About Tonkinese Cats

This is always the first question we get from spectators at shows.  A cross between the Siamese and Burmese IS the Tonkinese!  Looking at a map of that part of the world, Burma (now Myanmar) sits on the top right of Thailand (Siam), and the waterway below is the Gulf of Tonkin … hence the name Tonkinese.  The blending of these two breeds gave the Tonkinese the absolute best of both breeds:  the Tonk is a very mellow and laid back cat that is highly intelligent and intensely loyal to its pet parents.  Most Tonks don’t know a stranger, and it’s very common for a Tonk to be the household’s door greeter!  Because of their loving and empathetic personalities, many Tonkinese are bred specifically for animal therapy, and are loving companions who enjoy visits to children’s hospitals and senior centers. And yes, Tonkinese talk … a lot!


Though considered a “medium-sized” cat, the Tonkinese female ranges from a petite five pounds to eight pounds, while the males range from nine to thirteen pounds.  These sleek, short-haired cats are well-muscled and are surprising heavy when held.


With the crossing of the Siamese to the Burmese, the Tonk comes in twelve colors:


a.  Platinum (Siamese Lilac-point) – pointed, mink and solid

b.  Blue- pointed, mink and solid

c.  Champagne (Siamese Chocolate-point) – pointed, mink and solid

d.  Natural (Siamese Seal-point and Burmese Sable) – pointed, mink and solid.


Always open to discussion and controversy, the exact origin of the Tonkinese is often open to debate.  There is argument for the Tonkinese being a naturally occurring  cat often seen in the streets of Thailand, while many hold that the Golden Siamese were actually Tonkinese whose existence was established in the 1880s.


Tracing their heritage as we recognize them today, the Tonkinese and Burmese find their roots to Wong Mau, a small chocolate colored cat with a natural mink coat pattern.  Wong Mau was brought to the United States from Thailand in the 1930s to establish the Burmese breed, and once established, the “mink” coat pattern was no longer bred by Burmese breeders at that time.

In the late 1960s, several North American breeders re-established the “mink” coated cat by breeding the Burmese to the Siamese, believing this cat was worthy of being an established breed in the cat registries of America.  As the Burmese and Siamese altered their looks, the Tonkinese kept the original moderate look similar to the Golden Siamese.  


The Tonkinese was accepted by the Cat Fanciers’ Association in 1978, with Champion status for  the mink coated Tonkinese in 1984.  In 2002, CFA opened the doors for all the Tonkinese coat patterns to be shown, and have enjoyed full championship status since that time.  With the addition of Europe as CFA’s region 9, there are other doors to be opened with regards to the Tonkinese:  Euro Tonks sport other colors including cinnamon, honey, tortie and lynx-point.  At this writing, these colors/coat patterns are not showable in CFA.*


(thank you Pendragon Tonkinese for your historical notes!)




For more information, please visit the Tonkinese Breed Association website: www.TonkineseBreedAssociation.org

What’s a Tonkinese?

Tonkinese History

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