January 28, 2023

Tonkinese Cat Breed Profile

Tonkinese Cat Breed Profile

About the Tonkinese cat breed

If you speak to any Tonkinese breeder or owner, they will probably rave about how clever this cheeky cat is. Often described as inquisitive and intelligent, the Tonkinese, or ‘Tonk’ as they are affectionately known, is very much a companion cat who will seek out company from humans and felines alike.

Penny Reeve, chairman of the Tonkinese Cat Club, can’t get enough of the extroverted Tonkinese: “They have wonderful personalities – they’re sometimes called ‘the cats who think they’re dogs’, and there can indeed be a lot of dog-like traits in their characters. Some will learn to fetch, many of them can be trained to walk on a lead and they usually bond very closely with their owners. They love company and attention.”

Val Chapple of the Tonkinese Breed Club agrees: “They are highly intelligent cats and very dedicated to people – they actually need people and don’t like being left alone. If you’re out at work all day, it’s kindest to have to have two to keep each other company, and try to provide secure outdoor access. We have an outdoor run for our cats so they can go outside as they please. “Tonkinese like to be into everything, and will open drawers and cupboard doors! They’re definitely one of the most intelligent breeds.”

Tonkinese cat breed look

Tonkinese are extremely elegant looking cats with almond-shaped eyes which may be blue, green, amber or turquoise. They have large ears, a short but soft coat and a mid-length, muscular body with slim legs.

They come in a variety of colours – the original brown, blue, chocolate, red, cream, lilac and apricot, and can also come in tortie, tabby or tortietabby varieties. Tonkinese cats may have any one of three basic coat patterns – the ‘original Tonkinese’ has a mink pattern with a gradated colour, the pointed has a pale body colour with strongly contrasting darker face or legs, and the solid/Burmesecoat pattern is less contrasting, with a darker body colour and only slightly darker points.

Tonkinese cat breed history

Developed from Siamese andBurmese cat breeds, Tonks were known in the west for hundreds of years, but may have been seen as a variety of Siamese cat breed.

The first official Tonkinese can be traced back to around 1930 in Burma, when a cat call Wong Mau – who was described as a ‘brown hybrid with darker points on her face, legs, feet and tail’ – was imported to the USA. She was mated with a Siamese and became the mother of the modern Burmese, but testing showed that Wong Mau was actually the first natural Tonkinese.

The Tonkinese breed was well established in the UK by the 1960s and was recognised by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in 1991.

Tonkinese kittens

Expect to pay between £350 to £450 for a kitten, and bear in mind that the kitten’s colouring may take months to mature. If you want a particular colour, you may have to wait a while.

Penny says: “It’s always best to obtain a pedigree kitten from a reputable breeder, preferably one who’s registered with the GCCF as this gives new owners some come-back if the kitten turns out to have health problems or other issues that the breeder should have been aware of. The Tonkinese Cat Club and the Tonkinese Breed Club both have lists of breeders and available kittens on their websites, and either will help to put prospective new owners in touch with a suitable breeder.”

Healthy kittens should be lively and playful, with bright eyes and no discharge in the ears or eyes.

Tonkinese cat breed health

Tonkinese are not known to have any hereditary health issues and are said to be quite a healthy breed. As far as grooming is concerned, a healthy Tonk shouldn’t need much as they are quite a low maintenance breed. Being shorthaired, their coats aren’t prone to matting or tangling, and, like most cats, they keep themselves very clean. Penny says: “A regular claw-trim and perhaps a weekly brush with a grooming glove should be sufficient.” Read our advice on how to groom a cat.

Val is also keen to remind owners to make sure their cats’ teeth are given a good clean. 

A full feature about the Tonkinese cat breed was published in the March 2014 issue of Your Cat magazine.

Remember! All breed profiles are general and every cat is an individual.