The Tonkinese is the love child of the Siamese and Burmese breeds. The two breeds from Southeast Asia were crossed in an attempt to create a cat with a moderate body type, a less piercing voice than the Siamese but with loving nature and intelligence shared by both the Siamese and Burmese. But the story of their affair began with a case of mistaken identity.

A natural solid Tonk has a sable-brown body with dark-brown points and nose leather and medium- to dark-brown paw pads. A platinum-pointed Tonkinese has a pearly white body, frosty gray points, lavender-pink or lavender-gray nose leather, and lavender-pink paw pads. At a show, you will most likely see only see mink Tonkinese, but solid and pointed Tonks carry the genes that are necessary for a successful breeding program.

Tonkinese Cat Tattoos - Tonkinese are a medium-sized cat breed distinguished by points as with Siamese and Burmese breeds. They are lively, friendly, often talkative cats, with gregarious personalities. But they are happy apartment cats if they have some exercise opportunity. They are commonly referred to as "Tonks". As with many cat breeds, the exact history of the Tonkinese varies to some degree depending on the historian.

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Some cat breeds are typically independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since kittenhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; cats who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.     

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It is believed that Tonkinese-like cats have existed in the West since at least the early 19th century. The founder of the American Burmese type, a female named Wong Mau imported to the USA in 1930, is thought to have been genetically a crossbreed of this type.[1] (Wong Mau was actually a Tonkinese, though the "breed" was not recognized as such at the time. Some of today's Tonkinese can be tracked by pedigree back to Wong Mau.

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If you're going to share your home with a cat, you'll need to deal with some level of cat hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary among the breeds. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.   

If you think of cats as being aloof and independent, it’s only because you haven’t yet met a Tonkinese.

More recent historical data is detailed in the CFA Breed Profile (see below.)

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The name under its original spelling of Tonkanese was said to reference the musical South Pacific, which featured an island where no one discriminated against “half-breeds.” There was often confusion about the spelling, however, so in 1971 the name was officially changed to Tonkinese—after the exotic-sounding Bay of Tonkin in Vietnam—even though the cats had no association with that country.

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The soft, short coat of the Tonkinese is easily cared for with weekly brushing to remove dead hair and distribute skin oil. A bath is rarely necessary.

Some cat breeds are reputed smarter than others. But all cats, if deprived the mental stimulation they need, will make their own busy work. Interactive cat toys are a good way to give a cat a brain workout and keep him out of mischief.   

Being tolerant of children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a nonchalant attitude toward running, screaming youngsters are all traits that make a kid-friendly cat. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual cat will behave; cats from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences and personality.   

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Stranger-friendly cats will greet guests with a curious glance or a playful approach; others are shy or indifferent, perhaps even hiding under furniture or skedaddling to another room. However, no matter what the breed, a cat who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a kitten will respond better to strangers as an adult.   

This all changed in the early 1960s, when Margaret Conroy, a Canadian breeder, crossed a sable Burmese with a seal point Siamese. Conroy described the kittens as golden Siamese, as they seemed to display characteristics from both breeds. Breeders of the cats began achieving a consistent head and body style, and changed the breed name to Tonkinese. (A reference to the Bay of Tonkin near southern China and North Vietnam; although there is no correlation to the cat.)

In 1971, the CCA became the first cat registry to grant championship status to the Tonkinese. The Cat Fanciers' Foundation (CFA) recognized the breed in 1974, and the International Cat Association followed in 1979. In 1984 the CFA granted the Tonk championship status. By 1990, it had gained recognition from all major cat fancy associations.

Tonkinese Cat Meaning

Over the years, breeders have used selective breeding to remove similarities to the Siamese, with the solid mink shades being preferred over the points inherited from the Siamese. Pointed patterns are also not accepted for show, but are regularly used for breeding, since it is only cats with points in the coat that can produce cats with solid coats.

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Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the cat vocalizes and how often. If constant "conversation" drives you crazy, consider a kitty less likely to chat.   

But not all Tonks have aqua eyes, nor is it always a sought after quality. The standard does not allow for points and solids to have aqua eyes, though, they do exist, and can be petted out for companionship, but not show.

Colors and patterns in any litter depend both on statistical chance and the color genetics and patterns of the parents. Breeding between two mink-patterned cats will, on average, produce half mink kittens and one quarter each pointed and solid kittens. A pointed and a solid bred together will always produce all mink patterned kittens. A pointed bred to a mink will produce half pointed and half mink kittens, and a solid bred to a mink will produce half solid and half mink kittens.

Both pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. Tonkinese are generally healthy, although they can be prone to gingivitis and may be sensitive to anesthesia. Because they descend from the Siamese, albeit relatively far up on their family tree, they may also develop some of the same diseases that affect the Siamese, including the following:

Some claim that the appearance of the breed is closer to the original appearance of the Siamese, before Siamese breeders developed today's triangular head and very leggy body. The name is not related to the Tonkin region of Indochina. When the breed was first established in Canada, the breed name was actually spelled "Tonkanese," which was a reference to the island in the musical South Pacific where "half-breeds" suffered no discrimination.

The active and social Tonkinese is a perfect choice for families with children and cat-friendly dogs. He will play fetch as well as any retriever, learns tricks easily and loves the attention he receives from children who treat him politely and with respect. He lives peacefully with cats and dogs who respect his authority. Always introduce pets slowly and in controlled circumstances to ensure that they learn to get along together.

Keep the litter box spotlessly clean. Like all cats, Tonkinese are very particular about bathroom hygiene.

The mink is the most popular pattern; the shading is subtle and not as pronounced as the pointed pattern. Mink is generally referred to as a dark coloring, but it also refers to the texture of the fur. The mink can also be in champagne or platinum, for example.

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See also: Cat, Abyssinian Cats, American Shorthairs, Birman Cats, Exotic Shorthairs, Maine Coon Cats, Oriental Shorthairs, Persians, Ragdoll, Siamese, Sphynx Cats, Jaguar, Leopard, Lion, Panther, Animal Tattoo Index

There is still plenty of opposition for the breed because many do not consider it to be pure, based only on the recent design of the line. It is often forgotten that many breeds have needed to be outcrossed in order to improve the vitality and genetic strength of the line, and that it is the rare breed that is actually pure. At the end of the day, purity of breeding is a relative concept.

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The Tonk does not like to be alone for long, and will get into mischief if it is bored too often. This is one of the most playful breeds of cats, it needs to play. If you must leave your cat alone it would be best to have a fellow cat to keep it company.

Like his forebear the Siamese, the Tonk is brainy and active. He likes to jump up to high places, retrieves as if he were born to it, masters puzzle toys instantly and will learn to walk on leash if you so desire. Teach him tricks and provide him with a rotating assortment of interactive toys to keep his mind and body exercised. Tonkinese can be stubborn in their quest to get their own way, but their clownish behavior is so endearing that it doesn’t really matter.