5 Things to Know About Tonkinese Cats

Tonkinese cats are known to be goofy, playful and quite entertaining.

1. Key Characteristics

  • Weight: 8–12 pounds for males, 6–8 pounds for females
  • Life Expectancy: Around 16 years

The Tonkinese is a medium-sized, muscular cat with soft, mink-like fur that comes in 12 colors and patterns.

The coat has points, with darker colors on the face, ears and tail.

The eyes can be blue, violet, aqua or yellow-green.

2. Where They Came From

This old breed is the result of crossing Siamese and Burmese cats.

The cats were exported to England in the 1800s, and the first Tonkinese appeared in the United States in 1930.

The breed achieved recognition by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) when it was accepted for championship status in 1984.

Tonkinese cats are known goofballs. By: Eric Isselee (Top: hotwalkn)

3. How Friendly Are They?

Tonkinese cats are goofy and humorous, and can be quite entertaining. They are affectionate and intelligent cats with great memories.

They are prone to being lap cats and enjoy being close to their family members.

They are also alert and active but can be stubborn. Most Tonkinese get along well with children, cats, dogs and other pets.

They are social and tend to greet any new visitors. Many people report their Tonkinese cats are very talkative.

4. Is This the Right Cat for You?

Exercise Needs


LOW: This breed doesn’t have any special exercise requirements. They are active indoors and like to play, so toys and games are recommended.

Tonkinese cats should stay indoors. They are very trusting and lack defensive instincts, and these qualities could make them vulnerable when outside the home.

Grooming Needs


LOW: The short coat of the Tonkinese does not require much upkeep beyond a weekly brushing and bathing when necessary.

It’s always a good idea to get your cat used to baths when in the kitten stage so they are easy to bathe as adults.

Clip the nails regularly and provide a scratching post.

Because of the breed’s susceptibility to gingivitis, the teeth also need regular cleaning.

Health Problems


MEDIUM: There are only a few common health problems with this breed. Tonkinese cats are generally healthy due to selective and careful breeding over the years.

You should still plan to cat-proof your home and be aware of these health issues:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Gingivitis
  • Excessive protein deposits
  • Respiratory infections (more common in kittens)

As with any cat, be sure to feed a high-quality diet and have annual exams performed by your veterinarian to keep your cat in optimum health.

This mewling Tonkinese cat obviously wants something from her human, right?

5. Where to Adopt One

Check adoption resources first before buying from a breeder. Use our adoption search feature to get started, or search for local rescues.

If you choose to go to a breeder, be aware that kitten mills do exist. Check for a clean environment and request health checks to ensure the cats are being raised with the utmost care provided for their good health.

In other words, keep an eye out for red flags that indicate the breeder is not reputable.

Additional Resources

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, has been researching dog and cat breeds for nearly a decade and has observed the animals up close at dog shows in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has researched and written about pet behaviors and care for many years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, another bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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