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Tonkinese Cat Breed Info: Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on April 5, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Tonkinese Cat standing on a white background

Tonkinese Cat Breed Info: Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Are you on the prowl for that purr-fect feline that you can bring home to your family today? If so, the Tonkinese cat may be the ideal purebred for you! As a truly unique breed developed to capture the best characteristics of the Burmese and Siamese, the Tonkinese is an affectionate, friendly, and highly intelligent cat that loves children and other pets.

Breed Overview


6–8 inches


6–12 pounds


10–16 years


Fawn and black, Silver, Gray, Taupe, Blue, Lilac, Brown, Caramel

Suitable for:

Seniors, Apartment dwellers, Families with older children


Playful, Intelligent, Loyal & loving, Curious

In this in-depth guide on the Tonkinese, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about this unique cat to decide if this breed is right for you.

Tonkinese Characteristics

A high-energy cat needs a lot of physical and mental stimulation to keep healthy and happy, while a low-energy cat needs minimal physical activity, but still needs mental stimulation. When choosing a cat, It’s important to ensure their energy levels match your lifestyle.
Cats that are easy-to-train are more willing and skilled at quickly learning prompts and actions with minimal training. Harder-to-train cats are usually more stubborn or aloof and require a bit more patience and practice.
Certain cat breeds are more prone to various genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every cat in those breeds will have these issues, but they do have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Due to their size or potential genetic health issues of a specific breed, some cats have shorter lifespans than others. Proper nutrition, exercise, mental stimulation, and hygiene also play an important role in your cat’s lifespan and quality of life.
Some cat breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other cats and animals. Cats that are more social have a tendency to rub up on strangers for scratches or jump on laps for cuddles, while cats that are less social shy away, hide, are more cautious, and even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed or gender, it’s important to socialize your cat and expose them to many different situations.

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Tonkinese Kittens

Tonkinese kittens
Photo Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

Painstakingly developed through careful breeding selection, the Tonkinese was originally conceived by Margaret Conroy, a Canadian breeder, in the 1960s. It’s now recognized by The International Cat Association, the Cat Fanciers’ Association, and the Canadian Cat Association; the Tonkinese is an extremely popular breed all across the world.

But this doesn’t mean that the Tonkinese comes at an affordable price tag. In fact, the cost of Tonkinese kittens is on the steeper side of the spectrum. Before you go combing internet classified ads or running to your local pet store in search of a good deal, it’s important to buy a Tonkinese kitten from a reputable cat breeder.

Just like dog breeders, bad cat breeders want to gain a pretty profit at the expense of the animals they are breeding and selling. All across the United States, commercial cat breeding operations known as kitten mills are churning out hundreds of purebred kittens annually. Though these purebred kittens are being offered at exceptionally low prices, they are often plagued by numerous physical and emotional problems.

This is because kitten mills often do not care about the health and happiness of their cats and kittens. Felines are kept in close, cramped quarters, with numerous cats occupying the same small space. These cages are typically unsanitary, spreading disease and discomfort. While you’re on the lookout for a good Tonkinese cat breeder, it’s important to know some of the warning signs of a kitten mill. These can include:

  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • A breeder who seemingly always has purebred kittens for sale at low prices
  • An overpowering odor of ammonia
  • Injured and deformed cats
  • Cats with matted fur and overgrown nails
  • No vet or vaccine records on the kittens or the parents
  • No references from past clients
  • An unwillingness to allow you to visit the property

If you come across any of the aforementioned red flags, do not do business with the breeder. You could be bringing home a Tonkinese kitten with several health complications.3 cat face divider

3 Little-Known Facts About the Tonkinese

1. The Tonkinese Became a Purebred in 2001

The Tonkinese was officially changed from a crossbred to a purebred in 2001.

2. They Can Have Blue Eyes

Thanks to its Siamese and Burmese origin, your Tonkinese can have stunning ice-blue eyes.

3. Their Popularity Spiked Thanks to the Show “Jeopardy”

That’s right! Thanks to a New Jersey breeder who mentioned the breed on the popular game show “Jeopardy,” the Tonks’ popularity skyrocketed.

tonkinese cat
Photo Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Tonkinese

The Tonkinese is the perfect package! With great looks and an awesome personality to match, the Tonk will make a great pet for almost everyone. The Tonkinese is playful, curious, loving, and charismatic, and it loves getting attention and affection from its family. This includes kids and even other household animals! The cat is also an intensely intelligent feline and can even learn basic tricks, like fetching and giving you high fives.

Due to their social nature, the Tonkinese will not do well in a household where their human companions are gone for long periods. This could result in the cat getting bored, lonely, and restless.

Are These Cats Good for Families?

Yes, the Tonkinese cat is wonderful for families, even ones with younger children. Because of their outgoing, social, and loving nature, the Tonkinese will thrive in a household with numerous kids.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

Absolutely! The Tonkinese is an extremely good-natured kitty who loves playing with other household cats and even dogs.

tonkinese cat
Photo Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

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Things to Know When Owning a Tonkinese

Now that you know more about your Tonkinese cat’s personality, let’s explore all of its other wellness requirements, including the diet and grooming needs.

Food & Diet Requirements

One of the most important considerations when you bring a new Tonkinese kitty home is exactly what to feed the cat. Should you feed her dry or wet cat food? The truth is, both options are great for this breed. Wet food, in moderation, can keep them properly hydrated, while quality cat kibble will provide them with all of the vitamins and nutrients.


Like any other animal, your Tonkinese will need adequate amounts of daily exercise to stay fit and healthy. The easiest way to exercise your feline friend is to use interactive cat toys, such as a laser or feathers on a fishing pole. Both of these toys encourage your cat to move, run, and jump.

Along with physical stimulation, your Tonkinese needs mental engagement as well. Electronic toys that they can play with by themselves are great. But they aren’t suitable replacements for good old-fashioned human connection. Spend a lot of quality time with your Tonk by petting and cuddling them.


Thanks to its high intelligence, it is possible to train your Tonkinese. Positive reinforcement methods, such as clicker training, work great for this breed.

tonkinese cat sitting on the floor
Photo Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

Grooming ✂️

Though it isn’t a high-maintenance breed when it comes to grooming requirements, your Tonkinese loves to be brushed, petted, and stroked. To keep the thick coat shiny and free of tangles, use a rubber grooming paddle. This will gently massage their skin as you brush them for an amazing spa-like experience.

Health and Conditions

Minor Conditions
  • Crossed eyes
Serious Conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Amyloidosis
  • Asthma
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Heart defects
  • Hyperesthemia syndrome
  • Lymphoma
  • Nystagmus

Though the Tonkinese is an overall healthy and hardy cat, they are prone to certain health issues that are associated with the two parent breeds, the Burmese and the Siamese.

This is why it is so important to buy a Tonkinese from a responsible cat breeder that conducts rigorous health tests on the kittens they sell. Equally as important is to routinely take your cat in for regular vet appointments.

Male vs. Female

Male Tonkinese cats will be larger than their female counterparts. No large personality differences exist between the two sexes.

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Final Thoughts

If you’re searching for a lovable and loyal feline friend, the Tonkinese cat breed could be the perfect match for you and your family. They’re outgoing, playful, patient, and smart, and they get along with young children and other pets. Since they’re highly social, these cats will not do well if left alone for long stretches of time and may develop separation anxiety.

When shopping for a Tonkinese breeder, keep an eye out for signs of a kitten mill, including cheap prices, filthy living conditions, and no vet records. The Tonkinese is an amazing cat for almost any home. Consider adding this lovely ball of fluff to your family today!

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Featured Image Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

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