The origins of this breed lie in the Orient, and it was actually a Tonkinese cat called Wong Mau that was accepted as the first Burmese cat seen in the West! There is a very close relationship between the Tonkinese and the Burmese even today, and this is reflected in the similarities in their body coloration and appearance. Today’s Tonkinese, however, is actually a modern hybrid, bred from crossing Burmese and Siamese cats.
- BREED DEVELOPED: 1950s
- COUNTRY: USA
- TYPE: Shorthair
- BODY SHAPE: Medium-length, athletic build
- MAXIMUM WEIGHT: 5.5kg / 12 pounds
- PLUS POINTS: Less vocal than Siamese; intelligent; responsive
- WATCH POINTS: Breeding Tonkinese is a lottery
When Wong Mau, the first supposed Burmese, was bred in the late 1930s did it emerge that she was actually a Tonkinese. This came to light when she was mated with a Siamese, and produced Tonkinese kittens, as well as Siamese and Burmese ones. At that time the emphasis was on developing the Burmese breed, so the Tonkinese kittens were left out of the breeding programme.
In recent years breeders have been drawn to the Tonkinese. This is partly because it harks back to the original, rounded face shape of the Siamese, now bred out.
The normal Tonkinese colour is midway between the lighter Siamese and the darker Burmese. However, many colour variations have been bred, including the much paler Cream, shown here. The Cream Tonkinese has warm colouring on its back, fading to a paler shade on its underbelly and legs. The Tonkinese breed was first officially recognised during 1978 in the USA.
- The Tonkinese is roughly half way between the Burmese and the Siamese in appearance. The Cream Tonkinese is a warm fawn, with paler cream neck and belly; slight tabby markings may be discernible.
- Tonkinese kittens are quite light in colour at birth, and gradually darken as they grow older.
- Like the Cream Tonkinese, the Red form is not universally recognised.
- Tonkinese kittens are quite light in colour at birth, but they will gradually darken as they grow older.
- Their aquamarine eye colour is a distinctive characteristic of the breed, reflecting a midway combination between the blue eye colour of the Siamese and the yellow of the Burmese.
- These cats easily learn to walk on a harness and leash.