weight loss, ongoing vomiting and dehydration. Moreover, some may even develop blood clots in their blood vessels, difficulty in breathing and weakness in one or both rear legs.

Most cats affected by Amyloidosis would most likely need hospitalisation with IV fluids to stabilise their condition. After hospitalisation they may require constant medication and proper nutrition.

Asthma or Bronchial Disease

Also known as Feline Asthma, Allergic Airway Disease, Chronic Bronchitis, Allergic Bronchitis and Feline Chronic Small Airway Disease. All these terms are basically describing a condition where your cat’s airways in the lungs have inflammation.

Be sure to pick up the signs of this condition quickly. Your cat may have a suddenly “asthma attack” where they have a laboured breathing, wheezing or coughing.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergic reactions. Hence, the treatment for this condition is more focused towards managing and controlling the symptoms. Administering of anti-inflammatory medications by injections, tablets or inhalation is the usual treatment.

Mouth and Gum Disease

Within their lifetime, it may not come as a surprise if your Tonkinese cat suffers from a dental disease. Gum disease happens when there is inflammation deep in the teeth’s structures. Build-up of tartar caused by food bacteria and minerals may ultimately result in Gingivitis or periodontal disease.

Prevent your cat from mouth and gum diseases by ensuring that they receive simple yet consistent and quality dental care.


A hormonal disorder that occurs when there is excessive thyroid hormone production int he thyroid glands. The tumour that develops are usually benign. However, it is not impossible that a cancerous tumour may grow.

To manage the condition, surgery, long term medication, radioactive iodine therapy and diet change are possible ways to go. If these successfully controls the condition, your Tonk can live a normally and comfortably.

Heart Disease

If your cat’s heart structures are not functioning normally as they should, your cat may be facing a congenital or acquired heart disease. Congenital is when your cat was born with this disease and acquired is when your cat develops the disease later in life.

In spite of our developing world, these heart diseases do not have a cure yet. Although, they may be managed and treated with lifelong medication.


Weekly brushing should suffice to remove any dead hair and help distribute skin oil. Tonkinese cats are efficient self-groomers and rarely need baths.

It is advisable to brush their teeth once or twice a week to promote good dental hygiene. Gently wipe the corners of their eyes with a damp, soft cloth if you notice any discharge.

Clean their ears weekly with a cotton ball with a mixture of warm water and apple cider vinegar. Do not use cotton swabs to clean their ears as this can cause internal ear damage.

Moreover, trim their nails regularly and make sure that they have access to a scratching post. This will protect your furniture and other belongings.

Care and Nutrition

tonkinese blue eyes

Tonkinese cats are very particular about their litter boxes, so keep them spotlessly clean. Always provide them with cold, fresh drinking water that is readily accessible. 

It is best to keep your Tonkinese cat indoors to prevent them from being stolen or attacked by other animals. 

Tonkinese cats should be fed according to their age and weight. Do not overfeed them to prevent issues such as heart diseases or feline diabetes. Similarly, limit their treats as well. Lastly, and most importantly, do not give them table scraps!

Above all, take them to the vet for regular check-ups and ensure that their vaccinations are up-to-date to help promote a long and healthy lifespan for your Tonkinese cat.

Where to find Tonkinese Cats

white Tonkinese cat lazing around

Tonkinese cats typically come from breeders. Always check to see if a breeder has a solid reputation before buying a Tonk cat.

However, there are many Tonks in both animal shelters and Tonkinese rescue groups that need a loving home. Consider adopting one of these cats to save a life today!

Fun Facts!

In August 1970, a Tonkinese named ‘Tarawood Antigone’ gave birth to a litter of 19 kittens. Sadly, only 15 survived an only 1 was female. Valier Gane of Oxfordshire, UK was the lucky owner of this rose among the thorns.

You may hear “Chocolate Siamese Cats” once in a while. This is just one of the many Tonkinese cat nicknames.

During one of the shows of Jeopardy! in the 1960s, Jane Barletta (an American cat breeder) boasted about Tonkinese cats which gained this breed national recognition.

Most Tonkinese cats have a natural “cowlick” on their chest area.