The Tonkinese has the best attributes of the Burmese and Siamese breeds combined into one adorable cat. These felines are known for their friendly demeanors and loyalty to their companions. They love to be around their humans, giving and receiving affection at any time of the day.
Formerly known as the “Tonkanese,” Tonkinese cats are very playful and interactive. They do great with other pets—especially if they have the same energy levels—so don’t be resistant to the idea of getting two Tonkinese cats.
With their adorable looks and loving personality, there’s a lot to look forward to with this cat. Learn more about the Tonkinese breed and see if they could be a good fit for your family.
|...at a glance
|Loving, sociable, playful
|Coat & colors
|Short; colorpoint, various colors & patterns
Overview of a Tonkinese cat
Tonkinese cats are compact little felines with a whole lot of personality. They are considered medium in size, but they vary greatly in their overall appearance. When you see a Tonkinese, you might first wonder if you’re seeing a Siamese or Burmese cat. You’re actually seeing both!
With beautiful coats, a strong and svelte body, and a very alert expression, it’s easy to see the resemblance between the Tonkinese and their cousins.
At 6 to 12 pounds, Tonkinese cats range from small to medium in size. Males may weigh a bit more, and weight depends on how much they eat and their overall temperament. If they are more active, they might be able to maintain their weight more easily.
The length of a Tonkinese is hard to pinpoint. Their size varies greatly, so it depends on how big their bodies are. They can be quite long, at up to 28 inches in length. Their tails are usually very proportionate to their bodies.
The Tonkinese cat’s coat is typically short, silky, and soft. They have a sheen that makes them glisten, especially when they are basking in the sun.
As for color and pattern, the Tonkinese comes in natural, champagne, blue, and platinum colors and solid, mink, and pointed patterns. Tonkinese cats don’t always develop a full body of color until up to 16 months of age. Even then, their coloring will become darker as they age.
Tonkinese cats are relatively healthy, especially when you provide regular vet check-ups. This breed can live for 10 to 16 years.
History of the Tonkinese cat
It would be a bit of a stretch to assume that the Tonkinese was a fully man-made breed. The parents of the breed—the Siamese and Burmese—have lived in the same area for hundreds and hundreds of years. It’s likely that they mated before creating what breeders in the 1960s named the Tonkinese.
Planned breeding for the Tonkinese cat happened because people wanted a cat with the same traits as their cousins at a more moderate level.
The first Tonkinese cat arrived in the United States in the 1930s. This cat was at first thought to be a Burmese cat, but was later discovered as part Siamese and part Burmese. Her name was Wong Mau, and she helped establish the Burmese cat line. Many Tonkinese cats today can be traced back to her.
During this period, these solid-colored cats were considered a hybrid and weren’t named the Tonkinese. In the 1960s, there was a resurgence, and breeders worked to establish these cats as their own breed.
People fell in love with their interesting looks and mild temperament. They settled on the name Tonkinese after the Bay of Tonkin off southern China and northern Vietnam, even though they were not from this area.
The Tonkinese cat has proportionate physical attributes. Their torsos, tails, and legs are all relatively similar in size, and their head is wedge-shaped with high cheekbones and alert eyes and ears. The Tonkinese is a solid and muscular cat.
Their gold, aqua, or yellow-green eyes are bright and focused, making it feel as if they are watching your every move (and they probably are). Just as their eyes are alert, so are their ears. They are wide and set apart on the tops of their heads, facing forwards and always listening.
Fun fact: This breed was the first pedigreed cat with an aqua eye color!
Their ears and eyes aid in the Tonkinese’s boldness and excitement. They like to be a part of the action and usually know what’s going on around the house.
When the Tonkinese breed was being created, breeders were hoping to match the lovable attitudes of Siamese cats and Burmese cats in a new breed. Breeders Margaret Conroy of Canada and Jane Barletta of the U.S. got just that: Tonkinese cats are devoted and loyal companions with loads of playful attitude and even more love.
Like the Burmese, Tonkinese cats love to play and interact with their family members—so being in a sociable home where someone is able and willing to do this is essential.
Like the Siamese, Tonkinese cats are vocal and will have many conversations with you throughout the day. Tonkinese aren’t quite as chatty as the Siamese, but don’t be surprised when they share their opinions with you on the regular.
They will want you to pull around a toy or chase after crumpled-up paper that you’ve tossed for hours. Their favorite activities are the ones they do with their families.
These are very friendly and affectionate cats, which makes them appealing in family settings. Tonkinese cats also do well with a furry friend, so getting another cat or dog would be a benefit to your cat. They love other animals that match their energy levels so they can have a playmate at any time of the day.
At the end of the day, the Tonkinese is likely to curl up as a lap cat or crawl beside you to take a nap. They love cuddling and welcome all kinds of affection, especially from their humans. You really do get the best of both worlds with this cat breed!
Caring for the Tonkinese
Taking care of a Tonkinese is relatively easy, especially when you pay attention to what you are feeding them, monitor how much exercise they are getting in a day, and take them to the veterinarian regularly.
Proper care is essential to maintain your Tonkinese’s health. However, as a vocal cat, a Tonk might be able to let you know when something is wrong. Generally, Tonkinese cats are healthy and can live a long life.
Their coats are short and not too difficult to groom. To keep their coats clean and free from debris, weekly brushing is recommended. They do a good job keeping up with their own grooming needs, but they need more interaction in the play department to avoid obesity.
Tonkinese are lively and outgoing, which means you'll want to engage them in play and give them toys and enrichment tools for entertainment. If a Tonkinese cat does not get enough of what they need, they won’t let you forget about it.
Trimming their nails is a must. Teeth cleanings help prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease, which Tonkinese cats are more prone to developing.
It’s also important to keep their litter box neat and clean, but this is easier when a self-cleaning litter box does all the work for you. If you use Litter-Robot 4, you don’t have to scoop, and your cat always has a fresh place to go.
Possible health issues
Along with dental disease, the Tonkinese cat may be prone to feline lower urinary tract disease, which causes discomfort in cats while urinating. Some signs that your Tonkinese might be experiencing urinary issues include frequent urination, not using the litter box or urinating outside the box, and vocalizing or straining while urinating.
Due to health problems in the Siamese lineage, the Tonkinese are more prone to liver problems. If your cat is experiencing lethargy, vomiting, yellow eyes or skin, swelling of the limbs, or a lack of appetite, you should take them to the vet immediately.
Adopting a Tonkinese cat
The Tonkinese are playful, active cats that need a home where they can thrive. Their beautiful coats and unique look help them stand out, but what’s really amazing is how they bond with their humans. These cats practice loyalty every day and really just want to be with their people.
If you are open to chatting late into the evenings and curling up with a good book and an even better companion, the Tonkinese is just the right kitty for you. These lovable cats will bring so much joy to your life, all wrapped up in a very adorable package.
- Tonkinese | VCA Animal Hospitals
- Dental Disease In Cats | VCA Animal Hospitals
- Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine