Tonkinese Cats

Easygoing Cat Has Complicated Past

The history of the Tonkinese cat has been debated for years now.

Despite its complicated past, the “Tonk” hasn’t wasted any time becoming a favorite choice of cat lovers, who have said that the breed has the “best” qualities of both its ancestors: the Burmese and Siamese.

Tonkinese cat

The modern-day Tonkinese cat is the result of crossbreeding a Burmese and a Siamese cat. That cannot be disputed; however, some cat fanciers believe that a Tonkinese-like cat has been in existence since the late 1300s, when mention of such a cat appeared in a Thai book called The Cat-Book Poems of Siam.

Others assert that the Tonkinese is more like a Burmese, citing a hybrid mink-colored cat imported to the U.S. in 1930 by Joseph Chessman “JC” Thompson, a United States Navy medical commander, who was an established Siamese breeder. Thompson found the hybrid Siamese cat in Burma and brought her back to California, where he went on to develop the Burmese breed. Some believe the Tonkinese breed originates from Thompson’s Burmese cat.

Margaret Conroy of Canada, however, is also credited with creating the Tonkinese breed. She crossed a Siamese and a Burmese to create a specific litter of kittens with a brown coat and blue eyes.

To make matters more complicated, the name of the Tonkinese cat has created some confusion, causing the general public to think the cat is from the Tonkin region of Indochina, or that it was named after the Gulf of Tonkin incident that took place in 1964 during the Vietnam War, when President Lyndon B. Johnson mistakenly declared that North Vietnamese forces had attacked American ships.

The breed was originally named “Tonkanese” after the Tonkanese island featured in the popular 1949 musical South Pacific where “half-breeds” were not subjected to discrimination. While it was certainly an inspiring name, given the reason behind it, ultimately the spelling of the breed’s name was changed to “Tonkinese” so that there wouldn’t be any assumption that it was named after a geographical location relative to both the Siamese and Burmese breeds.

By 1971, the Tonkinese was accepted as a new breed by the Canadian Cat Association.

Tonkinese cats, known as “Tonks” to owners and cat fanciers, are known to be very affectionate, friendly, intelligent and curious.

The Tonkinese breed’s ancestors, the Burmese and Siamese, are also known for their endearing personalities and easy-going temperaments.

This breed enjoys the companionship of both people and other cats. The Tonkinese is fond of playing fetch, likes to climb and perch, and is known to “talk” quite a bit with a distinct meow that sounds like a duck-like quack.

Due to their high intelligence, the breed can also become notoriously mischievous if left alone for long periods of time. In other words, boredom can lead to bad behavior, so make sure your Tonkinese gets plenty of interaction and exercise.

Tonkinese cat

The Tonkinese is a strong cat, often weighing more than it looks due to its muscular build (on average, 6 to 12 pounds).

The breed has distinctive color points on its fur, much like the Burmese and Siamese.

The breed has four colors with a variety of patterns including mink, solid and pointed. While the solid pattern is notably Burmese and the pointed more Siamese, the mink pattern is a unique Tonkinese pattern and is considered the most popular by breeders. In order for a Tonkinese to be born with the mink pattern, it must have come from parents with one gene for the Burmese solid pattern and one for the Siamese pointed pattern. So, most Tonkinese litters will not yield kittens with entirely mink patterns, which is why this particular type is in high demand.

Colors known to the Tonkinese include platinum, champagne, blue, natural, red, cream, caramel, apricot and tortoiseshell.

In addition, some Tonkinese cats may be born with an eye color described as aqua blue.

Tonkinese cat

There are no serious medical issues linked to the Tonkinese breed. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize health risks.

It has been noted that the breed may be prone to developing gingivitis.

Routine health and dental care are good preventive measures for long-term, quality health care of your Tonkinese.

As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.