What to Know About a Tonkinese Cat

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on August 06, 2022
7 min read

Tonkinese cats are known to be social and talkative. They love their family's attention and want to be involved in what's going on. They're also mischievous and playful, often getting into things they shouldn't. A Tonkinese is an excellent choice if you're looking for a cat that will keep you entertained and engaged.

The Tonkinese cat is a medium-sized breed. The males weigh 8 pounds to 12 pounds, while the females weigh 6 pounds to 8 pounds. They have sparkly eyes with a rounded bottom and a peach-pit shape. 

If you provide them proper care, the Tonkinese cat lifespan ranges from 12 to 16 years. 


The Tonkinese cat has a rounded, wedge-shaped head and high cheekbones. Their blunt muzzles are squarish, with the same length and width. 

One of the notable Tonkinese cat characteristics is their alert ears. The ears have a broad base and oval tips with short hair. 

Tonkinese cats' eyes are almond-shaped and proportionate to the face. The cat has a medium-sized torso with a medium-short coat and silky sheen.  

You’ll find Tonkinese cats in 12 patterns and color varieties. The four base colors, called the points, form the colors of the tail, ears, and face. These colors include blue, natural, champagne, and platinum.

As for the coat, Tonkinese cats come in many colors, such as chocolate, cinnamon, red, blue, fawn, cream, lilac, and seal. Regardless of color, the coat is short and close to the body. 

The aqua eye color is a distinguishing characteristic of the Tonkinese. However, that's not the only eye color the breed has. The Pointed Tonkinese bears Siamese features, such as their brilliant blue eyes. Their eyes may range from sky blue to brilliant blue to violet.

The solid pattern Tonkinese has a green-gold to yellow-gold eye color, which is closer to that of the Burmese.


Tonkinese cats are active and smart. They’re also very intelligent and like to play with toys. You can teach them tricks to keep them entertained and engaged. 

Tonks like to sit in their owners’ laps and make good companions. If you already have cats at home, Tonks will get along with them well. They typically don’t like being alone.

The Tonkinese cat characteristics make the breed easy to care for. The coat requires minimal care due to its sleek and soft texture.


As mentioned, the Tonk coat is short and thick, making it easy to maintain. Simply brush the coat with a rubber brush every week to remove loose dead hair.

You should also give your cat an occasional bath to keep it in good condition. It's also essential to brush a Tonk's teeth from a young age, since they're susceptible to gingivitis.

Clean their ears and trim their nails as needed.


Tonkinese cats are prone to getting obese. Therefore, you should feed them a balanced diet per your vet's instructions.

It's also important to give fresh and clean water to your cat daily. If you think your pet might not be drinking enough water, their water may be too close to the food bowl. Consider placing their food and water at least three feet apart. Since cats have sensitive noses, the pungent smell of food might make them drink less water. You can also try a filtered drinking fountain.


Tonkinese cats are active and playful by nature. They love to run and jump around, so make sure you provide them with enough space to do so.

You can also get them some simple toys, such as a string or a ping-pong ball, to keep them amused. Just make sure the toys are safe and won't break easily.

Veterinary Visits and Vaccinations 

Tonkinese cats are generally healthy but need proper diet and exercise. You should also ensure your pet gets annual exams and regular vet visits to identify any health problems before they get worse.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recommends the following core vaccines for all kittens:

  • Feline calicivirus disease
  • Rabies
  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis
  • Feline panleukopenia

Depending on your cat's risk of exposure, a vet may administer the following non-core vaccinations.

  • Feline chlamydiosis
  • Bordetellosis
  • Feline leukemia disease complex

While the AAFP does not recommend them, you should ask your vet if your cat requires vaccines for ringworm and giardiasis. Regular vet visits are essential for your cat to stay up to date on their vaccinations.

Tonkinese cats are generally a healthy breed. However, there are a few Tonkinese cat health problems to know about.


Gingivitis is a form of periodontal disease that leads to pain and inflammation. It is caused by a build-up of tartar in the teeth.

Disease-causing bacteria gather below and on the gums. As a result, they produce harmful substances that damage the cells between the teeth and the gums.

With this barrier removed, bacteria can reach the connective tissue underneath the teeth. When the cat's immune system detects this, it reacts by inflaming the gums. The clinical signs of gingivitis include:

  • Bleeding
  • Discomfort
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Your cat may hesitate to eat if their condition is severe. They may also have bad breath.

You can prevent gingivitis in your pet by brushing their teeth regularly to remove plaque build-up. Only use toothpaste or gel made for cats. Human toothpaste may be toxic to your pet. 

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease 

Feline lower urinary tract disease may be mild to severe. It is typically caused by an abnormality in the function or the structure of your pet's urethra or bladder.

Some clinical signs of FLUTD include:

  • Blood in urine
  • Inappropriate urination (outside the litter box)
  • Increased urination
  • Painful urination

In most cases, FLUTD has multiple causes, such as behavioral problems, inflammation, infections, or diet. Although cats of any age can suffer from FLUTD, middle-aged cats are more prone to this condition.

An obese cat is also at a higher risk of FLUTD. Similarly, cats with outside access or those who drink less water may develop the condition.

Moving to a new place or changing the environment can also increase the cat's risk of developing FLUTD.

You can minimize the risk of FLUTD in your pet by:

  • Providing them with fresh and clean water
  • Keeping the litter box clean
  • Minimizing changes in routine
  • Providing multiple litter boxes if you are a multi-cat household
  • Managing your cat's weight
  • Feeding your pet small meals

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

HCM is an acquired or congenital cardiac disease that thickens the muscular wall of the cat’s heart. As a result, your cat’s heart can’t pump the blood properly. If not treated, HCM may result in complete heart failure of your Tonkinese cat.

Some cats have mild HCM and can live for several years without treatment. Your vet will perform multiple tests, including echocardiography, to identify HCM in your Tonkinese. 

The common symptoms of HCM in cats are:

  • Fatigue 
  • Rapid or open-mouthed breathing
  • Blood clots

However, many Tonkinese cats with HCM don’t show symptoms in the early stages.


This is when your cat’s thyroid glands produce excessive thyroid hormones. This overproduction may lead to non-cancerous tumor growth on the thyroid gland. In severe hyperthyroidism, a cancerous tumor can also develop on your cat’s thyroid gland. The condition affects cats between 10 to 12 years old.

It’s important to get your Tonkinese cat diagnosed with hyperthyroidism early. Otherwise, it may cause life-threatening effects. Cats with hyperthyroidism usually need life-long care to maintain a balance in their hormones and prevent the condition from worsening. 

The common symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats are:

  • Unexpected hyperactivity
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Organ failure
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Blood clots


Amyloidosis is caused by the deposition of amyloid protein outside the cells in organs and tissues. Although the disease is uncommon in cats, it occurs in the following breeds: Burmese, Siamese, Tonkinese, Abyssinians, Oriental Shorthair, and Devon Rex.

Most cats diagnosed with the disease are older than seven years. However, any cat out of kittenhood can be diagnosed with the condition. Evidence shows the risk of amyloidosis increases with age. The signs of amyloidosis include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased urination
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Amyloidosis can also affect the kidneys. If your cat's kidneys are affected, you'll see the following symptoms:

  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Mouth ulcers

Some cats may also have difficulty breathing.

The Tonkinese cat personality is friendly and outgoing, making them great companions. If you have other cats at home, the Tonk will be good with them.

However, they require some special considerations when it comes to care and diet. Make sure you have separate litter boxes for each cat.

Also, the Tonkinese is good with guests. If you have visitors over, your Tonk will likely greet them at the door.

Although the breed likes chasing around the house and playing games, they also love to sit on your lap and cuddle. They're also good with dogs and children.

The Tonkinese cat is a cross between the Burmese and the Siamese. The first ever Tonkinese cat, Wong Mau, entered the US in 1930.

Back then, Wong Mau was thought to be a Burmese cat, and breeders were trying to isolate the sepia coat color from the breed. But Wong Mau was an undefined mink Tonkinese.

The breeders had defined the Burmese and Siamese breeds well by the 1960s. Jane Barletta, a breeder, decided to create a new crossbreed with the characteristics of both extremes.

Margaret Conroy, another breeder in Canada, also bred a Siamese and Burmese at the same time. The kittens born out of this cross had aqua eyes and tan coats.

Both breeders were fascinated with the results and began working together to breed Siamese and Burmese to get their unique traits in a combination known as the Tonkinese today.