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Breed: Tonkinese
Temperament: affectionate and curious
Lifespan: up to 15 years
Maintenance: low
Recommended for: families or anyone who likes friendly felines.


Once called the Golden Siamese, the Tonkinese is in fact a hybrid of Burmese and Siamese breeds. Initially developed in the United States in the 1930s, the blend of these two breeds resulted in a type which displayed obvious, but more refined characteristics of each. No deliberate breeding program followed and official record of the type was lost. It was not until the 1950s that Tonkinese were revived in Canada through controlled breeding programs, where it was also first recognised as a breed.

Today the Tonkinese is recognised by many major breed clubs throughout the world. Australia is home to a small but dedicated group of breeders, where the Tonkinese was first recognised by cat councils in 1997.


The Tonkinese is an obvious blend of its parent breeds. Less angular in conformation than the Siamese and lighter in colour than the Burmese, the Tonkinese however remains a distinctive oriental. The eyes, an attractive aqua colour, are the result of a combination of the Siamese blue and Burmese gold. Tonkinese have a wider head than Siamese but less so than the Burmese and the body is medium and muscular. The coat, a distinguishing feature of the breed, is classified as mink. It is soft, medium-short in length and close lying. The coat contrast is more subtle than the Siamese, with solid colour paling around the belly and chest.
In Australia there are five predominant coat varieties;

Natural mink: a warm brown coat with dark chocolate points.
Blue mink: a bluish grey coat with slate blue markings.
Honey mink: ruddy brown coat with chocolate markings.
Champagne mink: a warm beige coat and pale brown markings.
Platinum mink: soft silver and pewter grey.

Spots, tortoise shell and red minks are other variations in the coat however they are not recognised by some state cat councils.


True to the oriental breed, the Tonkinese is elegant, affectionate, curious and intelligent whilst displaying what breeders call a ‘cheeky’ attitude. Full of life and happy to receive attention, the Tonkinese loves companionship and is not nearly as aloof as some breeds. Like most orientals, the Tonkinese is a talkative animal, mewing for attention if it feels it is being ignored.

Feeding and health

As with all felines, a balanced diet is important. There are no specific health concerns for this breed, however gingivitis – a problem common to cats, may develop. Incorporating chewy foodstuffs (such as raw chicken necks) will help keep teeth and gums clean. A yearly visit to the veterinarian is also recommended.

As the Tonkinese is a product of two separate breeds, they show improved hybrid vigour. Tonkinese are less likely to suffer any genetically related conditions which may be associated with their parent breeds. Influence of this hybrid vigour will become less apparent as pure Tonkinese continue to be bred.

Breeding and lifespan

Second cross Tonkinese litters (the progeny of first generation Tonkinese) may yield only 50 per cent Tonkinese types with a possible 25 per cent each of Burmese and Siamese looking kittens. Commonly known as ‘throw backs’, these irregularities are the result of the strong influence exhibited by the genetically similar foundation breeds. It is argued by some breed societies that this is good reason for the Tonkinese not to be recognised as a breed in its own right, as a true type may not be relied upon in more than 50 per cent of offspring. Regardless of its appearance, the Tonkinese is still a robust cat, and could remain a member of the family for up to 15 years.

Maintenance and cost

Tonkinese are easy to care for. Brush their coat once a week to remove loose fur and keep an eye on tartar build-up on their teeth. Active cats such as these are also best provided stimulation from toys and scratch poles, otherwise they may become destructive if bored.

Kittens start from $400.00 fully vaccinated, vet checked and microchipped. Show quality kittens will fetch $600.00.

Recommended for

An ideal family cat. Your Tonkinese should settle well into home life and will regard itself as one of the family. Easy going, great with children and not overly demanding, the Tonkinese makes a great companion for both large and small households.

Further information

Thanks to Aaron Heiler and Keri Burns. We filmed this segment at Arsha Cattery, Sydney.
Keri can be contacted at Rogan cattery, Newcastle (02) 4965 4777.
Email: [email protected]

Aaron can be contacted at Arsha Cattery, Sydney (02) 9588 9892. New South Wales: Waratah National Cat Alliance Inc.
Phone: (02) 9527 3695

Queensland: Queensland Feline Association Inc.
phone: (04) 3395 1013

South Australia: Governing Council of the Cat Fancy of South Australia Inc.
Phone: (08) 8449 5880

Western Australia: Feline Control Council of Western Australia
Phone/Fax: (08) 9452 2885

Tasmania: Cat Association of Tasmania Inc.
Phone: (03) 6261 4432

Northern Territory: Cat Association of the Northern Territory
Phone: (08) 8932 5225