The Tonkinese breed is a combination of the Burmese cat and Siamese cat. The parenthood of this human-made hybrid began in the mid-1960s between two breeders, namely, Jane Barletta of New Jersey and Margaret Conroy of Canada. They started with sable Burmese and a seal point Siamese, which resulted in lovely light brown kittens with aqua eyes. The cats also possessed a moderate body and head type and an appealing personality; all of which patterned after the best qualities of their parent breeds.
More breeders were recruited and efforts were extended in promoting the breed in both the Unites States and Canada. It was then first accepted by the Canadian Cat Association (CCA) and in 1971 took on the breed name of Tonkinese. Not everyone welcomed this hybrid, especially so for Siamese and Burmese breeders who thought the midway features and traits of the Tonkinese were not of the respective parent breed’s ideal.
Developing a uniform characteristic for the Tonkinese breed was a challenge, yet not unachievable. With the improvement in the uniformity of its looks, the Tonkinese ultimately claimed the recognition it deserved with all North American cat associations. The CCA was the first association to grant it the championship status in 1971. This breed has also gained its own pool of fanciers and its popularity obtained both from its looks and personality continued to climb to the point that breeders had to maintain waiting lists.
Physical appearance and attributes
The Tonkinese breed strikes a happy medium between the extremes of the svelte and the cobby body type. It is a medium sized cat that weighs more than it appears. The males weigh an average of 8 – 12 pounds, while the females weigh between 6 – 8 pounds. Its well-developed muscles boast of firmness and strength. The boning and length of the fairly slim legs are well proportioned to the body with the hind legs being slightly longer than the forelegs. They extend well into paws that are oval and compact. A long tapering tail complements the overall balance of this breed, a quality that is prized over its size.
Head of the Tonkinese is a modified wedge with rounded contours. It is slightly longer than wide with gentle curves formed by its whisker breaks along the lines of the wedge. Cheekbones are high and gently planed leading into a rounded muzzle that is as wide as it is long. Viewed in profile, a slight rise from the nose stop at the eye level to the forehead is evident. A straight imaginary line can also be traced from the tip of the nose to the tip of its chin. The pair of ears is well-spaced, wide at the base and tapers into an oval tip. Fine and short ear tufts lined the inner side of the ear. Tonkinese breed has almond-shaped eyes that are in good proportion both in itself and to the face. The outer corners show a slight slant toward the outer edge of the ears. Color of eyes matches the colors and patterns of coat. Blue eyes come with pointed pattern, aqua eyes come with mink pattern and green or yellow eyes are seen in Tonkinese with solid coat colors.
This breed is covered in medium-short coat that is fine, soft and close-lying, giving it a lustrous sheen. There are three types of coat pattern, namely, pointed, mink and solid (also known as sepia by some associations). The difference among these three patterns is the contrast they display with its body color. The pointed pattern shows the highest contrast to the body color while solid pattern displays the least contrast. Such contrast is determined by the temperatures of the environment the cat is in. The colder the climate, the darker the coat color will be. Color terms among the Tonkinese can be confusing as they appear as different terms in the Siamese and Burmese breeds. The most common colors are platinum, blue, champagne and natural, which is a seal type of color.
Personality and temperament
Like its appearance, the Tonkinese has a personality that combines the best of both the Siamese and Burmese breed at a well-balanced level. It is affectionate, astute, talkative and devoted. On the physical side, its athletic abilities make it not just a fast cat on the ground, but also a sharp leaper to above ground.
Even though it is eager and does not hesitate to share its sentiments and intuitions, this cat is less talkative and possesses a softer and a less intrusive voice than the Siamese. Playful and active just like most cats, the Tonkinese naturally enjoys a game of fetch. In fact, anything can become a toy for this breed. People-oriented at the same time, the Tonkinese craves for a lot of human attention.
If you become the chosen favorite person of a Tonkinese cat, be ready to form a close and loving with it. Cuddling in your lap and wrapping its velvety paws around you become just one of the few ways it displays is unreserved affections. It demands to be more than just a pet in your home; it seeks to become a member. Highly sociable, the Tonkinese does not tolerate solitude. Even though it can get along well with other cats and cat-friendly dogs, it prizes human companionship more.
Care and health issues
A healthy Tonkinese can live up to between 15 – 18 years. Like some other cats, this breed is also prone to a few health issues. These include upper respiratory infections, which leads to a tendency toward coughing, sniffing and runny eyes; gingivitis, a type of gum diseases that can develop in kittens as young as 3 months old and amyloidosis a condition when the bloodstream deposits too much amyloid protein in the internal organs, especially liver, to a toxic level. Selective breeding from early breeders had in some ways limited the occurrences of such health problems. However, it is still important to obtain a written health guarantee from qualified breeders when purchasing the cat.
This breed is easy to groom with a weekly brush to remove dead hair and distribute skin oil. Bathing it is rarely necessary. Other basic care should incorporate regular teeth with vet-approved toothpaste, especially so since it is prone to gingivitis. Also, ear checks for infections and nail trimming should also be carried out periodically.
The ideal home
Tonkinese cat can be suited for both indoor and outdoor living. Living indoor is actually a preference for this breed. However, create an adventure zone to promote its athletic abilities and encourage an active lifestyle. Equip the space with interactive cat toys, cat trees and cat gym sets. Being sociable and people-oriented, the Tonkinese is more suited for family rather than single-owned household. It is known for its adaptability to children and other friendly pets if introduced well.