Tonkinese Cat: Breed Profile, Characteristics, and Care Guide

| Updated: May 2, 2023
Tonkinese Cat sitting on a patio by a garden

The Tonkinese cat is a playful, affectionate, and intelligent cat. This domestic cat breed is a cross between the Siamese and the Burmese breeds, and it has a distinctive appearance and personality that make it a great companion for many people.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the Tonkinese cat, including its history, characteristics, health, care, and more. Whether you already have a Tonkinese cat or you are thinking of getting one, this guide will help you understand and appreciate this wonderful breed.

Breed Overview

Weight 6 to 12 pounds
Length 10 to 14 inches
Coat Length Short
Coat Colors Natural, champagne, blue, or platinum
Coat Patterns Solid, pointed, or mink
Eye Color Blue, green, or aqua
Personality Social, outgoing, intelligent, playful, affectionate, loyal
Lifespan 10 to 15 years
Hypoallergenic No
Good with Kids Yes
Good with Pets Yes
Origin Cross between Siamese and Burmese breeds

History of the Tonkinese Cat

The Tonkinese cat is a relatively new breed in the United States, but its origins can be traced back to ancient times. The ancestors of the Tonkinese cat were probably the oriental type cats that lived in Southeast Asia and were brought to Europe by traders and explorers.

One of the earliest records of a cat resembling the Tonkinese cat was in 1880 when a British consul named Joseph Thompson brought a chocolate Siamese cat named Wong Mau from Burma (now Myanmar) to England. Wong Mau was different from the typical Siamese cats of that time, as she had a medium brown coat and green eyes instead of a dark brown coat and blue eyes.

Thompson bred Wong Mau with a seal point Siamese cat and produced kittens with three different coat colors: dark brown (like Wong Mau), light brown (like the Siamese), and medium brown (a new color). Thompson realized that Wong Mau was a hybrid of two distinct breeds: the Siamese and the Burmese.

Thompson continued to breed Wong Mau and her offspring with other Siamese and Burmese cats and established the foundation of the Burmese breed. However, he did not pursue the development of the medium brown color, which he called “mink.”

The mink color was later rediscovered by American breeders in the 1950s and 1960s, who noticed that some of their Siamese and Burmese cats produced kittens with this unique color. These breeders decided to create a new breed that would combine the best traits of both the Siamese and the Burmese breeds.

One of these breeders was Margaret Conroy, who crossed a seal point Siamese with a sable Burmese in 1965 and produced four kittens with mink coats and aqua eyes. She named this new breed “Tonkinese,” after the Bay of Tonkin in Vietnam.

Another breeder who contributed to the development of the Tonkinese breed was Jane Barletta, who imported some mink cats from Canada and registered them as “Tonkanese” with the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in 1971. She later changed the spelling to “Tonkinese” to avoid confusion with the country of Tonga.

The Tonkinese breed was officially recognized by the CFA in 1984 and by other major cat associations soon after. Today’s Tonkinese cats are derived from both Siamese and Burmese breeds, as well as from other Tonkinese cats.

What Do Tonkinese Cats Look Like

The Tonkinese cat is a medium-sized cat with a muscular body and a wedge-shaped head. It has large ears that are set wide apart, almond-shaped eyes that can be blue, green, or aqua (a combination of blue and green), and a short tail that tapers to a point.

The most distinctive feature of the Tonkinese cat is its coat color, which comes in three patterns: solid (also called Burmese), pointed (also called Siamese), and mink. The solid pattern has a uniform color throughout the body, while the pointed pattern has darker colors on the ears, face, legs, and tail. The mink pattern is somewhere in between, with a lighter shade on the body and darker colors on the points.

The coat color also varies depending on the base color, which can be one of four: natural (a medium brown), champagne (a buff beige), blue (a slate gray), or platinum (a pale gray). For example, a naturally solid Tonkinese has a dark brown coat all over, while a naturally pointed Tonkinese has a beige body and dark brown points.

The coat of the Tonkinese cat is short and fine, with a silky texture. It requires minimal grooming and does not shed much or mat easily. Weekly brushing is enough to keep it clean and tangle-free.

The Personality of the Tonkinese Cat

The Tonkinese cat is very social and outgoing and loves interacting with people and other animals. It is not a lap cat that will sit quietly by your side but rather a companion breed that will follow you around and join you in whatever you are doing.

The Tonkinese cat is also very intelligent and curious, and it enjoys learning new tricks and playing with interactive toys. It can be quite vocal, and it will communicate with you with a variety of sounds and expressions. It has a softer voice than the Siamese but a louder voice than the Burmese.

The Tonkinese cat is very playful and active and needs regular exercise and stimulation to keep it happy and healthy. It likes to climb and jump to high places and can be quite adventurous and mischievous. It is not a cat that will do well in a small or quiet environment, as it can get bored and lonely easily.

The Tonkinese cat is very affectionate and loyal and will form a strong bond with its human family. It likes to cuddle and snuggle with its favorite people, and it will often sleep in your bed or on your pillow. It does not like being left alone for long periods and will appreciate having another cat or a friendly dog as a companion.

The Tonkinese cat is a great choice for families with children and other pets, as it is very friendly and tolerant. It will enjoy playing and spending time with them as long as they are gentle and respectful. The Tonkinese cat is also suitable for first-time cat owners, as it is easy to care for and train.


  • The Tonkinese cat is a very friendly and sociable cat that will keep you company and entertain you with its antics.
  • The Tonkinese cat is a very smart and trainable cat that can learn new tricks and commands easily.
  • The Tonkinese cat has a beautiful and unique coat color that comes in three patterns and four base colors.


  • The Tonkinese cat is a very vocal and active cat that can be noisy and demand your attention and time.
  • The Tonkinese cat is a very sensitive and needy cat that can suffer from separation anxiety and depression if left alone for too long.
  • The Tonkinese cat can be prone to health problems that require regular veterinary care and expenses.

Common Health Issues in Tonkinese Cat

The Tonkinese cat is generally a healthy breed that can live up to 15 years or more. However, like any other breed, it can be prone to some health problems that may be inherited or acquired.

Some of the health problems that may affect the Tonkinese cat are:

  • Periodontal disease: This is a common condition affecting cats’ gums and teeth. It can cause bad breath, pain, infection, tooth loss, and other complications. It can be prevented by brushing the cat’s teeth regularly and providing dental care from a veterinarian.
  • Respiratory infections: These are infections that affect the nose, throat, lungs, or sinuses of cats. They can cause sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, fever, loss of appetite, and other symptoms. Viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites can cause them. They can be treated with antibiotics or antifungal medications, depending on the cause.
  • Eye problems: These are problems that affect the eyes or eyelids of cats. They can cause redness, swelling, discharge, irritation, or vision loss. Injuries, infections, allergies, or genetic defects can cause them. Depending on the severity, they can be treated with eye drops or surgery.
  • Ear problems: These are problems that affect the ears or ear canals of cats. They can cause itching, scratching, shaking, odor, discharge, or hearing loss. They can be caused by mites, bacteria, fungi, or allergies. They can be treated with ear drops or cleaning, depending on the cause.
  • Heart problems: These are problems that affect cats’ heart or blood vessels. They can cause breathing difficulties, weakness, fainting, or sudden death. Congenital defects, infections, or aging can cause them. They can be diagnosed with tests such as X-rays, ECGs, or echocardiograms. Depending on the type and severity, they can be treated with medications or surgery.
  • Kidney problems: These are problems that affect the kidneys or urinary tract of cats. They can cause increased thirst, urination, weight loss, vomiting, or blood in the urine. They can be caused by infections, stones, toxins, or aging. They can be diagnosed with tests such as blood tests, urine tests, or ultrasounds. They can be treated with fluids, medications, diet changes, or surgery, depending on the cause and stage.

The best way to prevent or detect these health problems early is to provide your Tonkinese cat with regular veterinary check-ups and vaccinations. You should also monitor your cat’s behavior and appearance for any signs of illness or injury. If you notice anything unusual or concerning, you should consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Tonkinese Cat face side profile
Photo: Pixabay

Caring For a Tonkinese Cat

The Tonkinese cat is an easy-going and low-maintenance breed that does not require much grooming or special care. However, there are some things you should do to keep your Tonkinese cat happy and healthy.

Some of the care tips for the Tonkinese cat are:

  • Brush your cat’s coat once a week to remove loose hair and dirt. This will also help distribute the natural oils and keep the coat shiny and healthy.
  • Trim your cat’s nails every two weeks to prevent them from growing too long and causing problems. You can use a nail clipper or a file designed for cats.
  • Clean your cat’s ears once a week to remove any accumulated wax or debris. You can use a cotton ball or a soft cloth moistened with a mild ear cleaner for cats.
  • Check your cat’s eyes daily and wipe away any discharge or crust that may form. You can use a damp cotton ball or a soft cloth for this purpose.
  • Brush your cat’s teeth daily or at least several times a week to prevent plaque and tartar buildup and gum disease. You can use a toothbrush and toothpaste made for cats.
  • Provide your cat with fresh water and high-quality food at all times. You should choose a food that is appropriate for your cat’s age, size, and activity level. You should also avoid giving your cat any human food that may be harmful or toxic to them.
  • Provide your cat with a litter box that is clean and spacious. You should scoop the litter box daily and change the litter completely every week. You should also use unscented and dust-free litter to avoid irritating your cat’s nose and lungs.
  • Provide your cat with a scratching post that is sturdy and tall enough for them to stretch its muscles and sharpen its claws. You should also discourage your cat from scratching your furniture or other items by spraying them with water or using deterrents such as double-sided tape or foil.
  • Provide your cat with safe and stimulating toys for them to play with. You should choose toys that are interactive, such as balls, feathers, lasers, or puzzles. You should also rotate the toys regularly to keep your cat interested and avoid boredom.
  • Provide your cat with a comfortable and cozy place to sleep and rest. You can use a cat bed, a blanket, a pillow, or a cardboard box. You should also place the bed in a quiet, warm spot that your cat likes.
  • Spend time with your cat every day and show them love and attention. You can pet them, cuddle them, talk to them, or play with them. You should also respect your cat’s mood and personality and not force them to do anything they don’t want to do.
  • Train your cat to follow some basic commands and rules using positive reinforcement. You can use treats, praise, or toys as rewards for good behavior. You should also avoid yelling, hitting, or punishing your cat for bad behavior, as this will only make them fearful or aggressive.

Here is a “where to buy” section for the Tonkinese cat:

Where to Buy a Tonkinese Cat

The Tonkinese cat is a rare and beautiful breed that can be hard to find. The average Tonkinese cat price from a breeder is around $1,000, but it can vary depending on the kitten’s quality, color, and pattern.

You can find Tonkinese cat breeders online or through cat associations such as the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) or The International Cat Association (TICA).

Alternatively, you can adopt a Tonkinese cat from a rescue organization or a shelter. There are many Tonkinese cats who need a loving home, either because they were abandoned, surrendered, or rescued from bad situations. You can find Tonkinese cat rescue groups online or through local animal welfare organizations. You should also be prepared to pay an adoption fee and sign an adoption contract.

Whether you buy or adopt a Tonkinese cat, you should make sure that you are ready and able to provide it with the care and attention it needs. The Tonkinese cat is a wonderful breed that will reward you with love and loyalty for many years.


The Tonkinese cat is a wonderful breed that has a lot to offer to its human family. It is a beautiful, smart, and loving cat that will bring joy and fun to your life. If you are looking for a cat that is more than just a pet but a friend and a partner, you might want to consider the Tonkinese cat.

More Cat Breeds

If you’re interested in learning about similar cat breeds: check out:


What is a Tonkinese cat?

A Tonkinese cat is a domestic cat breed that is a cross between the Siamese and the Burmese breeds. It has a medium-sized body, a pointed coat, and blue, green, or aqua eyes. It is very friendly, playful, and intelligent.

Are Tonkinese cats hypoallergenic?

No, Tonkinese cats are not hypoallergenic. They have a short and fine coat that sheds moderately. They can trigger allergies in people who are sensitive to cat dander or saliva.

Are Tonkinese cats rare?

Yes, Tonkinese cats are rare. They are not very common in the United States or other countries. They are also not recognized by some major cat associations. They can be hard to find from breeders or rescue groups.

Can Tonkinese cats be alone?

No, Tonkinese cats cannot be alone for long periods of time. They are very social and needy cats that crave human interaction and companionship. They can suffer from separation anxiety and depression if left alone too often. They need another cat or a friendly dog as a companion.

Can Tonkinese cats go outside?

No, Tonkinese cats should not go outside unsupervised. They are very curious and adventurous cats that can get into trouble or danger outside. They can also catch diseases or parasites from other animals or get lost or stolen. They should be kept indoors or in a secure enclosure.

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