TEMPERAMENT & PERSONALITY
Tonks are very smart, playful, affectionate & cuddly cats. This isn't a stand-offish breed that eats & leaves, or spends most of it's time sleeping. They love spending time with their owners, playing with toys or just sitting on your lap. You can even train them to retrieve - I've had a couple that retrieved a stick or ball better than my dogs do! Amongst enthusiasts, Tonks are known affectionately as "the dogs of the cat world". They're also excellent hunters - you'll never have a mouse problem!
They are however, also an extremely active breed. When I got my first Tonk, Lucy, I was told Tonks are "indoors cats". Six weeks later, she was bouncing off the walls - literally! Tonks definitely do better in pairs (or with another animal companion), so I got a Miniature Lop rabbit as a companion for her, which helped a lot. It was wonderful seeing them play together - the cat would chase the rabbit, and a few minutes later they'd change around and the rabbit would chase the cat! I also had an enclosed fernery area that she could get outdoors exercise in. I recommend an exercise run in the garden - this can be anything from a built-in fernery area, to a commercial cat-run or aviary, or a simple tunnel run. If you don't want to have a run, then I recommend a tall cat-tree in the house, and lots of toys to keep your kitty amused. They also love to go for walks - either on a leash or simply roaming around the garden with you. I ask my customers to please, NEVER allow your cat to roam freely (unsupervised) outdoors. You risk them being lost or stolen, run over, being attacked/fighting with other cats or dogs, or simply annoying your neighbour.
HISTORY OF THE BREED
There are many myths and legends surrounding the Tonkinese breed, and exactly how long it's been around as an unrecognised breed.
Various sources, including the website for The International Cat Association, state that a cat of Tonkinese type appears in the Book Of Cats, written in Thailand during the 1300s, which details all the ancient Thai cats. Cats of Tonkinese pattern & type have existed in the Orient for centuries.
All sources agree that the first recorded Burmese cats were the progeny of Wong Mau, during the 1930s. She came from Burma (now Myanmar), and was owned by Dr. Joseph G. Thompson of San Francisco. Some people believe Wong Mau was [what was then known as] a "Chocolate Siamese", and some believe she was a Tonkinese. What is known is that she was a Mink patterned cat, with solid body colour and darker points of the same colour. Dr Thompson mated Wong Mau to a Siamese, Tai Mau, and she produced kittens in Point and Mink pattern. She was then mated back to one of her Mink patterned sons, Yen Yen Mau, and produced kittens in all three Tonkinese patterns (Mink, Pointed & Solid). The solids were then bred together, producing kittens in the Solid pattern only, thus founding the Burmese breed.
When mating Tonkinese cats:
Mink to Mink gives kittens in all three patterns (avg 25% Pointed, 50% Mink, 25% Solid)
Mink to Point gives kittens in Mink and Point (avg 50% Mink, 50% Pointed)
Mink to Solid gives kittens in Mink and Solid (avg 50% Mink, 50% Solid)
Point to Solid gives kittens in Mink pattern only (100% Mink)
Had Wong Mau been a Siamese cat, she would have produced only Pointed kittens when mated to the Siamese Tai Mau. We can therefore deduce that Wong Mau - and probably all cats of that time known as "Chocolate Siamese" - was in fact Tonkinese.
I think we can accept that all three breeds - Tonkinese, Siamese and Burmese - are (historically) inextricably linked.
ABOUT THE BREED TODAY
The breeding program for the modern Tonkinese began during the 1960s, and was initiated with crosses between Siamese and Burmese cats. Both Siamese and Burmese are still allowable out-crosses for Tonkinese. First generation Tonks are often refered to in sales ads etc as "Siamese x Burmese", and Tonks bred back to Siamese or Burmese advertised as Tonkinese x Siamese or Tonkinese x Burmese ... but this isn't correct. When we're talking Pedigreed breeding stock:
Tonkinese x Tonkinese = Tonkinese
Tonkinese x Siamese = Tonkinese
Tonkinese x Burmese = Tonkinese
Siamese x Burmese = Tonkinese
... so basically, all roads lead to Tonk!
Keep in mind that an allowed out-cross, does NOT mean a cross-bred cat. There are over a dozen breeds that allow out-crossing today, even ancient breeds:
- Foreign White, Balinese, Javanese & Oriental to Siamese
- Somali to Abyssinian
- Tiffany to Persian
- Selkirk Rex to Persian & British Shorthair
- Bombay to Burmese
- Burmese to Mandalay, and so forth.
Many Breed Standards even allow out-crossing to Domestics (ie moggies), where Domestic was used in establishing the breed. LaPerms for instance can be bred to any small shorthaired cat of unknown ancestry, and it's still a LaPerm. Manx can be bred to British Shorthair, Domestic or Cymric, and it's still a Manx. An allowable out-cross means you still have a Purebred, Pedigreed (first generation) cat of your chosen breed, which has been out-crossed to broaden the gene pool, introduce new colours and/or patterns, improve coat/body type, etc.