Tonkinese: Cat Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

tonkinese cats

Flutter_97321 / Getty Images

Love the Siamese and the Burmese but can only have one cat? You’re in luck — the Tonkinese cat is the best of both worlds. Smart, sweet, and social, the Tonkinese is a cat lover’s dream. The Tonkinese is bred by crossing the Siamese and the Burmese, producing a beautiful pointed cat with softer, diluted colors and a stunningly unique personality. 

The Tonkinese is unique in the sense that she has no extreme features, physically or otherwise. The breed was created to suit the desires of Siamese and Burmese cat owners who wanted a distinct cross of the two breeds.

Breed Overview

Weight: Between six and 12 pounds

Length: Varies greatly

Coat: Short

Coat Color: The Tonkinese comes in a variety of color combos. Base colors are platinum, champagne, blue, and natural; patterns are solid, mink, and point.

Eye Color: Blue, aqua, or yellow-green

Life Expectancy: 12 to 16 years

tonkinese cat in a tunnel
Flutter_97321 / Getty
tonkinese kitten posing
Marc Henrie / Getty Images
two tonkinese kittens
Jane Burton / Getty Images

Characteristics of the Tonkinese Cat 

Affection Level Very High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium-High
Intelligence Medium-High
Tendency to Vocalize Medium-High
Shedding High

History of the Tonkinese Cat

The Tonkinese came about because Siamese and Burmese fanatics wanted a cat with the same traits, but at a moderate level. The Tonkinese is active and playful, but doesn’t need extra stimulation to be happy. She likes to chat and chirp at times, but isn’t as vocal as her Siamese mother. Even her stature is a perfect combination; the short and stocky Burmese contributes to her bulk, but the lanky Siamese gives her some height and agility.

The Tonkinese first arrived in the US in the 1930s. The same female cat who founded the Burmese breed in the US, Wong Mau, contributed to the Tonkinese breed; some Tonkinese lines can be traced back to Wong Mau today. 

Tonkinese Cat Care

The Tonkinese is a breeze to care for. With a short coat that requires minimal upkeep, grooming is a rare necessity. Regular play is all she needs as far as exercise goes, and occasional puzzle toys wouldn’t go amiss. 

Unlike many cats the Tonkinese is extremely social and loves human attention. If you’re looking for a kitty who can be happy at home alone while you work long hours, the Tonkinese isn’t right for you. She wants to be with you as much as possible and is a great companion.

Because the Tonkinese is prone to gingivitis, you should start brushing her teeth when she’s a kitten so she gets used to it over time. You can also look into water additives to help keep her pearly whites clean and healthy. 

Moderate as always, the Tonkinese is a cat with a balanced personality. She’s intelligent and active, but she doesn’t bounce off the walls or engage in much mischief. She speaks when spoken to, but doesn’t vocalize her every move. She loves to play, but is always down to hop in your lap for a snuggle sesh.

The only trait of the Tonkinese that isn’t moderate is her level of affection. The Tonkinese loves people and is well-known as an extremely loving lap cat. Families with young children who need a tolerant, playful cat to complete their home would get along perfectly with the Tonkinese.

If you don’t have other pets in the home, consider a second kitty — the Tonkinese loves to have a playmate and companion when her human is away. If you do have other pets in the home, you can look forward to the Tonkinese making animal buddies right away. 

Common Health Problems

Though the Tonkinese is generally healthy, she is sometimes more prone to dental disease and feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD). 

FLUTD causes cats discomfort or pain when urinating. It’s common in overweight cats but some breeds, like the Tonkinese, are affected by it more often. Signs that your Tonkinese may have FLUTD include:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • Vocalization while urinating
  • Urinating outside the litterbox

Other illnesses that the Tonkinese may be at higher risk for include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and excess protein deposits in their organs. IBD is an affliction that cats share with humans; it causes gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.  

Excess protein deposits usually affect the liver in Tonkinese cats; due to a fault in Siamese lines, the bloodstream lets out too much amyloid protein in an organ. Signs and symptoms include lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, yellowing eyes and/or skin (jaundice), and swelling of the limbs.

Regular vet visits and a proper diet are essential to maintaining the health of any cat, so make sure your Tonkinese gets annual exams and stays up to date on shots.

Diet and Nutrition

Like many cats today, the Tonkinese is at risk for obesity and should be fed an appropriately balanced diet. You should also take other risk factors into mind when deciding on the right food for your Tonkinese. 

There are a number of foods that focus on dental care, balancing urine pH to help prevent bladder stones and FLUTD, and weight management foods. Ask your vet for recommendations for the best food for your cat.

Showing Your Tonkinese Cat

Though the Tonkinese comes in 12 coat color patterns, only the minks can be shown in competitions.

Minks should have aqua eyes, but otherwise the standards are extremely nonspecific. According to the CFA website, a judge once described the Tonkinese breed standard as “not too long or too short, not too heavy or too slim,” and said that there should “be nothing extreme about the cat.” 

In all, the judges are looking for a cat with vague similarities to the Siamese and Burmese cats, but her appearance should have balanced features from both breeds.

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

Interested in learning about other purebred cats? If you like the Tonkinese, check out these breeds:

Otherwise, check out all of our cat breed profiles.