Tonkinese Cat: Eyes That You Can Drown In

Tonkenese cat
Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

Cats are different in so many ways. Some cat breeds require more grooming as compared to others. Some cats are patient and tolerant while others are independent and enjoy their freedom. Some cats come about as the result of careful crossbreeding efforts in pursuit of a certain desirable characteristic—which, in the Tonkinese cat’s case, would be the striking color of their eyes and their friendly nature.

Every person out there who’s passionate about cats will, of course, love to own a feline who’s lovable, easy going, and affectionate. The Tonkinese is one such feline that possesses all the above character traits. A descendant of the Siamese, this smart and energetic feline will give you the love and affection you need while driving away mice and other small animals that may find their way into your household.

At the same time, as a descendant of the Burmese, these cats sport glorious, tan-colored coats and piercing eyes that will make you fall in love at first glance. Blessed with a glamorous personality, this feline is active and very playful—making them the perfect option for large families with kids and other pets.

The main reason why we prepared this article was to inform you about the Tonkinese cat. To learn more about Tonkinese cat temperament, what a life with them looks like, and how to care for them so they will live a long, healthy life, please read on.

Breed Characteristics

Tonkenese kitten

  • Adaptability: High
  • Grooming: Low Maintenance
  • Health: Good; common Siamese problems to watch out for
  • All Around Friendliness: Very Good; can be quite clingy
  • Exercise Needs: Moderate
Cat Breed GroupShort-Haired, Crossbreed
Weight Males: 8—12 pounds
Females: 6—8 pounds
Lifespan15—20 years

The Tonkinese is an affectionate and loving feline that came as the result of a crossbreeding between a Siamese and a Burmese. A medium-sized cat with a very muscular body, the Tonkinese is outgoing, active, and has a very strong desire to spend time with their owners or get involved with whatever is going on.

What makes this feline so different is their smart and sociable nature. With a love of heights, the Tonkinese will enjoy lounging on your shoulders, resting on your lap, or simply climbing up to high places to oversee what’s happening around them. This cat loves attention and will do anything to get it. They get bored really fast and will require toys to keep them captivated especially when you’re away.

The Tonks—as they’re usually nicknamed—exhibit a variety of coat colors and patterns. Their ears, nose, tail, and paws are darker than the rest of their body—just like the Siamese. Their main patterns include mink, solid, and pointed. Speaking of coat colors, the shades you’re likely to see include platinum, blue, champagne, and natural.

Quite similar to their predecessors—the Siamese—the Tonkinese have eyes with varying shades of blue. One way to differentiate the Tonk from their ancestors is by observing the presence of aquamarine-colored eyes which include a mix of yellowish and greenish colors. In most cases, this color is found in mink cats while Tonkinese cats with pointed patterns and solid colors feature blue and gold/green eyes respectively.

Finally, Tonkinese cats are generally with a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years. Just like with other breeds, their males are heavier than the females—weighing somewhere between 8 and 12 pounds while females weigh from 6 to 8 pounds. This cat doesn’t require much grooming.

Main Highlights

Tonkenese cat with blue eyes

  • Tonkinese kittens are born with blue eyes. However, as the kittens reach the age of 6 months, the color of their eyes begins to change.
  • In most cases, pointed Tonks have blue eyes, solids have gold or green eyes, while minks have aquamarine eyes.
  • The Tonk is a crossbreed between the Siamese and the Burmese. The cat comes in a blend of 12 different colors and patterns.
  • Tonkinese coat color is determined by the environmental temperature where the cat was brought up. For instance, cooler temperatures lead to darker coats while hot temperatures will bring out lighter coats
  • The Tonkinese was named after the Tonkin region of Vietnam despite having no relationship or any association with the region.
  • After a series of selective breeding, the Tonkinese was recognized as a separate breed from the Siamese and granted championship status by cat associations such as the Canadian Cat Association (CCA) in 1971, the International Cats Association (ICA) in 1979, and the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in 1990.

Breed History

Tonkenese cat wearing purple collar

The Tonkinese is a crossbreed with Siamese and Burmese parents. Developed in the 1960s, this cat was bred with the intention of creating a feline with a medium-sized body, piercing eyes, and an irresistible character.

Although the cat was introduced and popularized just recently, ancient journals suggest that a similar cat breed actually existed in earlier times. According to a book—“The Cat Book Poems of Siam”—written in Thailand between the years 1358 and 1767, a sailor presented a cat (called Wong Mau) to Dr. Joseph Thompson who had a great interest in cats.

The cat, which was acquired from a faraway port, was mistaken for a Siamese. Due to its chocolate-colored coat, the mistaken cat was named “Chocolate Siamese” in the 1800s. Although the breed line eventually disappeared in Europe, they densely populated Thailand where they mated freely with Siamese cats.

Official breeding of the Tonkinese commenced in the 1960s when a Canadian breeder Margaret Conroy decided to create a cat breed with characteristics that resembled both the Siamese and the Burmese. The breeding was successful, and the resulting kittens had tan coats and aqua eyes.

After a series of successful breeding with the help of other notable breeders (such as Jane Barletta of New Jersey), this unusual cat was named the Tonkinese. They were granted championship status by all major cat associations between the years 1971 and 1990.

The Tonkinese was formerly known as the Tonkanese. This name was said to reference an Island in the South Pacific where mixed-breed cats were never discriminated. Due to a series of confusion in spelling the name, it was officially declared in 1971 that the name would be changed to Tonkinese—after the Bay of Tonkin in Vietnam.


Tonkenese cat standing

The Tonk, as these cats are nicknamed, are generally trim and muscular. They appear to be heavier than they really are. Their head is wedge-shaped, and they have large ears. A short-haired feline with a medium-sized body, Tonkinese cat life expectancy is between 15 and 20 years provided proper care, grooming, and feeding requirements are ensured.

Due to their extremely active and playful nature, these cats are able to maintain their weight on an average of 8 to 12 pounds for males and 6 to 8 pounds for female cats. Thanks to that, they make great travel companions since they are well-balanced.

Personality and Character

Tonkenese cat sitting

Tonkinese cat personality is a combination of their parents coupled with a few unique character traits of their own. A cat with unusual levels of intelligence, affection, and curiosity, this feline can be a bit overly demanding. These cats have a great sense of humor and will enjoy speaking and carrying conversations with you on a daily basis.

This cat is loyal and tends to follow you around or ride on your shoulders while still trying to get involved in whatever you’re doing. They also enjoy spending time on your lap.

When it comes to their activity level, the Tonkinese is quite energetic but not hyperactive like some cats can be. Brainy and very attentive, this cat will enjoy playing with puzzle toys and will go as far as climbing up to high grounds in a bid to quench their desire for adventure. Large cat trees, ball toys, and other pets can be used to keep this feline busy when you’re away, but make sure to spare some time daily to play and bond with your cat.

If you really wish to see how intelligent this feline is, challenge their brain by teaching them new tricks and you’ll be amazed by how fast they are able to grasp things. Also, these cats get along well with everything.

Health and Potential Problems

Tonkenese cat on blanket

Unlike most other cat breeds, Tonkinese cat health problems are fewer following the selective and careful breeding that has been adopted over the years. This cat is generally healthy and very powerful thanks to their high activity level.

However, since this feline is a descendant of the Siamese, there is a high possibility that the Tonkinese might fall victim to common illnesses that affect cats in the Siamese family tree. Among the most common health conditions this cat is likely to suffer from include:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease: This condition is not just a single disease but rather an accumulation of chronic gastrointestinal disorders that occur due to an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The inflammatory cells thicken the gastrointestinal tract—thus disrupting the functions of the intestines. This condition is mostly caused by parasitic and bacterial infections as well as allergies to specific foods. Common signs of this condition include vomiting, weight loss, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. The vet may endorse medical treatments and dietary management.
  • Gingivitis: Gingivitis is another common illness that affects the Tonkinese cat. This condition involves an inflammation of the gums (gingiva). If left untreated, this condition can cause the teeth to fall out eventually. This condition is caused by a build-up of plaque or simply food debris on your cat’s teeth if they’re not brushed frequently. Common symptoms include drooling, difficulty eating, bad breath, a swelling of the gums, and a reddening of the gum line. Common treatments include a regular brushing of your cat’s teeth to remove food debris or simply a removal of the affected teeth if the condition is advanced.
  • Respiratory infections: Upper respiratory infections (URIs) in cats are caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria. According to notable vets, this condition is mostly caused by feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus. This condition is highly prevalent in catteries and households with multiple cats as it is transmitted from cat to cat via saliva, sneezing, sharing water bowls, or while grooming multiple cats together. Common symptoms include coughing, sneezing, drooling, fever, depression, oral or nasal ulcers, and colored nasal discharge. If the problem is detected early enough, common treatments may include medication and nutritional support.
  • Amyloidosis: Another condition that mostly affects cats from the Siamese family tree is the amyloidosis. This condition involves excessive or abnormal deposits of proteins in various tissues of the body. In most cases, the condition targets the liver where excessive deposits of proteins in this area cause slow or rapid liver failure which may eventually result in death. This condition mostly affects cats between the age of 1 and 5
  • Nystagmus: Another hereditary condition highly common in the Siamese family tree is the feline vestibular disease or Nystagmus. This condition involves sudden incoordination where your feline suddenly tilts their head to one side. They may also develop involuntary darting of the eyes to and fro. What really happens here is that the vestibular apparatus (located in the inner ear) which helps us maintain a sense of balance and orientation is damaged by infections, tumors, or inhaling toxic substances. Common treatments include medication or surgery. The best thing about this condition is that it’s short-term and self-resolving. Therefore, pet parents are advised to offer full support to their felines when eating or taking medication to help in fast recovery.

Care Features

Tonkenese cat on pink background

The Tonkinese is a short-haired breed with an easy-to-maintain coat. Brushing the coat once a week will be enough to remove dead hair and allow precise circulation of skin oil.

One thing you must keep in mind is that they need regular teeth brushing to maintain top-notch dental hygiene. These cats are prone to gingivitis. This cat has no eye problems. However, to maintain total cleanliness, it’s wise to remove any discharge using a damp cloth.

Since this cat is in the family tree of the Siamese breed, they are vulnerable to the feline vestibular disease—a condition that occurs due to damage to the inner ear. Pet parents should ensure that they observe regular cleaning of the ears to remove any dirt build-up.

Finally, as a responsible pet parent, it’s advisable that you strictly lock your Tonkinese cat indoors to avoid any uncertainties that might happen out there. Always remember to clean the litter box, trim their nails, and throw in some exciting toys to keep them entertained when you’re away.

Feeding Schedule

Tonkinese cats should be fed meat or food that’s formulated with meat products. The reason why is due to the presence of special amino-acids found in meat protein that helps the body in multiple ways. If these amino acids are absent in the cat’s diet, your feline might suffer from possible heart and eye illnesses.

To determine the best feeding schedule for your Tonkinese, seek advice from the vet who will analyze your cat’s life stage and current body condition before recommending the best daily nutritional requirements. Tonkinese cats are frequent eaters, so it is recommended that you give them small meals periodically throughout the day rather than providing their quota in one big bulk.

Always keep treats and snacks to a minimum to avoid obesity. Finally—and this is important—always ensure that the cat food you buy meets the standards regulated by AAFCO. Always consult your vet on which cat foods to buy to avoid exposing your dear feline to undesirable medical conditions.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Tonkenese cats' coat color

The Tonkinese are medium-sized cats with a short, thick, and silky coat that’s easy to groom. Their coat may come in mink, solid, or pointed patterns with varying shades of champagne, and platinum for a series of 12 amazing combinations. Mink Tonkinese cats are the most popular followed by solid, and then pointed Tonks. Their eyes can be aqua, blue, green, or yellow-green in color depending on their coat.

When it comes to their grooming needs, the Tonkinese requires minimal brushing maybe once or twice a week to remove any loose hair. While you brush them, make sure that you also check for ticks, fleas, and injuries.

Like we’ve already stated earlier in this article, the Tonkinese is an active cat that enjoys human companionship. Therefore, to bond even more with your feline, it’s advisable that you spend time with them to tickle and massage their body.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

The Tonkinese cat is an extremely sociable and loving feline that thrives on human companionship. Blessed with a loyal, tolerant, and patient heart, this cat will follow you almost everywhere and will enjoy riding on your shoulders or simply resting on your lap for some grooming.

If treated with respect, this cat is able to tolerate even young kids and will understand their innocence in case they tend to mishandle them. When it comes to their relationship with other pets, the Tonk is ever ready to forge a peaceful relationship especially when introduced to canine pets at an early age.

Wrap Up

Tonkenese cat lying

Tonkinese cats enjoy spending time with you, communicating with you, entertaining you, welcoming your visitors, and they will demand attention in case you forget to give them some.

The Tonk will get bored if there is nothing fun to play with and they tend to become mischievous when idle. Therefore, pet parents should understand how to live with this feline and ensure that there are multiple cat trees and other exciting toys to keep them captivated.

Finally, the Tonkinese should be kept indoors at all times to protect them from common feline infections, accidents, and other uncertainties that might happen when they are out there. Their short, silky coat does not need to be brushed too often, but their nails, eyes, and teeth should be kept clean at all times to avoid any infections.

So, is the Tonkinese the right cat for you? In case you prefer cats that are calmer by nature and tend to act more reserved around people, excepting you, their owner, check this breed out. For those with an extra piece of information regarding the Tonkinese, we highly encourage you to drop your views and experience in the comment box below.

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.