Eye-Colours that define the Tonkinese

One of the most exciting aspects of the Tonkinese breed are the different eye colours that define the breed. The eye colour is determined not by the colour of the cat, but by the 'pattern' that dictates how the colour is expressed on the body of the cat. As there are 3 different patterns associated with each colour, ie; Point, Mink & Solid, there are thus 3 different eye colours that are specific to each pattern.

Therefore it's the second part of the colour and pattern description that determines eye colour - ie; Seal-Mink, Lilac-Point or say a Chocolate-Solid.

The eye-colour most usually associated with the breed is Aquamarine, or Aqua, essentially a blue/green and is the result of Mink-Pattern expression. The Mink pattern was the defining pattern of the breed originally, until quite recently many registries did not accept the Point and Solid patterns, and thus aquamarine eyes were also the defining eye-colour of the breed itself. 

The expression of 'Aqua' is due to the blending of eye-colours of the Burmese and Siamese that occurs - much like the blending of coat patterns that happens when a Point-patterned cat is bred with a Solid-patterned cat.

But that's not where the story ends, the eye colour of a 'Pointed' or 'Solid' Tonkinese is specific to the coat pattern displayed and results in 3 distinctive eye colours.


The 3 Eye Colours associated with the Tonkinese


The quest for good eye colour

I like to compare the Tonkinese eye-colours to gemstones, in order to describe the 3 different eye-colours that define the Tonkinese breed. In breeding Tonkinese and selecting for eye colour, it is my intention to aim for similar eye-colours to those seen here in the gemstones depicted.

There are many factors that influence the expression of eye-colour and the genetics that give rise to eye-colour and pattern are complex and multi-faceted.
Just like the gemstones there is significant variation in the expression of colour, tone and intensity seen in the eyes of the Tonkinese.

  • The Green-eyed 'Solid' The eye-colour expressed with the solid patterned cats is a yellow-green or frequently described as 'chartreuse' in tone.

    Compared to the eyes of the Burmese, whose expression of coat colour should be identical to that
    of a Solid Tonkinese, the eye colour is very different, the gold tone of the Burmese is expressed more as a green whne seen in the solid-patterned Tonkinese.
    The Aqua-eyed 'Mink' The eye-colour expressed
    with the intermediate pattern of Mink is an aqua colour, and therefore is a blend of the colours we would expect to see if we mixed the green eyes of
    the Solid and the blue eyes of the Point.

    The aqua colour eyes vary greatly in depth and intensity.
    The Blue-eyed 'Point' The eye-colour expressed with the Colourpoint pattern is a blue/violet and is reflective of Siamese eye colour whose coat pattern is shared.

    The tone of blue does seem to vary according to the coat colour - with the darker coat colours tending to produce stronger darker eye colour.
    The tone of blue will also vary somewhat from the Siamese expression which can be a stronger purer blue.

How coat colour can influence eye-colour
 'Pointed' Tonkinese Eye-Colour - a comparison of how coat colour affects eye colour

Coat Colour & Eye Colour  Having established that it is the pattern rather than the colour that determines the eye-colour of the Tonkinese - there are however subtle variations of tone and intensity of eye colour which seem to be influenced by the coat colour itself.

Thus in addition to the fact that the different patterns are specific to eye colour, the coat colour itself can also have an influence on the expression of eye colour.

In my experience, this is particularly the case in the 'pointed' or 'Siamese-equivalent' pattern where the darker colours tend to be associated with stronger and more intense eye colour.

A Seal-Point Tonkinese will therefore often have much richer and darker eye colour than does a lilac or as fawn, often with almost a purplish hue of blue.

At the other end of the scale, the blue eyes of the Lilac or fawn are frequently more of a sky blue hue, lacking the intensity seen in cats of darker colours.

I have also observed this in Mink-patterned kittens where the aqua colour is highly variable, and can be weaker in the light colours.... but other lilacs that I have such as Pharaoh and now Byron contradict that theory with their rich and strong expression of aqua.

When we consider the fact that the Solid Tonkinese has different eye colour to the Burmese equivalent, it stands to reason that the blue eyes of the colourpoint are not quite the same as the Siamese equivalent.
The blending of genes in the Tonkinese means that the Siamese comparatively has purer and more intense shade of blue.

The images to the right describes the difference between what we might expect to see in 'Pointed' Tonkinese kittens as the coat colour lightens.


The inheritance of Eye Colour
The inheritance of eye-colour is a complex process and good eye-colour does not always get passed on to the offspring of the parents - It is common to see a range of eye colour expression within a litter. Sometimes two parents with great eye colour will not replicate this is their offspring.

Here at Anniesong, some of the best eye colour and expression have derived from parents that have a more average expression of eye colour. The challenge therefore is to 'fix' good eye colour in the collective gene pool. 

The images below depict the resulting eye colour & shape that Sienna has produced in her offspring from matings to 3 different studs. The images all depict adult expression of eye shape and colour in 'Mink'-patterned cats, and therefore the eye colour for each is aqua.

The top row in each image features the eyes of Sienna.

The middle row depict the eyes of the offspring from each of the matings 

The bottom row shows the eyes of each stud used


In the image above the eyes in the bottom row belong to Tazer, and the middle row depicts the eyes of Willow, son of Sienna & Tazer.
In the image above the eyes in the bottom row belong to Arden, and the middle row depicts the eyes of Eden, daughter of Sienna & Arden
In the image above the eyes in the bottom row belong to Pharaoh, and the middle row depicts the eyes of Storm, daughter of Sienna & Pharaoh. 

Fixing good eye-colour


ne of the many challenges I've faced in terms of breeding Tonkinese has been establishing and then fixing strong eye colour, particularly in regard to the aqua colour that defines the 'mink' pattern. The inheritance of good eye colour is therefore not always predictable. How Aqua eyes appear in the 'Mink' - patterned Tonkinese is perhaps the most variable - or at least that is what I've experienced within the gene pools I'm working with.


Anniesong Pharaoh has spectacular eye colour & expression, his eyes comprise an opalescent quality that creates a very striking and dimensional look.

Yet his parents, (Gracie & Shadow) while expressing a reasonably good eye colour had nothing of the opalescent qualities seen in Pharaoh.

In the kittens he has fathered, not all kittens inherit the qualities of colour and opalescence seen in his eyes.

However he has passed on his stunning eye colour to his daughter 'Anniesong Storm', and she in turn has passed that on to her most recent baby & future stud 'Anniesong Byron-boy'.


   Top Row = Gracie
Middle Row = Pharaoh

   Bottom Row = Shadow
   Top Row = Sienna
   Middle Row = Storm
   Bottom Row = Pharaoh

Juvenile eye-colour development


ne of the frustrations in breeding Tonkinese is how unpredictable eye colour can be. Often when we are selecting kittens to keep to progress the breed program or for showing, it becomes difficult as eye colour takes a long time to establish in some cases. 

When they first open their eyes, all kittens start with a darkish blue tone to their eyes, and it is difficult to see the difference between the pupil and iris. Although if they are 'Point' patterned kittens then the colour is a little brighter and the pupil is tinged with red. As the weeks progress the eyes gradually lighten and 'Mink' patterned kittens will start to develop the blue-green or aqua that is characteristic of the pattern. The 'Solid' patterned kittens tend to have a 'dirtier' or duller blue, although in some cases the green becomes very evident at about 10 weeks of age.

While good eye colour is often evident as they approach the 10 week mark, within our breed program, I've had kittens that start off with what looks like amazing eye colour, only to fade as they mature. Yet in the flip side of this scenario I have also seen kittens where their eye colour starts off initially looking quite poor but then as they mature a lovely tone of aqua appears. It is often described that a Tonkinese will not express it's full coat colour until 2 years old, and this gradual change past 1 year, can also be seen in the development of eye colour.

The following series of images depict Anniesong Storm at various ages, demonstrating the progression of eye colour from the 'dark grey/blue' at 10 days old to the full expression of aqua seen @ 9 months old and beyond.

@ 10 days old - Storm's eyes have   only been open for 3 days.  It is difficult  to distinguish the pupil from the iris.

@ 3 weeks old - Storm's eyes have began to lighten & brighten but are
still a grey-blue.

@ 5 weeks old - her eyes are now starting to develop the aqua tone that   will define her eye colour.

@ 10 weeks old - The aqua colour is developing nicely and the dark border or eye-liner makes her eyes stand out.


As kittens are generally weaned at 10 weeks and go to their new homes shortly thereafter it is not always possible to determine how strong their eye colour is as some will take much longer before the full expression of eye colour is seen.

Anniesong Storm's eyes, once she was past 10 weeks of age went from strength to strength and just like her father Pharaoh's, her eyes display excellent clarity, depth and colour.

Seen against the warmth of the Chocolate-Mink coat colour, Storm's aqua eyes create a striking feature.

@ 14 weeks old - Storm's eyes have now developed their opalescent qualities, and are revealing a lovely shade of aqua.

@ 9 months old - Her eyes have continued to strengthen in both colour and tone.


Storm's father, Anniesong Pharaoh stood out from an early age within his litter, not least for the stunning tone and depth of his eye colour that was evident from about 8 weeks of age.

His eyes are framed also by a slightly darker rim, a border to his eyes which adds to their striking look.

Pharaoh's eye colour and expression represent the benchmark for eye colour that we'd like to see in all of our Mink-patterned Tonks. 



Anniesong Pharaoh @ 11 weeks old
showing great potential
for his eye-colour

Anniesong Pharaoh @ 13 weeks old
showing dark rim or 'eyeliner' that creates a striking expression

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