So you’ve decided you that a Tonkinese is the breed for you. So what now, where do you go, and what do you need to know?

Firstly – this is a big decision – this cat will hopefully be a family member for up to 20 years, the decision must be the right one… and so must the cat!!!

As someone that has purchased several Tonkinese kittens over the years, I’ve learnt the hard way that buying from a registered breeder is not always what it seems.

Twice, I made the same mistake when purchasing breeding girls, I’d bought when the breeders had said “I’ll bring the kitten to you” – both turned out to be terrified, poorly socialised and impossible-to-handle kittens – Neither were allowed to seen in their own environment prior to purchase, and both had to be returned before breeding age as could not be ‘settled’ and I refused to breed from bad-natured cats.


A cautionary tale

A few years ago (long before my tonk-addiction) I was in the market for a pedigree Burmese kitten as a gift for my partner – one day we did a 3-hour car trip to view kittens – yet what we saw when we arrived was horrifying; 3 underweight, sickly looking kittens stuck out in an aviary in the middle of a hot dusty paddock. Maggots in the food tray, etc. the kittens' Mum was nowhere to be seen – she had 'escaped’ or so we were told…….

The kittens looked terrible and this resulted in a huge dilemma…. Do I buy a kitten here to ‘rescue’ it? … or do I walk away? After much deliberation and soul-searching, ultimately the decision made was not to buy a kitten, as although there was the overwhelming ‘need/desire’ to rescue this poor wretched kitten I had to consider the possible time and expense of bringing back to health, but there was a bigger implication, and at the end of the day, the thought that the purchase would merely perpetuate the disreputable breeder’s ability to breed (and sell) more became the deal breaker.

The truth about registered breeders

There are some wonderful, caring and deeply passionate people that are drawn to cat-breeding, but there are also those that see it as an easy way to make money and whose motives and practices are not focused on development of the breed or the resulting cat’s welfare, but on making the most money while attracting the least expenses.

Whilst we can only recommend that you purchase your Tonkinese from a registered breeder, it is strongly advised that you research the breeder you are considering buying from. Not all registered breeders are the same – there are the good and there are the bad.

Being a registered breeder does not mean that the breeder is ‘sanctioned’ by the cat registration body and although there are codes of conduct and rules under which cats are bred, in reality it is impossible for the cat registration body to monitor and police its members and their activities.

Thus it is important that you do your homework when considering purchase of a pedigree cat, and only buy from a registered breeder with integrity.


Breeding for Temperament

Just like people, no two siblings have an identical personality. With 3 sisters I have often looked at my own family and wondered “how does the same gene pool produce such radically different personalities of my siblings” – the same applies to kittens from a litter, and while they won’t be identical in temperament there are a few key areas that need to be in place.

I go to a lot of trouble to ensure that every Tonkinese kitten I produce goes to their new home confident and as an ambassador for the breed. Also my kittens leave home fully socialized with dogs, other cats, birds and children to ensure they adapt easily to their new surroundings and companions.

I believe that a lovely temperament is critical and is dependent on the following three factors; the Genetic Mix, Choice of Sire, and Early Handling & Socialisation.

Genetic Mix;    There should be a balance of the contributing breed gene pools (Siamese / Burmese) – The personality I see in my cats is very different to those that are bred to a different recipe. Thus the intermediate Tonkinese has a unique blend of the natures of the contributing breeds, and needs them to be in equal proportion for that personality to be fully-expressed.

Choice of Sire;    The temperament of the father is very important as even though he plays no part in the raising process – his nature has a profound influence on the character and personality of his kittens.  

Early Handling & Socialization;    Kittens should be handled extensively from birth – even at a day old when they can neither yet see nor hear – they have an acute sense of smell, respond to touch and are very aware of their surroundings – I always attend the kittens' births – they are weighed daily and handled extensively with loving care.


What to look for in a healthy well-socialised kitten

Transparency of the Cattery
Breeding Tonkinese or any pedigree kittens for that matter is a complex and time-consuming process and requires a great deal of interaction to ensure all kittens go to their new homes confident and well-prepared for life with their new home and family.

A reputable breeder will allow prospective buyers to visit their premises. This enables an understanding of several things:

  • General health and well-being of their cats
  • Confidence in the facility.
  • Opportunity to observe interactions of cats and kittens

Don’t expect to be able to handle kittens if they are not yet vaccinated as their immune systems are too under-developed and generally will need to have first vaccination before most breeders will allow you to handle kittens. If the kittens have had their first innoculations it would be usual to expect be able to handle a prospective kitten.

All kittens have unique personalities and while you would not expect them all to respond and present in an identical way, there are indications to look out for that reveal much about their innate personality and how they have been raised.

  • Are the kittens friendly and interactive? – a well-raised kitten will be curious and engaged with visitors – there may be an initial shyness or hesitancy but that should give way rapidly to curiosity. If the kittens all run and hide when you enter the room then they have had insufficient human contact of the right kind.
  • How does the kitten respond to handling? – when picked up and held, a well-raised kitten may naturally be a little wary, they may be a little wide-eyed and display a little tension in their body, but this should give way to a more relaxed response to talking in a soft voice and gentle petting….the kitten should not be rigid with fear or be constantly trying to escape.
  • How does the kitten respond to an approach? – a well raised kitten might be wary of new people but will not dart under a cupboard the moment they realise they are being approached.
  • Does the kitten want to play?The inclination to play is a wonderful indicator that a kitten is feeling secure in your company and its environment, and a sign that it is very familiar with human company and sees no need to fear.
  • How does the mother cat respond to your presence? – the temperament of the mother is very important as she imparts something of her personality through nurture. Kittens take cues from how their mum responds to given situations so a friendly relaxed mum sends out all the right signals to her offspring.

Good Health
There are key things to look for when assessing a kitten that is on offer of sale. And while the following suggestions will assist, they cannot be solely relied upon in assessing a kitten's health status, and a veterinary check post-purchase is necessary to confirm good health in the kitten.

  • Body Condition; Kittens go through several growth phases, but between the ages of 10-12 weeks (usual age to wean/sell kittens) the Tonkinese kitten of intermediate breeding is a little on the ‘gangly’ side but should not feel skinny or lightweight when held. Run fingers along spine – although you should feel the individual vertebrae, they should not ‘jut-out’, the same applies to the ribs.
  • Is the kitten bloated? – the stomach should not be distended or swollen..(this could indicate a worm infestation or worse)
  • Does the kitten have a clear and healthy coat? ..... Although it takes a long time for a Tonkinese coat to fully develop in colour and texture, the kitten’s coat should be soft and reasonably dense with no bare patches (could indicate ringworm)
  • Does the kitten have clear eyes & nostrils – most importantly – watery or inflamed eyes, a runny or encrusted nose (or any sign of discharge) are all possible indications of cat flu or other contagious respiratory cat diseases. Extremely common in volume-breeding facilities ‘cat-flu’ is highly infectious and frequently non-responsive to vaccination. (can occur in fully vaccinated kittens/cats)
  • Is the kitten free of parasites - Look for flea-dirt in the coat or live fleas on the kitten. Are the kittens scratching a lot?
    There should be no sign of worms around the anus, if tape-worms are present you may see rice-like segments of the parasitic tapeworm.  However tapeworm is only one of numerous species of worms hosted by domestic cats and the non-presence of external evidence is not an indication that the kitten is worm-free. A reputable breeder will always sell kittens fully wormed.
  • Litter Traysif you witness any of the kittens toileting, are their poos sloppy or runny? –  this could be a sign of internal parasites or something worse. 
    note; It is normal for a kitten on arrive in its new home to be slightly sloppy in the poo department, as it is adjusting to its new environment, often the stress of a new home can interfere with normal digestion, but that should resume after 24-48 hours.       
  • Does the breeder offer a health guarantee? No breeder can unequivocally guarantee that a kitten won’t have some health issues, but they can take responsibility to rectify the situation should one occur. A reputable breeder will offer a health guarantee for a period after purchase – most likely a week within which to have the kitten fully heath checked by a veterinarian and a money-back guarantee offered should the kitten be suffering from any congenital problems. There are also congenital issues that will present over time ie; heart / kidney problems that can lead to the early death of a cat.
  • Recommended arrangement (representing terms of sale @ Anniesong)
    One-week vet-check money-back guarantee
    ive-year replacement guarantee for congenital (heart/kidney disease) problems leading to death.


Don't support kitten farming !!!

Unfortunately there are breeders that do not do the right thing by their animals and are motivated by profit and greed. Some breeding Tonkinese cats are subjected to miserable lives confined in cages and are back-to-back bred with no break between litters, sadly too many are euthenaised once their callous breeders have decided they have 'got enough' from a particular breeding cat.

Other high-volume breeders claim to be 'home-breeders', but home breeding does not mean keeping cats and raising kittens in the garage or shed.

A more discerning public would mean that it would be harder for these breeders to continue with their 'farming' practices and make sales. The only relaible way to purchase a kitten is by visiting the breeder's facilities to determine how your potential kitten has been raised

Is that breeder a kitten farmer? ..... how to determine if your breeder has integrity.

  • Does the breeder allow access to see kittens in home environment?
  • How many times has the mum been bred?
  • Does the breeder raise kittens in a home or in cages? – (home-raised does not mean raised in cage inside of a house)
  • How many litters does the breeder have ‘on the go’ at any one stage?
  • What happens to ex-breeding stock ?
  • Does the breeder offer health guarantees?
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