The Tonkinese: a loyal company

Kattenras de Tonkinees

The Tonkinese, a cat known for her nice personality and her loyal company. This hybrid of the Burmese and Siamese is very playful, intelligent and has a lot of love to give. Would you like to know more about this special breed? Then read on, in this article you can read all about it.


The origin

The Tonkinese originated in North America in the 1930’s by crossing the Burmese and Siamese. At that time this breed was called the “golden Siamese”. The golden Siamese was not very popular. At that time the Siamese was much rounder and firmer than now, and the Burmese was less round than now. This made for a very muscular and compact cat, this did not fit well in the ideal image of a cats in those days.

Only in the 1960’s the cat became more appreciated. In the meantime, the name golden Siamese has been changed to “Tonkanese” to distinguish the cat from the Siamese. Later in 1971 this name was changed again to the current name, the Tonkinese. This name refers to the bay of Tonkin in China, which gives the name an exotic sound that was appreciated by cat lovers. Although the cat is named after this bay in China, this breed does not come from there.

The Tonkinese became the first breed developed in Canada and after recognition of the breed by the Canada Cat Association (CCA) followed Cat Fanciers Federation (CFF) in 1974 and The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1979 when it was founded. In 1984 the Tonkinese got the status for the breed championship of the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) and in 1990 this status was accepted by all major associations.


The character: the Tonkinese gives a lot of love

The Tonkinese has a lot of love to give and loves to lie on your lap. The Tonkinese is also a very active cat, they can play all day long and love to invent new games. They are not shy of other cats or pets and certainly not of people. They like to play with others, whether it is with their favourite toy and the owner or a game of tag with other cats or pets, the Tonkin loves it. What the Tonkinese doesn’t like is to be left alone. They are very active cats who like to have people or animals around them. Besides that, the Tonkin loves to talk. In contrast to many other cats, who only make sounds to be able to hear themselves, the Tonkin forms whole sentences that are addressed to someone. A smart owner knows that they expect a response to what they have to say. If they don’t, they will provoke that response in a different way.

In conclusion, the Tonkinese is a very intelligent, active and playful cat that has a lot of love to give, but also needs a lot of attention


The appearance: muscular and compact

The bright blue eyes of the Siamese are often seen as the hallmark of the Tonkinese. And although this colour is also very common, it is not the only colour that the eyes of the Tonkinese can have. The eyes of the Tonkinese are almond shaped and the colour of the eyes is closely related to the pattern on the coat. A solid Tonkinese tends more towards the Burmese and therefore quickly has deep golden eyes. A Tonkin with a Mink pattern takes the deep blue eyes of the Siamese and the deep golden eyes of the Burmese and then gets aqua blue eyes. A pointed Tonkin tends more towards the Siamese and therefore often has deep blue eyes. The construction of the Tonkinese is muscular and compact. The ears are straight up and show that the cat is very alert.


The coat

The appearance of the Tonkinese is a fusion of the characteristics of the Siamese and the characteristics of the Burmese. The short-haired coat is a good example of this. The coat of the Tonkinese has the recognizable markings of the Siamese with a deeper coloured background that can be recognized from the Burmese. The contrast between the point markings and the rest of the coat is less for the Tonkinese than for the Siamese. The final coat colour is only fully developed after sixteen months and as the cat gets older this colour also gets darker and darker. The colours of the Tonkinese are similar to the colours of the Burmese, only they are less intense with the Tonkinese.

The common colours of the Tonkinese are seal, chocolate, cinnamon, red, blue, lilac, fawn and cream. The tortoiseshell variations of these colours are also very common.

The patterns on the coat are between the pointed patterns of the Siamese and the solid pattern of the Burmese with varying intensity. This creates the following patterns:

  • Pointed: high contrast between the colours, looks more like the coat of the Siamese.
  • Mink: medium contrast between the colours, this pattern is most associated with the Tonkinese.
  • Solid: low contrast between the colours, looks most like the Burmese.


The upbringing: socialising is important

Just like with any other cat, it is also important for the Tonkinese to socialize as a kitten. Socialisation of a kitten is important to ensure that the cat is not afraid of human contact and contact with peers or other pets later on. It also ensures that the cat is much more self-assured and listens well to its owner.

The best time to socialise a kitten is between three and nine weeks after birth. You can socialise the kitten in different ways. First of all, it is important that the kitten gets used to being touched by you but also by other people, this makes the care easier later on because the cat knows what is going to happen and that there is nothing to be afraid of. You can steer the behaviour of the cat by means of rewards if, for example, the cat listens well.


Tonkinees kittens

Taking care of a Tonkinese

The Tonkinese should preferably be taken care of on a weekly basis. Brushing once a week with a rubber brush is enough to remove the loose coat. The cat has a short coat so he can keep himself clean, besides that it is no problem to give the cat a bath once in a while.

The Tonkinese is a friend by nature and therefore not defensive when the cat comes into contact with another cat or animal. This means that the cat can be in danger outdoors. The Tonkinese is therefore a real indoor cat. Because it is a very active cat, it is important that it gets enough attention by means of affection and playing games. The Tonkinese is also a real lap cat, if you sit somewhere, he will most likely climb on your lap to be petted.


The food

It is, of course, important that your cat gets the right, appropriate food. As with many other cats, the Tonkinese also runs the risk of obesity. A well-balanced diet is therefore very important. Because of certain diseases that are common in Tonkinese cats, there are types of food that prevent or control these diseases. To make sure your cat is getting the right food it is wise to ask your vet about this. Your vet will then be able to make a recommendation for a diet that’s perfect for your cat.


Common diseases

As with many other cats the Tonkinese also have a number of diseases and disorders that are common in this breed. These diseases and disorders are:

  • Neonatal iso-erythrolysin
  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)
  • Hypokalemic myopathy
  • Urolithiasis
  • Diabetes mellitus

Neonatal iso-erythrolysin

Neonatal iso-erythrolysin is a condition in which the immune system destroys the red blood cells in the blood. The condition occurs when the mother has blood type B and the male has blood type A or AB. This condition causes extreme anaemia and oxygen deficiency in the kitten, which will eventually cause death. When the red blood cells are broken down, a yellow substance is released which turns the white of the eye and the skin yellow. This is a clear indication that the kitten suffers from neonatal iso-erythrolysin.

The treatment of neonatal iso-erythrolysin usually comes too late. Sometimes a blood transfusion will work but most of the time the kitten will die from the condition. However, the condition can be prevented by not having a mother with blood type B covered by a male cat with blood type A or AB.


Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)

Polycystic kidney disease, also known as PKD, is a condition in which small fluid sacs (cysts) develop. The cysts grow over time and multiply until the kidneys eventually fail. PKD is generally present from birth and cannot be cured. However, anything can be done to control the disease so that the cysts do not multiply and grow bigger. The symptoms of PKD are a lot of thirst, a lot of loss of urine, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, blood in urine and high blood pressure.


Hypokalemic myopathy

Hypokalemic myopathy is a genetic disorder in which there is a defect in a protein of the kidneys which causes too much potassium to be excreted in the urine. The shortage of potassium causes the muscles to weaken. The symptoms of hypokalemic myopathy are a drooping head, inertia and inability to exercise. The symptoms mainly occur during periods of stress and are therefore not always recognisable. The diagnosis of hypokalemic myopathy is made by a veterinarian after he has carried out an extensive blood test from which hypokalemic myopathy can be diagnosed. The condition cannot be cured, but it can be controlled by a diet containing more potassium.



Urolithiasis is a condition in which grit or stones are formed in the urinary tract. This grit irritates the bladder wall and can cause cystitis. The symptoms of urolithiasis are blood in the urine, inability to urinate, squeezing on the urine and pain when urinating. If urolithiasis remains untreated, the urethra can become clogged, causing the boss to become full of toxins which can cause kidney failure. The vet can find out if the cat is suffering from urolithiasis by means of an X-ray. If any debris or stones are discovered, it can be decided whether they should be removed operationally or whether the cat should be given special food to dissolve the grit.


Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, is a condition in which there is a lack of insulin, which causes blood sugar levels to become unbalanced. The most common variant of diabetes in cats is type 2 diabetes, which is caused by the fact that the cat is too heavy and not very active. Symptoms of diabetes mellitus are eating a lot, drinking a lot, urinating a lot and losing weight. So even though the cat eats and drinks a lot, it only gets leaner. Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be controlled or even prevented. To prevent type 2 diabetes, a balanced diet and a lot of exercise is very important for the cat. If the cat already suffers from diabetes, intensive treatment, by means of low-carb food and insulin injections, is possible to keep the blood sugar level in balance.

tonkinees katten in een mandje

How old can a Tonkinese become?

On average, the Tonkinese is between 15 and 18 years old. The Tonkinese is a very active cat, so as long as you don’t feed them too much and play with them enough, they won’t get overweight and get diabetes for example. When a mother cat is going to be mated it is first important to look at the health of both the mother and the male to prevent hereditary diseases in new kittens.


What do you need to know before you take in a Tonkinese?

What is important to know before you hire a Tonkinese? First of all, the Tonkinese is a very active and alert cat. It is therefore important that the cat gets the right attention. So, make sure you play a lot with the cat. Furthermore, the Tonkin likes to sit on your lap to be petted. In terms of grooming the Tonkinese is a very easy cat, brushing once a week and the occasional bath will make sure the cat stays clean.


How much does the Tonkinese cost?

The price of the Tonkinese lies between $600 and $1.200. There are also other factors that influence the price. For example, do you buy your cat as a domestic cat or because you are a true lover of the breed? Are you buying the cat for breeding purposes? Is the kitten of such good quality that it can participate in shows? What is the pedigree of the kitten? These things all determine the price of the cat.

tonkinees van dichtbij

Does the Tonkin fit in your home?

Now that you know a bit more about this active and playful cat, you may wonder if this cat might fit into your home. Do you have a large and active family? Then the Tonkinese will feel right at home with you. Or is there often no one at home? Then your home might not be the right place for this cat. What do you think? Does this cat fit in well into your household? Let us know in the comments!

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We are a team of cat lovers, doing our best to create and spread information about cats. On you will read all about different cat breeds, and what makes them so special. You will also find information about grooming and training your cat. Be sure to leave us a reply if you like our article.

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