Photo of Toyger Cat
Toyger cat Ishah. Helmi Flick

The Toyger is one of the newest breeds of cat. It captures the wild look effectively while being completely a domesticated cat. Unlike the ocicat, whose markings 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 contraction of "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 (TICA).

Breed Overview

Size: 10 to 15 pounds for males, 7 to 10 pounds for females

Coat and Color: The coat is short, plush, and soft. The color pattern is brown mackerel tabby, with dark markings on a vividly bright orange background on top and on a white ground color on the underside. The markings may be mackerel stretched rosettes or a vertical braided pattern.

Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years or more

Characteristics of the Toyger

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

History of the Toyger

One person can be thanked for the initial development of the Toyger—Judy Sugden, who is the daughter of Jean Mill, the original breeder of the Bengal cat (a cross between the domestic cat and the Asian leopard cat). In 1980, Judy Sugden, also a Bengal breeder, was working with mackerel tabbies, often referred to as tiger-striped. While tabbies generally have a forehead markings that form the letter M, Sugden notes that her cat, Millwood Sharp Shooter, had two spots that could be used to develop the circular pattern seen on a tiger's head.

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

Sugden has a firm mental picture of the final version of her ideal mini-tiger:

  • Body: Its body would be 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 would be 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 Judy Sugden's main goals in the development of the Toyger is to help prevent the extinction of the big cats the Toyger is modeled from.
  • Head: The ideal head would have the circular markings which cannot be found on any other cat breed today. 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."
  • Coat: TICA 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.
  • Temperament: The personality of the Toyger is said to be "laid back," outgoing and friendly to all, able to get along well with other cats, even dogs, and children. They should be intelligent and easily trained to a leash.

Joining Judy in 1993 in this pioneering work were Anthony Hutcherson (JungleTrax) and Alice McKee (Windridge). That same year, TICA also accepted the Toyger for registration only. The Toyger is now listed as a Championship Breed in TICA. Judy Sugden is also the founder and driving force behind the Toyger Cat Society. It can be a challenge tracking down active Toyger breeders. The TICA website 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.

Toyger 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 easy-going and adapt well to 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 indoors-only cat to prevent exposure to infections, fights, predators, and thieves. As they are still only to be found for a premium price, that is even more incentive to protect your Toyger.

Common Health Problems

Toygers are still very uncommon, so there isn't 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.

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

Before you set your heart on a Toyger, you will need to research breeders to check on their availability. You can expect a high price tag for a Toyger as well.

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

Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breeds.