Toyger Cat: Cat Breed Profile

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

Photo of Toyger Cat
Toyger cat Ishah. Helmi Flick

The toyger is one of the newest breeds of cat. It captures the wild tiger-like look effectively while being completely a domesticated cat. Unlike the ocicat, which has markings that were naturally developed and have remained the same for centuries, the toyger is a designer breed, much the same as the Bengal, the Savannah, and the (now almost extinct) California spangle.

In fact, the toyger was originally called "California toyger." The toyger name is a portmanteau of the words "toy" and "tiger." The comparison of cats to tigers is not a new concept. For many years, tabby cats, particularly red tabbies with the mackerel pattern have been referred to as tiger-striped and one of the most popular names for red tabby cats is Tiger. The developers of the toyger are hopeful that, eventually, the resemblance to the big tigers will be even closer. It is recognized by The International Cat Association but not the Cat Fancier's Association.

Breed Overview

Weight: 7 to 15 pounds

Length: About 18 inches

Coat: Short, plush, and soft

Coat Color: Brown mackerel tabby with dark markings on a vividly bright orange background on top and a white underside. The markings may be mackerel stretched rosettes or a vertical braided pattern.

Eye Color: Usually ranging from dark brown to hazel

Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Toyger

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

History of the Toyger Cat

One person is responsible for the initial development of the toyger in 1980—Judy Sugden—the daughter of Jean Mill, the original breeder of the Bengal cat (a cross between the domestic cat and the Asian leopard cat).

Sugden, also a Bengal breeder, was working with mackerel tabbies, often referred to as tiger-striped with an "M" pattern on the forehead. Sugden noted that her tiger-striped cat, Millwood Sharp Shooter, instead of having an "M" pattern on its head had two spots similar to the circular pattern seen on a tiger's head.

Sugden started a breeding program with two cats—Scrapmetal, a domestic shorthair tabby, and Millwood Rumpled Spotskin, a big-boned Bengal. In 1993, Judy imported Jammie Blu, a street cat from Kashmir, India, that had all spots between his ears, rather than the regular tabby lines.

Joining Judy in 1993 in this pioneering work were Anthony Hutcherson and Alice McKee. That same year, The International Cat Association also accepted the Toyger for registration only. The toyger is now listed as a championship breed in the association. Sugden is also the founder and driving force behind the Toyger Cat Society. As a relatively new breed, it can be a challenge tracking down active toyger breeders. The International Cat Association lists only a handful worldwide. While the toyger cat is a work in progress, it appears that a solid foundation has been established for this relatively new designer cat.

According to Sugden, its body is both larger and longer than a typical cat, in order to sport the bold vertical striping found in the tiger. The typical tabby striping and rosettes are broken up and elongated to better resemble that of the tiger. The vertical orange stripes of this toyger are narrowly bordered with black or very dark brown, much like that of the Sumatran tiger, a critically endangered species found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. One of Sugden's main goals in the development of the toyger is to help prevent the extinction of big cats by enticing cat aficionados to pursue toyger ownership over wild or hybrid species.

The ideal head has the circular markings, which cannot be found on any other domestic cat breed. The nose would be broader at the base with the jowl area correspondingly wider. The shape of the head in profile is described as a "half hexagon."

The International Cat Association describes the markings as "dark markings on a vividly bright orange background on the outer to top portions of the cat with a whited ground color on the undersides and insides...enhanced by the scatter of gold glitter over the top." Each cat's markings are distinct.

A toyger's personality is laid back, outgoing, friendly to all, and able to get along well with other cats, even dogs, and children. They are intelligent and easy to leash train.

Toyger Cat Care

Toygers should be brushed weekly and have their nails trimmed regularly. As with all domesticated cats, you should keep its ears clean and brush its teeth to prevent dental problems.

They are usually adapt well when introduced to homes with other pets and kids. You will need to play with your toyger to give him intellectual stimulation as well as exercise. Toygers are trainable and you may even be able to train him to walk on a leash. They also love to be a lap cat and will give you lots of affection in return.

As with any cat, it is wise to keep your toyger as an indoor-only cat to prevent exposure to infections, fights, predators, and thieves (they are sold at a premium price and considered one of the most expensive breeds).

Common Health Problems

Toygers are still very uncommon, so there is not much history to make solid conclusions about their common ailments. They may have a greater risk of heart murmurs.

Be sure to get the usual regular check-ups, preventative care, and immunizations for your toyger.

Diet and Nutrition

Toygers don't have any special dietary requirements apart from those of domestic shorthair cats. Be sure to provide your cat with high-quality wet and dry food and give your cat access to fresh, clean water. Obesity can reduce your cat's lifespan, so discuss any weight gain with your veterinarian.

Pros

  • As a relatively new breed, it does not have any known major breed-specific diseases

  • Should get along with other cats or dogs and older children

  • They are active, energetic, and highly trainable

  • Looks wild and exotic yet has sweet disposition of a domestic cat

Cons

  • Difficult to find through breeders or adoption and expensive when you do find one

  • Although no major health conditions associated with this breed, it may be prone to heart murmurs, a minor condition

Where to Adopt or Buy a Toyger Cat

You may be able to find a purebred toyger cat through a breeder in your area, but if you would rather adopt from a rescue organization, check out:

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you are interested in similar wild-looking breeds, learn about these:

Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breeds.