rec.pets.cats: Tonkinese Breed-FAQ
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Last-modified: 12 Mar 1997
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The Tonkinese Cat
The Tonkinese is a man-developed breed which is a cross between the
Siamese and Burmese. It is a socially oriented cat which enjoys
people, other cats, dogs, and children. It is medium in size and very
muscular. They remind many people of the old apple-headed Siamese of
twenty years ago.
Author: Linda Martino,
Copyright 1996 by Linda Martino. All Rights Reserved.
* Physical Description
* Frequently Asked Questions
* Breed Clubs
The ideal Tonkinese is intermediate in type, being neither cobby nor
svelte. It should give the impression of an alert, active cat with
good muscular development. The cat should be surprisingly heavy. While
the breed is to be considered medium in size, balance and proportion
are of greater importance. Females usually run 6-8 pounds and males
8-12. They are very muscular so appear lighter than they are.
The head is a modified wedge, the muzzle is blunt with a slight
Tonkinese are the only pedigree cats with aqua eyes. Eye color varies
from blue to green/gold. The eyes are an open almond shape.
The coat itself is short and lies very close to the body. It is very
silky and has a wonderful feel.
Coat pattern refers to the color of the coat in relationship to the
color of the points (extremities). Both Siamese and Burmese are called
pointed cats because their points are a different color than their
body. In Siamese there is a lot of contrast between coat and points.
In the Burmese this difference can be so small as to not be noticeable
and most people do not consider them a pointed cat. It is most
noticable in the dilute colors and as kittens, whereas the adult Sable
color appears to be solid.
Tonkinese have three coat patterns: pointed, mink, and solid. The
three kittens in the illustration have the same color _Natural_ (look
at the ears), but each have a different coat pattern. From left to
right they a natural point, natural mink, and natural solid.
Natural is a color name described in the next section.
* _Pointed_ - a Siamese coat pattern - It has a strong contrast
between the points and body.
* _Mink_ - unique to the Tonkinese - It is a medium contrast between
the Siamese and Burmese. The contrast between body and legs is
less abrupt than with Siamese.
* _Solid_ - a Burmese coat pattern - This is not a true solid cat
but one of weak contrast.
Only the Mink can be shown as it is the most different from the two
parent breeds, but all three coat patterns are registered cats.
Because of genetics, all three coat patterns will continue to exist
and cannot be eliminated from the breed.
Tonkinese, Siamese, and Burmese share the same four colors although
they call them different names. The colors refer to the point color
(face, ears, legs, and tail). The difference between the three breeds
is the color of their bodies not the color of their points.
The Platinum is the same color as a Siamese Lilac. It has a body of
pale, silvery grey with warm overtones with blue-grey noses & pads and
frosty grey points.
The Blue has the same color name in a three breeds. It has a body of
soft grey-blue with warm overtones with blue-grey noses & pads and
The Natural is the same color as a Siamese Seal and a Burmese Sable.
It has a body of medium brown with dark brown noses & pads and dark
The Champagne is the same color as a Siamese Chocolate. It has a body
of buff-cream with cinnamon-brown noses & pads and medium brown
As pretty as Tonkinese are, their personality is even better. A whole
book could be written on the Tonkinese personality. Tonks are
sociable, fun loving, involved cats. They are dog cats in that they
are people oriented like a dog with the convenience of a cat.
They have the intelligence and curiosity of a Siamese with a more laid
back personality of a Burmese. If you want a couch potato cat known
for its independence this is_ not_ the cat for you. They do have a
strong personality and can be stubborn, but they are so lovable it's
hard to get angry with them. Although active and muscular they are not
high strung and are very happy cats.
They are very social. They like people, other cats, children, and
dogs. They do not like living alone without attention. Frequently
people have two so they can entertain each other if you work. They
bond easily so they adjust well to new owners. They adjust well to
living inside as they love people. If left to roam outside, they may
be stolen or contact a health problem.
They usually play fetch and will jump to your shoulder. The shoulder
trick is fun early in the morning while you are getting dressed for
work! A cat tree is a good way to help exercise them. They love being
high and running up and down the tree helps use some of their excess
energy. They hate closed doors and want to know everything that goes
Documents exist which indicate the Chocolate Siamese of the 1800s were
actual Tonkinese, but the first known Tonkinese was Wong Mau in the
1930's who was the ancestress of the Burmese. She was bred with a
Siamese and was the only known cat of her kind. Over the years the
Burmese and Siamese breeders carefully bred out the Tonkinese
characteristics which resulted in the two breeds of today. From the
1950's to 1970's some breeders started to cross breed Siamese and
Burmese forming the Tonkinese of today. There was a lot of controversy
though as Burmese and Siamese breeders were trying to eliminate the
characteristics that made up the Tonkinese. They were first accepted
as a recognized cat breed by the Canadian Cat Association(CCA) and
then by the Cat Fanciers Association(CFA) in 1984. Some people still
feel there is no need for this breed but try telling that to a
The short thick coat does not require much maintenance. Their coat is
sleek and soft and you may want to occasionally give it a bath. They
should brushed and usually enjoy it as part of their human
Special Medical Concerns
In general Tonkinese are healthy cats with no known common genetic
problems. As a Siamese derivative they share in common health issues.
They are prone to gingivitis and brushing with a child's toothbrush is
useful. Care should also be taken by your vet when anesthesia is used.
As kittens they sometimes get upper respritory infections (colds), but
these are not usually serious.
Frequently Asked Questions
_"Do they talk a lot?"_
This depends on your point of reference. If you have known a Siamese -
not as much. If you are used to a sedate quiet long hair - a lot.
Tonkinese talk in sentences and paragraphs. They tend to carry on
conversations as opposed to talking to themselves. They expect you to
_"How much do they cost?"_
Tonkinese sold as pets usually cost $350-500. Sometimes breeders will
have older cats available to a good home for much less; these can be
excellent pets. Most breeders will not let them go until they are 12
weeks old, although this varies with the breeder.
_"Do they change color as they get older?"_
Like Siamese and Burmese, they get darker as they get older. The
facial mask starts on the nose when the kitten is a few days old. It
then spreads over the face and darkens with age. The kitten on the
left in the above kitten photo is Casper Ghost also shown in the head,
eye color section. You can see how the color has spread and his body
has also gotten darker.
_"Where did the breed's name come from?"_
I have been told it come from the Gulf of Tonkin which is a location
near Siam (Thailand) and Burma. But it's not in between so who knows.
_"Do you comb their fur to get the little curly-cue on their chest?"_
No. The cow-lick on the chest occurs naturally and I've never seen a
Tonk without one.
_"Where do I find a breeder?"_
Either contact one of the breed clubs below for a reference in your
area, check with your veterinarian, or attend a cat show in your area
to see if there are any local breeders.
* American Cat Association (ACA)
* American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA)
* Canadian Cat Association (CCA)
* Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA)
* Cat Fanciers' Federation (CFF)
* The International Cat Association (TICA)
_Tonkinese Breed Association (USA)_ CFA affiliated Tonkinese breed
club. The national club publishes a newsletter, "Aqua Eye", and awards
to CFA's highest scoring Tonkinese kitten, adult, and premier.
Secretary: Sheryl Zink, 6427 Singing Creek Lan, Spring TX 77379
_Tonk's West_ A regional west coast club of Tonkinese lovers who are
organized to help the breed. Secretary: Barbara Sickler 29392 Timothy
Dr. Dana Point, CA 92629 e-mail:
Updated April 24 1996
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