Tonkinese cat breed: the perfect blend of Siamese and Burmese; you won’t find a more affectionate companion

László Enikő

2023. September 5 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

Tonkinese is a cross between Siamese and Burmese; the perfect blend of the two. Despite its name, it is not from the Gulf of Tonkin.


It is a loving, sociable, active and playful cat who loves to rest on its owner’s lap. The Tonkinese is firmly convinced that humans were put on Earth to be loved. Intelligent and affectionate, this cat watches over its owner’s every move and doesn’t like to miss out on any activity.


The Tonkinese is a cross between Siamese and Burmese cats. The two breeds from Southeast Asia were crossed in order to produce a cat that is more robust than the Siamese but less vocal with a loving nature and intelligence shared by both Siamese and Burmese.

Wong Mau, a small, dark brown cat, belonged to Dr Joseph Thompson. A sailor, aware of Dr. Thompson’s interest in cats, brought him the kitten, which he had acquired in a distant port. Wong Mau was first thought to be a Siamese with chocolate-coloured fur. Such Siamese were not unknown before. The ‘chocolate Siamese’ was first described in the 1880s. Their bodies were brown and they had seal-brown or almost black spotting. Chocolate cats eventually disappeared in Britain, but continued to exist in Thailand and Burma (now Myanmar), where they were probably the offspring of a natural (as opposed to human-controlled) mating of free-roaming Siamese and Burmese cats. Wong Mau was one of them. She became the ancestress of the modern Tonkinese.

The first intentional crossbreeding between Siamese and Burmese began in the 1950s with Milan Greer, who called the cats “golden Siamese”. He did not continue his breeding program, but other breeders became interested in a dark brown cat with spotting, a cross between Siamese with Burmese. The Canadian Cat Association began registering it in 1967, and eventually other cat associations followed suit, although some, such as the Cat Fanciers’ Association, did not grant recognition until almost 20 years later, in 1984. It is still not officially recognised by FIFe.

The name was originally Tonkanese, a reference to the musical South Pacific. However, there was often confusion about the spelling, so in 1971 the name was officially changed to Tonkinese – after Tonkin Bay – even though the cat had nothing to do with the region.

Breed standard

The Tonkinese is a medium sized cat, in fact a perfect transition between the Burmese and the Siamese. Its body weight is around 2.5-5.5 kg. Its life expectancy is 15-18 years. The body is strong and muscular, not as slender as the Siamese. The head is slightly wedge-shaped, the American variety being more rounded than the European. Its ears are moderately large, broad at the bottom and rounded at the tip, the eyes almond-shaped. Its limbs are long, muscular, the paws oval in shape. The tail of medium length, tapering towards the end. Its coat is silky, soft to the touch, short and close-fitting.

The four basic colours of the Tonkinese are natural mink; champagne mink; platinum mink and blue mink. The eye colour depends on the pattern of the coat and which factor (Siamese or Burmese) is stronger in the individual. When two Tonkinese are mated, the kittens can have Tonkinese, Burmese and Siamese factors, usually in a 2:1:1 ratio.

The puppies are born light, only later their fur darkens.


The Tonkinese is very playful and loves to occupy itself with different toys or other animals and people. It likes to play fetch, hide and seek, but it can also play with a piece of paper for hours. As it is very clever, it also likes to learn tricks. It is a happy kitty who appreciates a high scratching post and lots of toys.

With its loving nature, it can easily get into anyone’s heart and quickly bring a smile to anyone’s face. Less talkative than the Siamese, but just as intelligent and affectionate as its cousins. Almost demanding of attention, it loves to be the centre of attention. It also likes to check on its owner to see what it is doing. It follows the owner’s movements curiously and greets guests at the door.

It’s all about attention.

Ideal environment

The Tonkinese gets along well with children, other cats and dogs. It likes attention, so it does not tolerate loneliness well. However, two Tonkinese keep each other company and the two of them have fun together. On the other hand, if the cat gets bored, it may engage in something that its owner will not appreciate. It is not suitable for a household where there are few people at home.


The coat of the Tonkinese is easy to groom, it should be combed once a week. Claws should be trimmed regularly. If the ears look dirty, they should be gently cleaned. Wipe them with a cotton pad or a soft, damp cloth moistened with a 50-50 mixture of apple cider vinegar and warm water. Avoid using ear cleaning sticks as they can damage the inside of the ear. Make sure that the litter is clean, because, like all cats, the Tonkinese is sensitive to their cleanliness.

Common health problems

The Tonkinese breed is generally healthy, although they may be prone to gingivitis and sensitive to anaesthesia. As a descendant of the Siamese, it may suffer from the same diseases as its relative. Examples include cross-eye, digestive problems, amyloidosis, asthma and congenital heart disease.

(Literature used: János Szinák – István Veress: Cat Guide, Jean-Luc Renck: The Cat, Laura Aceti – Viola Autieri: Our Best Friend, the Cat)

breed description short-haired cat tonkinese

Related articles

More articles