Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Cats > Cat Breeds > Tonkinese Cat Breed: Temperament, Traits & Pictures

Tonkinese Cat Breed: Temperament, Traits & Pictures

beautiful white tonkinese cat

It’s no surprise that Tonkinese cats are both beautiful and have a great personality, as they were originally the result of breeding Siamese and Burmese cats—both beloved breeds in their own right. As a result, they got the best characteristics of both breeds, including the beautiful coat of a Siamese cat and the playful and affectionate personality of a Burmese. But despite their lineage, Tonkinese cats have developed into a completely separate breed today.

Tonkinese cats, or Tonks for short, really thrive in a household where there are people that are willing to play with them and keep them entertained. Although these cats are great for families, you can live by yourself and still enjoy the company of a Tonkinese as long as you are willing to play with him and give him attention.

Breed Overview


7-10 inches


6-12 pounds


10-16 years


Blue, champagne, natural, platinum, solid or with color points

Suitable for:

Families with kids and pets, apartment living


Affectionate, playful, sociable, vocal

Personality aside, Tonks are also sought after because of their beautiful coats. There are 12 variations in appearance, referring to the level of contrast between the color points on their face, ears, and tail and the rest of their coat. Pointed Tonkinese cats have high-contrast color points of blue, champagne, natural, and platinum along with blue eyes. Others have medium-contrast coats, known as Mink, along with aqua eyes. Finally, there are solid Tonkinese cats as well that have low contrast between their color points and their coats, along with yellow-green eyes.

If getting a Tonkinese cat sounds even more enticing after reading that, then continue reading for more information about the breed to help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.

Tonkinese Cat Characteristics

High-energy cat will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy cats require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a cat to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train cats are more willing and skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Cats that are harder to train are usually more stubborn and will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some cat breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every cat will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds' potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some cat breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other animals. More social cats have a tendency to rub up on strangers for scratches, while less social cats shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your cat and expose them to lots of different situations.


Tonkinese Kittens

cute little tonkinese kitten
Image by: Lifesummerlin, Shutterstock

Before getting a Tonkinese kitten, it’s important to think about whether this is a commitment you’re willing to take on. Tonks aren’t high-maintenance and don’t require a lot of special care. However, their high energy and sociability levels mean that they do need a lot of stimulation, whether that be playtime with you or at the very least, toys and activities to keep them entertained.

With proper care, Tonks can also live up to 10-15 years. You’ll need to make sure that you’ll reasonably be able and be willing to care for them for that long, both physically and financially. Pets of any kind require more than just attention in order to live the best life possible, and that often requires spending money on high-quality food, proper veterinary care, etc.

If you don’t think you’re ready for a 10–15-year commitment, it may be better for you to try to find an older Tonkinese cat. But if you are ready, then raising a Tonkinese from kittenhood can help you build a really strong relationship with your cat and be very rewarding as well


Tonkinese Cat Temperament & Intelligence

The best way to describe the temperament of Tonks is easygoing. They are very patient and affectionate, so they do like lots of attention. However, they aren’t overly needy. Also, we’ve touched on how Tonks love to play and are very energetic. While they love playing with their humans because it means they are getting your attention, they will do just fine with toys, scratching posts, etc., to keep them entertained.

Tonkinese cats are also very intelligent, hence why they are so sociable and playful. It’s not uncommon for them to do tricks such as playing fetch or come up with their own games to play. But that’s another reason why they need toys and activities that will keep them stimulated mentally. They aren’t particularly mischievous, but they can get bored without stimulation which may lead to some undesirable behaviors, especially when left alone for a while.

Are Tonkinese Cats Good for Families? 👪

Tonkinese cats are great for families because families mean that there are more people to play with and give them attention. They can get along with pretty much anyone of any age, so you don’t have to worry about having one around an infant or toddler. Having a family is also great because it increases the chance that there will always be someone there to keep an eye on the cat and keep him company since they don’t like being left alone for an extended period of time.

Do Tonkinese Cats Get Along with Other Pets?

Tonkinese cats get along with other pets just as well as they get along with other people. If you have other pets, you should be more concerned with whether they will get along with your Tonkinese, not the other way around. Tonkinese cats get along well with dogs and other cats, as it provides them with yet another thing to play with and keep them entertained, especially if you do have to leave the house for several hours. Many people who own one Tonkinese usually end up getting at least one more so that they can keep each other company.


Things to Know When Owning a Tonkinese:

Food & Diet Requirements

Tonkinese are considered purebred cats, so it is very important that they are fed high-quality and nutritious cat food. Because they are so active and playful cats that are very muscular, any cat food that you feed them should be high in meat-based protein in order to help keep their muscles in good shape. It’s also very important that you don’t overfeed your Tonkinese cat, as they can be prone to obesity. Buying food that is low in fat can help prevent your cat from becoming overweight, but making sure that you feed your cat the right amount of food is just as important.

tonkinese cat with blue eyes
Image Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

Exercise 🐈

With their playful nature, you don’t have to worry too much that you Tonk isn’t getting enough exercise. However, it’s also your job as a pet owner to make sure that you play with your cat, or at the very least provide him with toys and activities to keep him entertained while you’re away. They need exercise every day, so one of the best and easiest things to do is play fetch or get your cat a toy that he can chase around your house. Tonks also love to jump, so cat condos and wall playgrounds can be another tool your cat can use for exercise. And again, having other pets can be a great way for your Tonkinese to get exercise as well.

Training 🧶

Believe it or not, Tonkinese cats are very trainable due to their high intelligence level. Learning to use the litter box should be no trouble at all, but you can even teach Tonkinese cats to walk on a leash so that they can go outside while staying safe. You can even teach Tonks how to do tricks, play fetch, or play hide-and-seek as well, which is a great way to get daily their exerise in. Just make sure to speak kindly and use lots of positive reinforcement when training your Tonkinese.

Grooming ✂️

Tonkinese cats generally have a very short coat and don’t shed as much as other cat breeds do. While it’s not likely that you’ll find cat hair on every surface in your home, they do shed some, especially during warmer months. You can reduce shedding by brushing your cat about once a week, which is a great way to provide him with attention as well so you shouldn’t have any problem getting him to allow you to do it.

Tonkinese cat face
Image by: dezy, Shutterstock

Health and Conditions 🏥

As long as they are cared for properly and receive regular veterinary check-ups, Tonkinese cats are generally very healthy. However, being purebred, they are susceptible to certain medical conditions. While reputable breeders try to ensure that the cats are as healthy as possible, there may be some conditions that develop over time or that you may want to look out for.

Minor health conditions that can affect Tonkinese cats include vomiting, coughing, respiratory infections, and eye problems such as conjunctivitis and glaucoma. Major conditions include obesity, heart disease, lymphoma, hyperthyroidism, diabetes mellitus, and dental conditions, among others. Having your cat regularly screened for these conditions can help you to get ahead of any potential problems.

Minor Conditions
  • Coughing
  • Eye conditions
  • Respiratory infections
  • Vomiting
Serious Conditions
  • Dental diseases
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Heart disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Lymphoma
  • Obesity


Male vs. Female

The final thing you have to decide when getting a Tonk is whether you want a male or a female. There is hardly any difference between the two other than their size, as males are typically larger than females. In either case, it’s a good idea to spay or neuter your Tonkinese to prevent any undesirable behaviors, especially if you have other cats. Spaying and neutering can reduce the risk of certain health conditions as well.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Tonkinese Cat

1. Despite their medium size, Tonkinese cats are heavy.

Tonkinese cats may not look like they would be heavy, but they actually are for their size. Most of that weight is muscle weight, as Tonkinese cats are very muscular perhaps due to their playful and active nature.

2. They are very “talkative.”

Tonkinese cats are highly sociable, so it’s not uncommon to hear them “talking” and vocalizing a lot. If you talk to them, don’t be surprised if they “talk” back.

3. Tonkinese used to be spelled with an “A” instead of an “I.”

Being spelled “Tonkanese” confused people, so the name was switched to “Tonkinese” in reference to the Bay of Tonkin in Vietnam. However, the Tonkinese breed has otherwise no association with Vietnam.


Final Thoughts

If you want a cat that is energetic, playful, sociable, and highly affectionate, then a Tonkinese cat might be the cat for you. As long as you can devote plenty of time to playing with them and giving them attention, or have other family members or pets to keep your Tonk entertained, you’ll soon realize how fun-loving and amazing these cats can truly be. You may even be tempted to get more Tonks once you realize how much you love them.

You Might Also Be Interested In:

Featured Image Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets