Tonkinese cats are generally trim and muscular cats. They are heavier than they appear to be due to their very muscular bodies. They have a distinctive oval shaped paw, and a modified wedge shaped head, with large ears set towards the outside of their head.
Tonks exhibit a wide variety of coat colors and patterns. The three main patterns are mink, solid, and pointed. The mink variety is considered most desirable for the show ring by cat fancier associations.
The most commonly accepted colors are: platinum, champagne, blue, and natural. Typically, solid Tonkinese cats have gold or green eyes, cats with the pointed pattern are blue eyed, and the mink cats have a shade of aquamarine. A great deal of subtle variation exists in colors and patterns, and Tonkinese body color darkens with age to some degree in all patterns. Cats kept in colder climates will typically be darker in their mink or point shading, like their Siamese cousins.
Tonkinese cats are unusually intelligent, curious, affectionate toward and interested in people. Tonks are playful cats, but not hyperactive, although they can be mischievous if they become lonesome or bored. Some interesting toys and a cat tree, or another Tonkinese, will keep them occupied when you're not around.
Unlike most breeds of cat, they are reported to sometimes, even often, engage in fetching, and they can often be found perched on the highest object in the house. Do not be alarmed if your Tonkinese jumps on your shoulders, as the breed is known for their love of heights.
Tonkinese are more like Burmese in temperament than Siamese. They are less high strung and demanding. Their voices are also less piercing in most cases than the Siamese, but most Tonks are fairly vocal. Most observers feel they combine the more attractive features of both ancestor breeds.
Tonkinese cats are a recent cross between the Siamese and Burmese cat breeds, although some assert that Tonkinese-like cats have existed since at least the early 1800s. The name is not related to the Tonkin region of Indochina. When the breed was first established in Canada, the breed name was actually spelled "Tonkanese," which was a reference to the island in the musical South Pacific where "half-breeds" suffered no discrimination. The mistaken idea that the name was a geographical reference paralleling the Siamese and Burmese breed names resulted in a gradual switch to the current spelling, under which the breed was recognized by the United States registering associations.