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Tonkinese Cat Facts

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Tonkinese cat with blue eyes and a blue collar

If you have ever been under the impression that cats are not sociable creatures or lean more towards being cranky than friendly, then you have clearly never met a Tonkinese. Playfully referred to as Tonks, these cats can be a joy to be around, and they can brighten up anyone’s day. Read on to discover just how wonderful these cats are.

History of the Tonkinese

A cat that Goldilocks herself would love, Tonkinese cats are the perfect combination of the Siamese and Burmese breeds—they are just right. Although it was not known at the time, the first Tonkinese came to the United States in 1930. A cat by the name of Wong Mau, she is now known as the mother of the Burmese breed, but at the time, many people referred to her as a chocolate Siamese. Ironically enough, she was neither a Burmese nor a Siamese, but was, in fact, a Tonkinese.

During the late 19th century and early 20th century, chocolate Siamese cats were not unheard of—they oftentimes could be found roaming the streets of Britain. Even after their decline in Europe, they still held a strong population in Asian countries such as Thailand and Burma (now known as Myanmar). With feral Siamese and Burmese cats roaming the streets, chocolate Siamese (or Tonkinese) cats were beginning to pop up more frequently, and Wong Mau was one of them.

After making an appearance in North America, the Tonkinese started to be sought after, and, as a result, various breeders in America and Canada began deliberately crossing the Siamese and Burmese breeds. Because the two parent breeds were already a popular choice for individuals and families everywhere, it is no wonder that Tonks soon became a fan favorite. Decades later they remain a first-choice for thousands of families.

grey cat cuddled under a blanket

Tonkinese Attributes

Although they appear to be a lean, medium-sized cat, you will surely be surprised by their weight when you pick up a Tonkinese. Typically weighing between six to 12 pounds, as a muscular cat, these felines can trick the eye and will oftentimes appear to weigh less than what they actually do.

As a result of their muscular build, Tonks have the ability to jump to great heights, but don’t worry, these cats are not known to be mischievous. So, they will most likely not use this jumping ability to get into trouble. More likely, they will use their powerful legs to propel themselves onto someone’s lap or shoulder.

When it comes to their living environment, these cats should spend their time indoors. By keeping your cat indoors, you can help prevent them from catching any type of disease or illness, make sure they don’t get hurt by other animals, and protect them from dangerous situations. That being said, because your cat will be spending all of their time indoors, it is vital to provide items that will encourage mental and physical stimulation. This can include various toys, scratching posts, or hiding treats around the house.

As you may have already guessed, the Tonkinese cat personality is centered on being happy and extroverted. These cats usually adore spending time with people, which means they typically do not do well with being left alone for hours on end. These cats generally thrive in an environment where their human friends are around often, or they have another cat or cat-friendly dog around the home to keep them company.

The Tonkinese cat temperament, additionally, can be easy-going. These cats are known to be social butterflies who have great patience with people, especially when those people are giving them attention. Because of their even tempers, Tonkinese usually make a great choice for families who have children.

While it is important to pick a cat that is patient and tolerant towards children, it is additionally important to teach children how to play and interact properly with their pets. It is always a good rule of thumb to supervise interactions between your children and your pet and to teach your kids how to be gentle with the cat. Some great starter points include not pulling on the cat’s tail or ear, not approaching the cat while he/she is eating, and not laying across the animal.

Grooming and Care

Since they have short hair, many people wonder, "Do Tonkinese cats shed?" In short, yes, they do shed. However, compared to other cat breeds, whose hair can be found on every one of their human parent’s possessions, Tonks do not typically shed in abundance. In order to help keep this hair amount to a minimum, and to help keep their coat clean and healthy, it is usually a great idea to brush your cat about once a week.

For overall care, Tonks can generally be described as low maintenance. Besides a weekly brushing, it’s additionally beneficial to brush their teeth weekly (this helps prevent periodontal disease), check their ears for signs of an infection (be aware of any redness or bad odors), and wipe away any eye discharge from the corner of their eyes (use a damp cloth and different sections for each eye).

When it comes to caring for your Tonkinese, one of the best ways to ensure their happiness and health is to provide them with an appropriate diet and fair amount of exercise.

Obesity in pets will automatically lead to a string of other health issues, most of which can be avoided. Not to mention, a healthy diet can additionally give your cat a healthier coat and can help them live a longer, healthier life. As with exercise, not only is it beneficial to your cat’s physical health, but it provides mental stimulation as well.

tonk cat poking its head out of a cloth bag

Common Health Issues

While Tonks are considered to be a generally healthy cat, all cat types are still susceptible to some health issues. According to our claims data*, the top five Tonkinese cat health problems include:

  1. Coughing
  2. Lymphoma
  3. Eye issues
  4. Respiratory infection
  5. Vomiting

If you believe your cat is showing the symptoms for any of these issues, it’s important that you take them to their veterinarian as soon as possible. For most health issues, the earlier they are diagnosed, then the easier (and cheaper) they will typically be to treat.

As a cat parent, it is also a great idea to begin scheduling regular visits to your veterinarian just for routine checkups. Oftentimes, pet parents note that their cat does not need to visit the veterinarian as much as a dog would. However, cats’ symptoms are typically more difficult to notice, especially since most cats are naturally more apathetic already.

Fun Tonkinese Cat Facts

Although Tonkinese cats are not exceptionally unique with any of their physical traits, there is still much to learn about their interesting personality and history.

  • There’s a medium-haired Tonkinese, which is sometimes called Tibetan. These longer-haired cats are much more popular in Europe, specifically in Germany, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
  • Known for their intelligence, Tonks can be trained to perform various tricks, they enjoy puzzle games, and many have been taught how to walk in a harness and with a leash.
  • When it comes to the Tonkinese cat colors, pet parents have quite a few options, 12 to be exact. Some color options include light brown, champagne, blue, platinum, chocolate, red, and lilac.
  • Tonks enjoy talking, so don’t be surprised if you can hear one before you can see one. Don’t worry, though, unlike some breeds, Tonkinese won’t talk your ear off, but they will hold a conversation with you!
  • The original spelling of Tonkinese included an 'a’-Tonkanese. Many people said that this was a reference to the musical South Pacific, in which there was an island where "half-breeds" were not discriminated against—Tonkinese can be considered a mix of Siamese and Burmese.
  • People were often confused about the spelling of Tonkanese, so in 1971 the name was switched to Tonkinese, in reference to the Bay of Tonkin in Vietnam—though these cats have zero association with Vietnam.

Like they say, you should never judge a book by its cover, and, in this instance, you never know what fascinating and fun facts lie behind a particular cat breed.

Tonk Name Suggestions

Being the parent to a vivacious and friendly cat means that it’s only appropriate that you pick a spunky name that will appropriately reflect your cat’s personality. Here are some choices!

  • Bay
  • Gia
  • Han
  • Viola
  • Jasmine
  • Ginger
  • Hux
  • Bumi

Choosing a name for your new four-legged family member can be a difficult choice. To help make this decision easier, try creating a shortlist of names that you like, then upon meeting your new cat, you may be surprised how quickly you will discover which name fits them best.

*Internal Claims Data, 2019

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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