Tonkinese Cats are a medium-sized short-haired cat distinguished by points as with Siamese and Himalayans. They are commonly known as ‘Tonks’. As with many cat breeds, the exact history of the Tonkinese varies to some degree depending on the historian.
Tonkinese cats are a recent cross between the Siamese and Burmese cat breeds, though some claim that Tonkinese cats have existed since at least the early 1800s. Some claim that the appearance of the breed is closer to the original appearance of the Siamese, before Siamese breeders developed today’s triangular head and very leggy body. The name is not related to the Tonkin region of Indochina, being a ‘back formation’ from the names of the ancestral breeds.
Tonkinese cats are commonly trim and muscular cats. They are usually intelligent, curious, affectionate with people, and interested in them. Tonks are playful cats, but not hyperactive. Some interesting toys and a cat tree, or, better yet, another Tonkinese, will keep them occupied when you’re not around. Unlike most varieties of cat, they are reported to sometimes, or even often, engage in fetching.
Tonkinese are more like Burmese in temperament than Siamese, that is, less high-strung and demanding. Their voices are also less piercing (or raucous, depending on taste) in most cases than the Siamese, but most Tonks do like a good chat. Most observers feel they combine the more attractive features of both ancestor breeds.
Tonks exhibit a wide variety of coat colors and patterns. The three main patterns are natural, mink, and point. The mink variety is most desirable for show. The most commonly accepted colors are: lilac (platinum), champagne, blue, and natural (brown). Typically, natural patterned cats have gold or green eyes, cats with the point pattern are blue-eyed, and the mink cats have a shade of aquamarine. A great deal of subtle variation exists in colors and patterns, and Tonkinese coat colors change with age.
Breeding two Tonkinese cats does not necessarily yield a full litter of show quality Tonkinese kittens – the colorations do not breed true to type in about half of all otherwise purebred kittens. Those kittens that don’t fit the standards perfectly are usually sold as pets, and for less money, but they still have that same Tonkinese charm and personality. The genetics of the coat coloring and its interaction with eye coloring is complex and fascinating, though perhaps not the main attraction for Tonk fans.