In 2020, a phenomenon took the world by storm, all while we were sitting on our couches. We’re talking, of course, about Netflix’s show Tiger King. While watching Joe Exotic get his come-uppance was certainly entertaining, it sparked a curiosity in many people about the ethics of big cat ownership. As we observed through the show, the cats’ playful and exuberant nature was contrasted by Joe Exotic’s heavy hand and blase management.
But what if you could enjoy the playful nature of these majestic animals in a more bite-sized, home-friendly body (with far less scary teeth)? You can! Enter the Toyger breed. An adorable cat of recent creation that mimics the look and gait of wild tigers, these cats are friendly, intelligent, and so beautiful that it’s unfair. If you’ve never heard of them, don’t worry! By the end of this article, we’ll have you feeling like an all-knowing Toyger King (or Queen).
History of Toyger Cats
Unlike with many cat breeds of unknown origin, we actually know the exact person who is responsible for the inception of the Toyger: Judy Dugden, daughter of Jean Mill, the original breeder of the Bengal cat species. Developed in the 1980s, the Toyger cat gets its name by crossing the words ‘toy’ and the word ‘tiger’. Sugden’s inspiration for breeding the Toyger came after noticing one of her cats had tabby markings on their temple which she believed could be used for creating a cat with circular patterns on their head, similar to a tiger.
After deciding to embark on this journey, Sugden began formulating the exact characteristics a cat would need to have in order to bring the image of a “toy tiger” to the public’s mind: a long, muscular body, a sprawling network of tabby patterns, circular head markings previously unheard of on a domestic cat, and a long face. Eventually, she was able to achieve her goal by mixing her mother’s famed Bengal breed with a Domestic Shorthair. A Kashmirian street cat was also eventually brought into the mix to get those distinct spots behind the ears, while a cat from Delhi helped give the Toyger its characteristic sheen.
Finally, after years of development and further tweaking, the International Cat Association accepted the Toyger for registration in 1993. As of today, it is now listed as a championship breed.
Characteristics of Toyger Cats
Toyger cats’ visually stunning, orange and/or tan coat is characterized by distinct, dark stripes. However, unlike the vertical stripes that characterize mackerel tabbies or the rounded rosettes of other breeds, the Toyger has broken, branched stripes and rosettes that proliferate across and around their bodies. Like their big cat cousins, each Toyger’s stripe patterns are unique to each cat, acting almost as a fingerprint. Their thick coat is also accented by a faint glow of glitter that some breeders describe as a “dusting” of gold.
Toyger cats are medium to large in size and tend to have a surprisingly muscular definition, often weighing in between seven and fifteen pounds. To accommodate their muscular stature, their long, rectangular body is slung low to the ground while their shoulders sit high on their torso, mimicking the powerful stance of wild tigers. Toyger cats are also unique in the composition of their facial markings. According to the 2008 TICA Standards, a Toyger cat’s facial markings and stripes are circularly aligned around their face and are accented by white “thumb marks” on the back of their ears.
Personality of Toyger Cats
Like the Tiger cubs they were modeled after, Toyger cats are exceptionally playful and outgoing, often yearning to play with their owners, children, and even other pets! Whether you want to play fetch or even play in the water, your Toyger will be ready to join in the fun at the drop of a hat.
Toygers are remarkably active cats, meaning they require consistent physical and mental stimulation. Luckily, their laid-back temperament and high levels of intelligence makes them easy candidates for leash training. To keep his mind busy, consider investing in toys that reward him with treats or kibble for learning how to solve puzzles. If they’re anything like Tigers, your Toyger should learn how to manipulate any puzzle you put in front of him in no time.
But don’t worry – while their name might imply that these are some sort of ferocious or cunning felines, the Toyger breed is actually one of the most loving, affectionate cat breeds around. As much as they delight in scurrying around and pleasing you by performing tricks, they’re equally happy to laze around in your lap as you watch television or read. There really is a Toyger for everyone!
Health of Toyger Cats
Unfortunately, while the name for these cuddly cats takes inspiration from one of the strongest, most resilient big cats in the world, they’re prone to developing some health issues. Like the Bengal and Domestic Shorthair, Toyger cats can be predisposed to developing heart murmurs.
The Bengal side of the Toyger may also make them a prime candidate for developing pyruvate kinase deficiency, an inherited disorder that leads to a breakdown of red blood cells and can morph into anemia. However, the newness of the Toyger breed makes determining the probability of inheriting this condition hard to discern.
Additionally, while its frequency is unknown, some Toygers are reported to suffer from a condition known as cow hocking. This painful affliction sees a cat’s hind legs turn inwards, leading their feet to point outwards which makes walking difficult.
However, the most prevalent health issue that Toygers face is one that is not limited to any single cat breed: obesity. Feline obesity, defined by Cornell’s Feline Health Center, is characterized by a body weight that is 20 percent or more above normal weight and is currently the most frequently observed nutritional disorder in domestic cats. Unfortunately, it’s also the fastest growing feline health crisis.
If left untreated, feline obesity can breed and exacerbate a variety of serious disorders including: osteoarthritis, a the erosion of cartilage in the bones; hip dysplasia, where a cat’s thigh bone will no longer fit properly into the socket of their hip; and diabetes, a condition where a cat’s pancreas can no longer regulate or produce insulin. Thankfully, there are multiple steps you can take to prevent your whiskered friend from becoming obese.
According to Carolyn McDaniel, VMD and lecturer at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, an important first step is to eliminate free feeding and switch to pre-portioned canned food. Making time in your cat’s routine for regular exercise and play are also important components of any weight management regimen (which won’t be a problem for your Toyger!). Above all, make sure that any weight loss or weight maintenance program you decide to employ is carried out under supervision of a trained veterinarian.
Grooming and Caring for Toyger Cats
Grooming a Toyger cat is a piece of cake (and much easier than grooming an actual Tiger, thank goodness.). Since their coats are relatively short, they’re not going to require constant maintenance. Most Toyger owners have found that simply brushing or combing them weekly is enough to keep them kempt. And, unless you love cat hair on the sofa, consider increasing the frequency of grooming to once per day during their shedding season.
The same ease of grooming holds true for their nails, ears, and teeth. Like all cats, Toyger cats should regularly have their nails trimmed, ears cleaned, and teeth brushed using veterinarian-approved products to ensure optimal health.
Unfortunately, doing all of the above isn’t a silver bullet to preventing the development of certain annoying maladies. Even the most attentive owners might discover that their Toyger has developed a skin infection, fungal infection, or even just gotten an owie that won’t stop irritating their purry pal. Luckily, there’s an easy fix: Banixx Pet Care! Developed without the use of pesky antibiotics or steroids, Banixx is a clinically-proven formula that provides instant, sting-free relief without leaving any lingering medicinal odor. Just identify the affected area, apply Banixx a couple of times per day, and wait for the great results.
How to Find Toyger Breeders
Due to the fact that Toyger cats are a relatively new breed, finding a reputable breeder can be a bit of a challenge. That being said, we have some tips to make this process go a heck of a lot smoother and ensure you won’t give your money to any sketchy breeders.
The first thing to remember is that any reputable breeder will proudly abide by a code of ethics that forbids them from selling to pet stores and wholesalers. This code of ethics will also outline the breeder’s responsibilities, both to their cats and to the buyers – like you. Additionally, any worthwhile breeder will be forward with the results of all necessary health certifications that screen for genetic disorders. Along those same lines, make sure to get as much information on the physical conditions of the breeding operation as possible; consider even going to check the facility yourself! Remember: any breeder worth their salt will be happy to show you around. You’ll want to make sure that the cats are being raised in sanitary conditions and that there are no sick cats to be found.
Also, be sure to ask about how the breeder is socializing the kittens. While it may not seem consequential, you’ll want to avoid buying kittens from breeders who raise kittens in isolation since kittens who aren’t raised in the home might become difficult to socialize later in life.
If the breeders that you’ve selected have websites, then keep this handy list of red flags close by to weed out potentially unreputable candidates. First, never buy a kitten from a breeder who claims there are always kittens available. Many reputable breeders will have wait periods from a few months to up to a year in advance, so a facility who always has kittens available may not be treating their cats ethically. Along those same lines, make sure to only pick from breeders who are giving the kittens at least twelve to sixteen weeks with their mothers. Any less than that and you run the risk of picking a kitten that wasn’t allowed to properly develop.
Also, if your breeder has multiple litters on the premises at once, make sure to ask them why and really probe how they’re ensuring the cats’ health and safety. Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to get a satisfying answer to these questions, as having multiple litters or (worse) multiple breeds on-site is often indicative of kitten farming. While the process of question asking might sound arduous or even uncomfortable, it’s important to ensure you don’t end up with a sick or otherwise troublesome kitten.
In fact, it’s advised to approach any potential transaction with a breeder with a list of pertinent questions in-hand to avoid any potential mishaps. Some things you may want to ask them include how long they’ve been a breeder, how many cats they raise in any given year, and any information they know about the genetic defects specific to this breed. If the breeder you’re interacting with sputters or tries to dodge these questions: run. Any reputable breeder should have quick, verifiable answers to these basic questions.
Of course, you can take the guesswork out of finding a reputable breeder by leaning on certain resources available. Your veterinarian is likely to have the contact information for local breeders who they’ve verified as passing the sniff test. And, if they don’t (which may well be the case for Toygers), they’ll likely be happy to connect you with someone who does have that information. Plus, there are a growing number of Toyger-specific rescue groups that will be able to help you find your fur-ever friend. However, take note that some of these groups have limited availability and may not have what you’re looking for.
But, in between searching for breeders or rescue groups, be sure to visit our cat page to learn more about how to keep your Toyger (and other pointy-eared buddies) happy and healthy!