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The Toyger is a new and very striking variety of shorthaired cat bred from domestic shorthaired tabbies to produce a breed about the same the size as a normal household cat, but with tiger stripes making them look like 'toy tigers'. By developing this mini tiger 'look-alike', their creator, an American breeder of Bengal cats named Judy Sugden, also wanted to raise awareness of the importance of conserving tigers in the wild. It is very rarely found outside of the USA (and even there, it is not a common breed), and as the Toyger is not recognised by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), it cannot be shown at GCCF shows. However, the breed has been further developed in the USA and it is recognised by The International Cat Association (TICA), which exists as an alternative registry in Britain with its own shows, and there are a small number of breeders in the UK.
As with many of the more new breeds of pedigree cat, the Toyger can be traced back to one breeder and a well-documented breeding programme. In this case, it was in the 1980s that an American breeder, Judy Sugden, was working to improve the clarity of the markings of mackerel tabby cats (often referred to as having 'tiger' stripes), to replicate those of the real tiger in the wild. She realised that one of her own cats unusually had two spots of tabby markings on his forehead and thought that this could be connected to her mission to produce a cat with the true circular pattern of a wild tiger's head which would then point her in the right direction to succeed in her quest to produce a 'mini-tiger' with a domestic temperament. Her foundation cats in this programme were a tabby domestic (non-pedigree) shorthair, and a Bengal of her own breeding, together with an imported street cat from India who had spots between his ears rather than the regular tabby markings. She had a definite image of what she was hoping to breed, which was a long body to show off the bold vertical broken stripes that would give a branching effect when combined with the tabby patterns and rosettes of the domestic mackerel tabby. Together with the vivid colours this produced, coupled with a laid-back temperament to make a perfect domestic pet, Judy Sugden was well on the way to breeding her ideal cat with these initial matings. As her ideal mini-tiger gradually came to fruition, she was joined in this early breeding programme by a small handful of other breeders. The Toyger gained preliminary recognition with The International Cat Association (TICA) for 'registration only' in 1993, eventually gaining full Championship status in 2007, allowing it to be shown at TICA shows.
The tiger markings are totally unique and not found in any other breed of domestic cat. Instead of the usual vertical stripes of the mackerel tabby, or the rosettes of some spotted tabbies (such as the Bengal), the Toyger has 'broken' vertical stripes, and 'stretched' rosettes that are randomly distributed across the coat. The facial markings have a circular pattern, and the desired coat colour has now been achieved with dark markings on a vivid orange background along the top of the coat, the legs, the head and the tail, with a much paler, almost white, background colour on the under parts. The dramatic coat pattern is unique to each Toyger, with no two the same, and the overall picture is further enhanced by an over-pattern that looks as if gold glitter has been liberally sprinkled over the cat. Even the body shape has been developed to resemble the Toyger's wild relative, with the long deep rectangular body shape having a 'low slung' appearance that gives the cat the same kind of rolling gait as its wild counterpart. The Toyger is a muscular cat, with the males weighing between 10-15 lb, and the females slightly less, making them a smaller breed than the standard British Shorthair.
This is a confident, friendly and affectionate breed that is very active, loving to climb and play with a variety of toys. The Toyger is a very people-orientated breed that loves almost constant interaction with their human family, often choosing to follow their designated favourite around the home. Although they are fairly vocal and love to chat with their owners, their voices are gentler than you might expect from a tiger 'look-alike'. They are very happy as indoor cats, as they tend to connect with people rather than the environment, although they need a reasonable amount of space to move around in. They will get on well with other family pets, and are also a very intelligent breed, with those who have share their homes with them reporting that they can be trained to walk on a lead. Toygers need company, and so for owners who are out for much of the day, a feline companion will be much appreciated.
The Toyger is generally a very healthy breed of cat with no breed-specific health problems detected so far, and should live well into their mid teens. Kittens should always be purchased from a reputable breeder, and in common with other cats, they need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors.
The coat of the Toyger is short and sleek and they will need only the minimum amount of grooming to remove any loose hairs, although this time will be a bonus to the Toyger as they are a breed that loves human contact. Using damp hands to groom this kind of coat, followed by a buffing with a dry chamois cloth, will give a wonderful sheen They will eat most good quality brands of cat food, and most will enjoy treats of cooked meat and even grated cheese. However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available.