Toyger is not a name that beats around the bush. Without even seeing one, you know right away this cat is supposed to look like a tiny tiger. A toy tiger, if you will.
Created in the 1980s, the toyger is a cat that was bred specifically to try and replicate not only the striped markings of its jungle cat namesake but some of its physical traits as well. This has resulted in a muscular, athletic cat with a rolling gait that truly makes it look as if it would be more at home in an African jungle than a living room in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Never fear, however: These cats were also bred with a mind towards friendliness and social interaction, and these little critters love to be around people and other cats.
As a new breed, some of the design elements are still being hammered out, but make no mistake: The toyger looks more like a full-sized tiger than any other tabby you’ve ever seen.
The most notable difference to people familiar with traditional mackerel tabby cats will be around the face. Where traditional tabbies are devoid of markings in this area, the toyger has markings that create a circular pattern, framing the face. Moving down the body, in lieu of the more or less straight, vertical striping, the toyer’s striping is thicker, more broken, and in more random patterns. They are coupled with thick, horizontal striping on the legs, with a black tail tip and feet, and a white underbody. Much like their jungle inspiration, every toyger’s markings are unique to that particular cat.
In addition to the coat markings, toygers have heavily muscled frames and long, low-slung torsos. They also have big-boned, high-set shoulders, which help give them that familiar, rolling gait of the large wild cats.
Very intelligent cats, the toyger enjoys being challenged and stimulated by their human companions, and can even be taught tricks or how to walk on a leash with relative ease.
They have also been bred with an eye toward affability, so toygers tend to be laid-back, friendly cats who get along well with both humans and animals of all kinds, according to VetStreet. Living with other cats should be an absolute breeze, and the breed seems to be fairly quick to socialize to dogs as well.
Toygers like to explore their environments, but may not be as active climbers or explorers as some other breeds. Instead, they tend to prefer to stick fairly close to their human companions, according to The International Cat Association (TICA), and are more likely to entertain themselves by interacting with you.
Toygers can be fairly active cats, so they’ll need some kind of energy outlet, be it a toy, scratching post, or something to climb on. Other than that, they are relatively independent cats with fairly low demands. They can be trained to walk on a leash, so they do well outdoors if that’s your thing and want a companion who won’t freak out at all the new sights and sounds.
These guys do tend to be fairly regular shedders, so you’ll be brushing weekly, depending on how sensitive you are to cat hair, or how much you mind it being on your clothes and furniture. Their coats are short but fairly thick with a good undercoat, so brushing them is going to be a good chance to bond with your toyger because it’s going to happen a lot.
Toygers are such a new breed, it’s difficult to say what, if any, health concerns are specific to the breed. Getting them checked for standard “cat things” like patellar luxation and feline infection peritonitis will be important, and there is some evidence to suggest toygers are more prone to heart murmurs as well.
“The most common thing we see in cats as far as disease is kidney disease. That’s really just across the board in cats,” says Michelle Beck, DVM, CCRT, CVA, of the Backlund Animal Clinic in Omaha, Neb. “Kidney disease and heart disease are things that vets know to check all cats for, just as a matter of course.
“Cats by the age of 10, almost 70 percent of them have arthritis somewhere in their body,” she continues. “Cats are very good at hiding their pain.”
That ability to mask pain—especially in breeds that aren’t well-known for having specific health issues—can cause a lot of cat owners to forego things like routine vet visits or preventative care.
“It’s not that we don’t have great care available for cats,” Beck says. “It’s just that we don’t see a lot of cats. If they’re an indoor cat, they’re not exposed to a lot of disease, and for outdoor farm cats, those cats tend to be left alone as long as they’re good mousers.”
The toyger history is brief and highly specific. Created by an American named Judy Sugden in the 1980s, the toyger was bred specifically to mimic the stripes of the Bengal tiger. Long a fancier of mackerel tabby cats, Sudgen noticed a kitten from one of her tabbies had a unique spotted pattern around his face—an area normally devoid of markings in tabbies, according to TICA.
Sugden then began an experiment to see if she could more accurately mimic a tiger’s stripes, using that cat along with a street cat she found and had imported from India. Along the way, she mixed in breedings with various unpedigreed short hairs with the striping patterns she liked, as well as domestic Bengal cats (a breed created by her mother, Jean Mill). The toyger was accepted for registration by The International Cat Association, and they were granted full recognition in 2007.