While many cat fanciers believe the Tonkinese to have existed since the early 19th century, it was officially developed during the 1960s with breeders desiring a cat that closely resembled the very popular Siamese and Burmese. The founding cat, named Wong Mau, is likely to have arrived in California, the United States before 1930 – a walnut-coloured Siamese accompanying a Dr. Joseph Cheesman Thompson. One of the original breeders, Margaret Conroy, was so impressed with her litter of Siamese/Burmese crosses that boasted tan coats and striking blue eyes, that it inspired many others to partake in the breeding program. The name ‘Tonkinese’ was adopted in 1971 after the Bay of Tonkin, having previously been ‘Tonkanese.’ The breed was fully accepted by the Cat Fanciers Association in 1984.
The Tonkinese demonstrates the physique of its forebears – lithe, regal and muscular – with long legs, a muscular body structure, a relatively short and narrow tail, a small wedge-shaped head and bold eyes that are typically blue-green or golden. Four colours are observed in the breed, including natural, champagne, platinum and blue. A variety of patternings are also seen, from pointed to solid and mink, with the mink variety being the most desirable. The Tonkinese has an affinity for heights and will take high ground in times of stress or perceived threat. Highly active and alert, the average Tonkinese requires both physical and mental stimulation to keep it occupied throughout the day.
Relatively vocal like the Siamese, the breed will communicate with you when it wants your attention. When it comes to attention, the Tonkinese is fairly demanding and does not take kindly to being left unattended for long periods of time. Indoor cats require plenty to keep them occupied so ensuring a variety of interactive toys and playthings are available is essential when keeping a Tonkinese. Intelligent, able-bodied and highly affectionate, the Tonkinese is a great all-round cat with a natural love of people. The love and companionship you bestow on this particular feline will be returned two-fold, so only adopt one if you are certain you can devote sufficient time to one. Generally speaking, a healthy adult Tonkinese will weigh 6-15 pounds depending on its gender, with a typical life expectancy of 15 years.
The Tonkinese is a very healthy and resilient breed, with few breed-specific or genetic health conditions documented.