Cat Breeds that Come from Canada Part 2: The Tonkinese

White eyed tonkinese cat

This is a series about a handful of special – not to mention beautiful – cat breeds originating from Canada. The Tonkinese – a cross between the Siamese and Burmese – is one of them. Here’s an overview of this fascinating breed.


Body: medium-sized and muscular; slim legs; oval paws

Head: modified, slightly rounded wedge shape; longer than it’s wide

Eyes: open almond shape; aqua, blue, green or yellow-green in colour

Ears: medium-sized; broad at base; oval tip

Base coat colours: blue, champagne, natural and platinum

Colourways: 12 different colourways


In the 1960s, a Canadian breeder named Margaret Conroy crossed a seal-point Siamese with a brown Burmese. She wrote the first breed standard and the Canadian Cat Association officially registered the Tonkinese in 1967.

Before that, a man named Milan Greer started the first deliberate crossbreeding between the Siamese and Burmese and called the breed Golden Siamese.


Tonkinese cats are active, friendly, very loving and social. Owners need to provide enough affection and attention as well as opportunities for mental and physical stimulation. This also means that when you’re away they’re better off if they have the company of another cat or even a dog.

They’re not as talkative as Siamese cats. In fact, it’s one of the reasons they were bred. Plus: They tend to enjoy riding on shoulders.


The Tonkinese sports a short, super soft coat. To distribute skin oils and get rid of dead hair, weekly brushing should be prioritized and the occasional bath is recommended. Owners should also clean their teeth, eyes and ears as often as necessary.


While Tonkinese cats are generally quite healthy, breed-specific issues (1 and 2) do exist in addition to diseases that typically tend to affect Siamese cats (3 to 11).

  1. Gingivitis
  2. Sensitivity to anaesthesia
  3. Asthma/bronchial disease
  4. Gastrointestinal conditions, e.g. megaesophagus (enlargement of the esophagus)
  5. Nystagmus: neurological disorder; causes repetitive, uncontrolled eye movements
  6. Congenital heart defects, e.g. aortic stenosis (narrowing of the aortic valve opening)
  7. Amyloidosis: rare, serious protein deposition disease (primarily affects the liver in cats)
  8. Hyperesthesia (rolling-skin) syndrome: neurological; causes episodes of agitation, self-mutilation and rippling of the skin upon contact (hence the name)
  9. Lymphoma: cancer that begins in the infection-fighting cells of the immune system
  10. Progressive retinal atrophy: degeneration of retina; leads to blindness (genetic test available)
  11. Crossed eyes

Tonkinese is a clever choice for families with cat-friendly dogs and (polite and gentle) kids.

Related Articles

Cat Breeds That Come From Canada Part 1: The Sphynx Read Now

Cat Breeds That Come From Canada Part 3: The Foldex Read Now

Cat Breeds That Come From Canada Part 4: The Cymric Read Now

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