I have to admit Toyger cat was not a familiar breed to me at all, when I started researching it. The name brought to mind a toy cat, or small cat, like a munchkin. Imagine my surprise then, when I saw a picture of the Toyger for the first time.
I was awestruck. I looked at the shiny, plush, orange-colored undercoat, the amazing stripes, the intelligent eyes… It was like no other cat I had seen, this cat had the "wow"-factor big time!
And for a moment I felt what most cat lovers probably feel when first seeing a Toyger cat: "I want one!" Well, as we already have three cats in our home, I sushed the thought away (with a sigh) and started studying the breed to write these pages.
This cat really does resemble a tiger - yet it is still a "tiger in process", as the breeding program is still young, and there are not that many breeders yet worldwide. Together they strive to create a domestic cat that looks as much like a tiger as possible - and it seems obvious they are well along the way. Some of the features they have achieved were not thought to be possible to breed into domestic cats.
But how did this breed "come to be"?
It was Judy Sugden of the EEYAAS Cattery in USA whom we have to thank for this gorgeous breed. Judy had seen breed-developing up close, being the daughter of Jean Mill who created the beautiful Bengal cat breed.
As it happened, Judy Sugden was working on clarifying the mackerel marking on tabby cats in the late 80's. She noticed that one of her cats had unsual markings - normally there are no distinct markings on cats' temples (I know I was surprised – I had to go and check several tabby cat pictures to see this really is so). But Judy’s cat Millwood Sharp Shooter had what she had not been seen before: two tabby spot markings on her temples.
Now if "ordinary" people had seen these spots, they would probably have gone unnoticed. But to a cat breeder they were a genetic sign of a very interesting possibility. And Judy Sudgen 's thoughts turned to the big wild cats - and to the tiger.
The tiger has circular facial markings - the unique tiger-pattern that sets it apart from all other big cats. And they certainly have stripes on the temples too. As an experienced breeder Judy saw the beginnings of the circular facial pattern of the tiger.
(Raise your hand, if you have ever saw a red tabby cat with a mackerel pattern that was called Tiger! Yes, quite a few have. Before Toygers red mackerel tabbies were often called tigers)
And so Judy began her attempts to develop a new breed. Her first cats in this breeding program were a Domestic Shorthair (DHS) tabby Crapmetal, and a big-boned Bengal Millwood Rumpled Spotskin (or SBT aka Studbook Traditional Bengal). Still it is important to empasize the Toyger is not a striped Bengal. And it is definitely not "just another tabby cat".
To add to the breeding line, a tomcat was imported from Kashmir, India - his name was Jammu Blu. He also had rare markings for a tabby cat: normally tabbies have a "tabby M" (or Scarab as it is called in the Egyptian Maus because of the marking's uncanny resemblance of the sacred Scarab beetle of the ancient Egyptians) on their forehead. What Jammu Blu had was clear spotting on top of his head instead of lines.
Later on the number of domestic cats chosen for the breeding program rose to about 40. All of these had some desirable trait which the breeders tried to blend into the new breed in development. So at first domestic outcrosses were used, but nowadays this is no more allowed.
Judy was not alone in developing the new breed - other names connected tothese early stages are Anthony Hutcherson and Alice McKee. And later on breeders around the world have taken the development of beautiful cat into their hearts.
Judy did not just randomly start breeding - she sat down and planned what she would like the Toygers to look like. With this clear picture established she could then better search for specific features in cats to use them in her breeding program. This explains why the Toyger is called a "designer cat". It really was pre-designed and not another "Garfield", so to speak...
And the name Toyger? Where did that come from? Well - from putting Toy and Tiger together. (In the early stages the breed was called the California Toyger)
And no - there is no tiger blood in the Toyger cat (I am not sure anyone could seriously think so, but I suppose it is good to mention. It would simply not be genetically possible.) But there is a drop of wild blood in the mix, because of the Bengal ancestry. Asian Leopard Cat was used in creating the Bengal, after all.
There is also a very worthy cause behind the Toyger breeding - Judy Sudgen says her motivation for developing the breed was to inspire tiger conservation. Many breeders give part of of the price of the kittens to tiger conservation. So you could say this beautiful breed is the good-will ambassador of its larger cousin which is in dire need of help to prevent it from becoming extinct.
The life expectancy of a Toyger cat is around 10-15 years - the breed is still in its early stages, so it will take a while to see where this will settle. At the moment this breed seems to have the normal age of a "randomly bred" cat.
No serious breed-related serious illnesses have been spotted in Toyger cat breed but as with any cats thre is a possibility of health issues. Breeders, of course, do their best to keep the breed healthy, and as many cats were used in creating the breed, the genetic variety is also greater, which usually is a good thing health-wise.
What is a Toyger like as a pet? Read more here.
If you want to read more about the looks of this little tiger, go here.
Here is page for the Toyger breeders.
I wish to thank Helmi Flick for the permission to use her photographs as reference for the Toyger painting shown on this page.