I AM A UK BREEDER.
I MAY HAVE TONKINESE KITTENS AVAILABLE LATER THIS YEAR.
My first Tonkinese litter was born on 7 December 1991. When I first took my Burmese queen to a Siamese stud, I had no idea that I was going to generate a kitten who would have a legitimate breed name: I grew up with Siamese as my mother has bred under the Pandarina prefix since the early 1960s, but when I looked for a Siamese for myself I found them too different from the type I had grown up with. After being given a Burmese girl, I thought I would try to breed a cat that looked the way I wanted the Siamese to look, and found myself with beautiful Tonkinese. Pumpkin (Gr Pr Adinnsh Ricercar), pictured below, was one of the kittens from that first litter, and was the most wonderful and loving companion and superb mother. She died quite a few years ago, but I kept her daughter (Reckless), grandchildren (Chaos, Listo, Small) and great grand-daughters to remind me of her and continue her line. A few of her kittens have gone on to found other Tonkinese lines. Rameses Reckless was from Pumpkin's last litter (8 magnificent kittens) and continued her tradition. Reckless's father was my Blue Tonkinese boy, Nemesis, who was neutered after fathering just that one special litter.
The first Siamese imported into Great Britain in the 1880s were in fact Tonkinese, as were the first Burmese imported into the USA: cats breeding naturally in Thailand (then Siam) were from two branches of cats native to that region, those we now call Siamese and Burmese. Although the name and recognition of the breed is relatively new, the crossing of Burmese with Siamese is not: in the 1950s, the American Burmese actually lost its championship status because it was felt that there were too many Siamese in their pedigrees -- these had been incorporated to increase the bloodlines available in the Burmese lines. Genes from the two breeds do not combine to make a new gene, but retain their integrity. First generation Tonkinese are bred from the mating of a Burmese and a Siamese cat. If a Tonkinese is then bred to either a Burmese or Siamese then the resulting kittens are still called first generation, though the genetic emphasis of the parentage is evident in the kittens. Second and later generation matings, of Tonkinese to Tonkinese, produce litters with Tonkinese, Burmese and Siamese coat patterns and eye colours, just as the original imported Royal Siamese did.
Put in its simplest form, you could describe a Tonkinese as having one S (Siamese) gene and one B (Burmese). Each parent then gives one of its two genes to each kitten. You can work out what each mating produces by using this S/B method, represented here also by the eye colour related to each gene.
All the colours available in the Siamese are also to be found in the Tonkinese, and the variety additionally arising from the different coat patterns can be bewildering. Sometimes the best way of telling what type the cat is going to be is by the eye colour: Burmese types have yellow eyes, Tonkinese have aquamarine and Siamese have blue eyes.
The picture below was sent to me by a breeder in New Zealand and shows the three coat patterns beautifully, although now we don't call the solid and pointed patterns 'variant':
Although kittens are often precocious, opening their eyes any time from 3 days old, and being much more agile than Siamese or Burmese of the same age, the Tonkinese are late-maturing cats: they reach full growth at about 18 months, and the coat pattern usually only matures fully at about 3 years, when it can darken noticeably. Siamese or pointed-pattern kittens are born white (like Siamese), developing their points over their first few weeks, and eye colour is not defined until they are about eight weeks old, or even longer. Burmese or solid-pattern are more difficult to identify, and sometimes kittens have to be re-registered after a few months when the pattern finally clarifies. Usually the pointed pattern have blue eyes and solid pattern have yellow eyes, but you can get all three patterns which have blue, yellow or aqua eyes, so it's not a final solution.
Rameses Nemesis (Teddy)
The Tonkinese Breed Club and the Tonkinese Cat Club in Great Britain, both affiliated to the GCCF, have achieved full breed recognition for the Tonkinese which allowed show cats to attain Championship status from June 2003.
Matings from Tonkinese to either Siamese or Burmese are no longer registered as Tonkinese, but Siamese to Burmese crosses are very much accepted as Tonkinese, although any first-generation crosses born since 2003 are no longer admitted for showing.
Pumpkin and her daughter, Reckless
Many people seem to think that you can only breed Tonkinese now from other Tonkinese. This is not the case, the rule applies ONLY if you want to show the offspring. First generation Tonkinese may still be included in the breeding program (and regularly are). Showing is NOT IMPORTANT: we do it to gain recognition for our cats in some cases (not so important now that the breed has been accepted), but mostly we do it for ourselves - we love to win prizes, even if we have done nothing at all to achieve them. Putting a healthy cat in a pen is not very clever, and if you're lucky he or she will have a good day, and if you're unlucky a bad day, depending on the judges. The fact that you meet the expectations of a judge who, in most cases, has never owned or bred a Tonkinese, is not an indication of how good a breeder you are! Most breeders have bred dozens of non-show-quality kittens: the one who is a winner is rare and special, and fairly random, though you can improve your odds by selecting for 'type' over other considerations. I prefer to breed healthy, happy, loving cats, who will be special friends for their new owners. If I manage to breed a winner along the way I will wallow in his or her success, but I know it has little or nothing to do with any cleverness on my part. I love to win, and I want to win, but I'm very wary of letting that take over because I have seen what it can do with petty jealousies flaring into public shouting matches at shows, not just in Tonkinese, but in every breed. The cats and the health of the gene pool must come first.
Just to demonstrate how random show success can be, here are two show reports for Rameses Reckless, written by two different judges, on the same day, at the same show, within minutes of each other:
Reckless in her 'Best Kitten in Show' pen
"Beautiful and very graceful queen . Head so balanced and the expression was wonderful. Wonderful coat for colour, tabby pattern and texture. So beautifully presented and full of affection."
"Type not correct, short wedge but very flat top of head and brow, lacks nosebreak, chin firm. Eyes fair for set but faded to chartreuse. Coat has warm colour but is too long."
Something in the middle of the two reports is probably more accurate (also from the same show):
An attractive girl of good type. She has a moderate wedge head, slightly flat wide top, large well placed ears, good profile, firm chin and level bite. Correct shaped eyes of pale green with just a tinge of blue. Well proportioned firm body, long legs, neat feet and medium long tail. Warm chocolate tabby points and paler chocolate body markings on a beige ground.; Slightly long coat of good texture. A friendly girl well presented in excellent condition."
Unfortunately there are very few Tonkinese studs available, some are related to each other, others may not be colours or lines that breeders wish to include in their breeding programs, and the stud pool seems to be diminishing rather than growing as owners neuter males who are not getting enough work. Some of those who remain are now at closed stud and only available to a very few breeders. Hopefully this will change if the popularity of the breed among responsible breeders increases.
I believe that the Tonkinese gene pool is still too small to limit breeding only to Tonkinese x Tonkinese crosses just to satisfy the requirements of the GCCF or those whose main aim with their breeding is to win at shows. Since I feel that breeding only Tonkinese to Tonkinese is not currently practicable or healthy while the gene pool is so limited, I continue to breed first and second generation cats along with a group of excellent and dedicated breeders. We create new lines for the breed, avoiding any cross that would lead to inbreeding or use of lines that carry genetic problems. The beauty of the breed is its healthy outcross, and I don't wish to follow a course that would cause cats with similar ancestry to mate within a few generations. I am by no means one of the first breeders of Tonkinese in the UK, but I feel very strongly that as one of quite a small group, we are in a position where the future of the breed could depend on the decisions each of us make now, quite a responsibility to be entrusted with.
Nemesis and Kismet, Centrefold in Cat World
I have shown my Tonkinese, and they contributed to the promotion of the breed to Championship status by winning merits and intermediate certificates. Despite giving show success a low priority I found that my cats were very successful on the show bench, and of course I enjoyed their success. Rameses Nemesis (aka Teddy) was a real showman, and won Best of Breed (neuter) at the Supreme Show for three consecutive years - 2000, 2001, 2002 - with different judges and different cats in the class each time: he was the only Tonkinese Neuter to have won the Supreme BoB up to that time, as we had only been eligible for the award since 2000. Rameses cats are unbeaten except by other Rameses cats at the Supreme - quite a record! Reckless, Pumpkin and Teddy's brother Shade were all shown there.
Pumpkin and daughter Wicked
Teddy loved showing, which was why I kept at it, but he died tragically, early in 2004. He was far too young to die, and since his loss I have not been showing as, lacking a cat who really loves the game, I don't have the heart for it, though I sometimes take my cats out on exhibition to support the breed. Since I now breed mainly first to third generation Tonkinese I cannot show these cats: the GCCF required the breed clubs to 'encourage' breeders to breed latter-generation cats in order to promote the breed to full championship status. In my mind this has pushed many breeders into a situation which is not in the interest of the breed.
Rebel's first litter of first-generation Tonkinese. Beautiful!
In 2005, after breeding for three years with my Siamese to achieve a line that I was happy with, followed by the arrival of a long-awaited Lilac Burmese girl carefully bred for me by Carla Pilkington (Gares Rameses Rebel) from my own lines, I bred a first generation litter from Rebel and my Seal Point Siamese boy, Ferdinand. It was very successful, and provided me with a very special blue boy (second from the right in the picture on the left) who filled the gap left by Teddy, his grand uncle. This blue boy was also called Teddy, and was at stud for several years, providing me and many others with lovely kittens. When he retired and was neutered, aged four, I had to rehome him or he would have had to continue living in confinement because he would have sprayed in my house. His son, Chaos, took over on his retirement, siring many lovely kittens, and now also happily retired and living as a pet.