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What’s orange and black, 8 inches tall and purrs like a motorboat? It’s a Toyger! In an age of designer cat breeds created by crossing domestic cats with wild ones, the Toyger is a breath of fresh air in that its foundation stock doesn’t contain a drop of wild blood.

The Toyger was bred to look like a miniature version of the wild tiger. Photo: Shutterstock

Origins

In the late 1980s, Judy Sugden, a lover of mackerel tabby cats — also known as “tiger cats” in some regions — sought a way to make the stripes on mackerel tabbies clearer than they were. She noticed that her cat, Milwood Sharp Shooter, had spots of tabby markings on the sides of his head. Domestic tabbies usually don’t have stripes on the sides of their heads, and she wondered whether Sharp Shooter might hold the key to producing a tiger cat that really looked like a tiger.

In addition to Milwood Sharp Shooter, the foundation cats of the breed included a tabby domestic shorthair named Scrapmetal and a Bengal named Milwood Rumpled Spotskin. In the early 1990s, Sugden imported Jammu Blu, a street cat from India who had spots rather than the regular tabby lines on the top of his head. Sugden was joined by two other breeders, Anthony Hutcherson and Alice McKee, in the development of the Toyger.

The Toyger was accepted for registration by the International Cat Association, or TICA, in 1993 and granted full recognition for championship status in 2007. As of this writing, TICA is the cat breed registry that recognizes the Toyger.

Appearance

The Toyger is a medium to large and very muscular cat with a thick, soft coat featuring dark tabby stripes and rosettes that branch and stretch out, and circular head markings. These stripes and spots are contrasted by an orange or tan background color with what some breeders describe as a “dusting” of gold. Its long body and high shoulders give the Toyger a gait very similar to larger wildcats. Male Toygers weigh between 10 and 15 pounds and females between 7 and 10 pounds.

Health and longevity

The Toyger is a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan of 13 years or longer. Toygers may have a slightly higher risk of heart murmurs and possibly hypertrophic cardiomyopathy than the general feline population.

Because the Toyger is still a new and rare breed, it will take time before there are enough of them to produce any meaningful statistics about proneness to illnesses or injuries.

Living with a Toyger

Toygers are easygoing cats that get along with pretty much anybody. They do well with dogs and kids, and they love to play. They’re very intelligent cats so they need lots of intellectual stimulation to avoid boredom and possible acting out. When you’re at home, set aside time to play with your Toyger every day; he’ll very much appreciate that time, not just to get his energy out but because he’ll be with you.

Because Toygers are so smart, it’s easy to train them to walk on a leash, and they could even be very good at running agility courses.

Crouching Toyger, hidden cat toy. Photo: Shutterstock

Toyger trivia bits

  • It’s said that breeder Judy Sugden created the Toyger in hopes of bringing attention to the plight of the wild tiger and the need for active conservation of that species.
  • The Toyger’s pattern of broken and branching stripes is unique among domestic cats.
  • The Toyger is still a very rare breed: There are only about 20 breeders in the U.S. and another 15 or so in the rest of the world.

Do you have a Toyger in your home? What’s it like to live with him or her? Please share your thoughts and photos of your Toyger in comments.

Read other breed profiles on Catster: 

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal rescue volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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