The Tonkinese cat breed is known for its spunky personality and unique coat color blends. They were the first purebred cat to have aqua colored eyes! It was also one of these kitties that had the largest known litter of kittens – 19 little ones! That had to be one tired mommy. There are a lot of lovable traits about this breed that could make them purrfect for your family!

Title Photo Credit: Sean Naber via Flickr

History of the Tonkinese Cat Breed

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Photo Credit: Angela Thomas via Flickr


Technically speaking, the Tonkinese cat breed has been around for hundreds of years. They are described in The Cat-Book Poems  during the Ayuda Period (1358 – 1767). The Cat-Book Poems were written by monks in Thailand as they observed the cats that existed in the area. The poems describe both the looks of the different cat breeds and their role in local lore (some cats are described as being luck charms).

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Photo Credit: Sean Naber via Flickr

When cat fancy became popular in the 1800’s, Tonkinese cats were at the first cat shows. However, these cats were labeled “Chocolate Siamese.” The first Tonkinese cat (still not known by this name)  was imported to the US by Dr. Joseph Thompson in 1930. This cat, Wong Mau, was believed at the time to be a Burmese cat and went on to be the predecessor of both the modern Burmese and modern Tonkinese breeds. Later, it was found that Wong Mau was not a purebred Burmese, but a combination of Siamese and Burmese.

The attempt to create the modern Tonkinese breed began in the 1960’s. Two breeders, Jane Barletta of the US and Margret Conroy of Canada, wanted to create a cat breed that had features that were in between the extremes of the Siamese and the Burmese. They had begun their attempts to create the new breed separately, but eventually began to work together. Breeding Siamese cats with Burmese cats resulted in cats with a mink color pattern on the coat (still pointed, but without as drastic a difference in color as the Siamese’s points) and aqua colored eyes.

Conroy called this new breed the “Golden Siamese.” In 1967, the breed’s name was changed to Tonkinese to differentiate it from the Siamese breed. The breed was not accepted for championship status in the Cat Fancier’s Association until 1984. The breed is very healthy with the only health concern being gingivitis.

A Subtle New Look

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Photo Credit: Sean Naber via Flickr

Tonkinese cats are a perfect blend between their Siamese and Burmese relatives. From the Siamese breed, they inherited a pointed coat pattern and the gene for blue eyes. From the Burmese breed, they inherited a larger body and the sable color in their coat. They are heavier than they look! While not all colors are accepted by all cat fancier groups, these cats can have a number of point colors:

  • Seal
  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Fawn
  • Lilac
  • Cream
  • Tortishell

The depth of the color is affected by the cat’s environment. In areas of the world where lower temperatures are common, a Tonkinese cat’s colors are darker. Where temperatures are warmer, the colors are lighter.

The colors can come in 3 different patterns: pointed (a drastic difference between base coat color and points), mink (a medium difference between base color and points), and solid (little difference between base color and points). Due to the way the Siamese and Burmese genes blend, the cat’s eye color tends to be paired with the coat pattern. Cats with pointed coats tend to have blue eyes, cats with mink coats tend to have aqua eyes, and cats with solid coats tend to have yellow-green eyes.

Cats with mink coat patterns and aqua eyes are the most desirable in cat fancy circles. Still, the pointed and solid pattern cats are very important. When a cat with a mink pattern coat is bred to another cat with a mink pattern coat, the kittens are 25% pointed, 50% mink, and 25% solid. However, when a Tonkinese cat with a pointed coat pattern is bred with a Tonkinese cat with a solid coat pattern, 100% of the kittens have the mink coat pattern.

A Playful Personality

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Photo Credit: Angela Thomas via Flickr

Tonkinese cats are great for anyone who loves active, playful cats! They are full of personality! These kitties can make anything into a toy and will love to play games with you including fetch, hide-and-go-seek, and tag. It is best to make sure that a Tonkinese kitty has a playmate so they don’t get bored. They stay playful all their lives. These kitties also need to be kept indoors as they tend to lack defensive skills.

These super affectionate cats will bond easily with their humans. They love to sit on shoulders and laps and will supervise everything you do! Their voices are milder than their Siamese relatives, but they do like to use them to have a  conversation with their humans. Tonkinese cats are great with guests too. They enjoy greeting guests at the door.

If you are interested in adding a Tonkinese cat to your family, check out the adoptable kitties on Petfinder!

Have you ever met a Tonkinese kitty?

Sources & Digging Deeper

Tonkinese – CFA

Tonkinese – TICA

Tonkinese Cat – Petfinder

Tonkinese – Animal Planet