tonkinese cat lying on bed


A complete breed guide for Tonkinese cats

Last Updated 22 February 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Maree Monaghan, BVSc (Hons)

Can't decide whether to share your life with a Siamese or a Burmese? Get the best of both worlds with a Tonkinese! This lively, playful, people orientated breed shares many personality traits with its cousin breeds and is available in a variety of colours.


Facts about Tonkinese Cats


Physical Characteristics


Best Toys and Accessories for Tonkinese Cats

Diet and Nutrition

Health Problems

Further Reading

Facts about the Tonkinese

Place of origin: Life expectancy: Level of affection:
Thailand, Burma 15 to 18 years High
Energy level: Tendency to vocalise: Coat colours:
Medium Medium to High Seal, chocolate, cinnamon, blue, lilac and fawn
Coat type: Size: Coat markings:
Medium short, fine and silky 2.5 to 5.5kg Point, Mink or Solid.
Shedding factor: Overall grooming needs: Eye colour:
Low Low Blue, Aqua or Green depending on coat colour

Tonkinese History

Although considered by many to be a fairly recent breed resulting from crossing Siamese with Burmese, this is not quite true. There are references from the 1880's which describe cats called "Chocolate Siamese" which were deep brown in colour showing hardly any colour point markings.

The Tonkinese, Siamese and Burmese are actually genetic "cousins" and this was evidenced by a female cat named "Wong Mau" who was imported into the USA in the 1930's from Burma. Wong Mau was brown with darker points and, when she was bred with a seal point Siamese, she produced both seal point Siamese kittens and darker kittens identical to her. The darker coloured kittens were not as popular as the seal point kittens, however, dark coloured kittens kept turning up in litters of both Burmese and Siamese cats. In the mid 1960's, cat breeders in the USA and Canada began actively breeding these "mink" coloured cats and the Tonkinese was eventually recognised as a separate breed from Burmese and Siamese in the USA and Canada by 1978. Tonkinese have been actively developed in Australia since the 1990's and the standard for this breed is still evolving.

Tonkinese Physical Characteristics

burmese cats
burmese cats
burmese cats

Photo Credits: @tonkinese_designer_family

Tonkinese are medium size, solid and muscular cats that, like their Burmese cousins, feel surprisingly heavy when you pick them up. They are a balance between the long, slender body and triangular face of the Siamese and the rounded, compact shape of the Burmese. Tonkinese can vary considerably in their physical characteristics depending on whether they are of the more "solid" Burmese type favoured in the USA or the "intermediate" type which displays more Siamese characteristics.

Tokinese Personality

Tonkinese have a personality that is midway between that of a Siamese and a Burmese. They do like to talk but won't drive you crazy like a Siamese and have a more pleasant, lower pitched voice. Tonkinese love companionship and get along just as well with single people, couples, families with children and older owners. They are also quite happy to live with other dogs and cats and will need this companionship if their humans are away from home a lot.

Tonkinese are intelligent and lively cats that love playing and will amuse you for hours with their inventive games. Lonely or bored Tonkinese will channel their intelligence into all sorts of mischief, so it is important to make sure that they have lots of environmental enrichment to keep them happy.

Top toys and accessories for Tonkinese Cats

Gigwi Melody Chaser Parrot

With realistic Parrot-like noises, the Melody Chaser Parrot satisfies your Tonkinese's natural instinct to stalk and trap small prey

Catio Equanimity Cat Tree

Constructed out of high-quality chipboard and jute-twine, this condo features multiple soft platforms for your Tonkinese and their kitty friends to play, pounce, and jump around!

Anipal Gigi Harness and Lead

Due to their intelligence and ability to be trained, the Tonkinese is the perfect cat for teaching how to walk on a lead and harness.

AFP Cat Treat Maze

Featuring a fun maze enclosed in a plastic shell with teeny paw holes, this product is ideal for keeping your clever Tonkinese occupied and happy.

Tonkinese Diet and Nutrition

Tonkinese cat sitting behind dinner plate

Photo Credit: @tonkinese_designer_family

Shop All Premium Cat Food

What is the best food for a Tonkinese?

This intelligent, active breed thrives on a premium, balanced diet rich in omega fatty acids to support a glossy coat. If your Tonkinese is less active and enjoys an indoor lifestyle, we recommend a weight management diet to prevent obesity. Likewise, if your Tonkinese is prone to dental disease, a dental formula cat food might be perfect for them.

A variety of wet and dry food is recommended for Tonkinese cats. Dry food can help keep their teeth clean, which reduces the risk of gingivitis. And wet cat food can help increase your Tonkinese's water intake to ensure adequate hydration.

Top dry foods for adult Tonkinese

ADVANCE Adult Cat Chicken and Salmon

ADVANCE Adult is formulated with controlled mineral levels and high digestibility to help support urinary tract health, and natural yucca extract to help reduce litter box odours.

Open Farm Pasture Raised Lamb Dry Cat food

This recipe contains sustainably sourced lamb as the first ingredient, with superfood ingredients including non-GMO cranberries, coconut oil and turmeric, and zero artificial additives.

Hills Science Diet Adult Indoor Cat

This premium quality, highly digestible formula contains a unique blend of ingredients designed to support the maintenance of a healthy weight in indoor cats.

Canidae Grain Free Pure Elements

This all natural, grain free dry food contains only 7 key ingredients plus added probiotics making it an ideal choice for cats with sensitive stomachs.

Top wet foods for Tonkinese Cats

Feline Natural Grain Free Wet foods

Complete and balanced, this pâté style wet food is made from New Zealand proteins including Chicken, Lamb, Beef and Salmon, sustainably farmed and sourced and blended with fresh New Zealand water for added hydration.

Advance Adult Indoor Cat wet food

With a lower calorie level and lean proteins including succulent chicken and turkey in a rich jelly, it is specially formulated to keep less-active Tonkinese trim and healthy.

Royal Canin Intense Beauty Jelly Wet food

This premium wet cat food is enriched with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to support healthy skin and a beautiful shiny coat.

Ziwi Feline Canned varieties

Rich in free range New Zealand meats, sustainably sourced fish and green lipped mussel, Ziwi canned foods are packed with natural, wholesome nutrition to suit all adult cats.

Tonkinese Health Concerns

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when there is a failure to regulate blood sugar and inability to utilise glucose as an energy source by the body. The symptoms of diabetes mellitus in cats include drinking excessive amounts of water and producing large volumes of urine, weight loss despite increased food intake and walking with the hocks on the ground due to nerve damage. There may be a genetic predisposition to this disease in Tonkinese, similar to the one found in Burmese.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease occurs when plaque builds up on the teeth leading to bacterial infections around the teeth. The bacteria penetrate under the gums causing them to become inflamed and occasionally bleed. This disease can be avoided by good dental care at home from an early age.


Amyloidosis is a disease which involves the deposition of insoluble, fibrous proteins - amyloids - into various tissues of the body, particularly the liver. Over time as more and more liver tissue is replaced, the liver stops functioning normally and this can cause liver failure. Symptoms include excessive drinking and urination, lethargy, inappetance, weight loss, and jaundice.

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

Premium pet food: Is it worth it?

Teach your cat to walk on a lead

How to stop cats from scratching the furniture

Dental care for cats

How to tell if your cat loves you

Shop All Cat Supplies Now