Toyger Cat Profile

Photo of Toyger Cat Ishah
Toyger cat Ishah. Helmi Flick

Background of the Toyger:

One of the newest breeds to be recognized by a major cat registry (TICA - The International Cat Organization), the Toyger captures "the wild look" effectively. Unlike the Ocicat, whose markings were naturally developed and have remained the same for centuries, the Toyger is a "designer breed," much the same as the Bengal, the Savannah, and the (now almost extinct) California Spangle.

In fact, the Toyger was originally called "California Toyger." As you may have surmised, the "Toyger" name is a sort of contraction of "toy" and "tiger." This is not a new concept; indeed, for many years, tabby cats, particularly red tabbies with the mackerel pattern have been referred to as "tiger striped." One of the most popular names for red tabby cats is "Tiger." In fact, one of my own favorite cats of the past was Tiger. The developers of the Toyger are hopeful that eventually, the resemblance to the "big tigers" will be even closer than those Toygers you will see on linked pages.

Development of the Toyger Breed:

One person can be thanked for the initial development of the Toyger: Judy Sugden, who is the daughter of Jean Mill, the original founder of the Bengal cat, starting in 1963 with the crossing of a domestic cat with the Asian Leopard Cat. In 1980, Judy Sugden, also a Bengal breeder, was working with mackerel tabbies, often referred to as "tiger striped." From TICA:

"She noticed that her cat Millwood Sharp Shooter had two spots of tabby markings on the temple, and realized that this could be a key to developing a cat with the true circular pattern on a tiger's head."

The tabbies I've known do not have that pattern but instead sported the distinctive "M" on their foreheads.

Judy started her program with two cats: Scrapmetal, a DSH (domestic short hair) tabby, and Millwood Rumpled Spotskin, a big boned Bengal. In 1993, Judy imported Jammie Blu, a street cat from Kashmir, India, who had all spots between his ears, rather than the regular tabby lines. She has a firm mental picture of the final version of her ideal "mini-tiger:"

  • The Toyger's Body:
    Its body would be both larger and longer than a typical cat, in order to sport the bold vertical striping found in the tiger. The typical tabby striping and rosettes would be broken up and elongated to better resemble that of the tiger. You can see in this photo on a National Geographic article about Toygers, that the vertical orange stripes of this Toyger are narrowly bordered with black or very dark brown, much like that of the Sumatran Tiger pictured here. Note: The Sumatran Tiger, found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra off the Malaysian Peninsula, is considered "a critically endangered species." One of Judy Sugden's main goals in the development of the Toyger is to help prevent the extinction of the big cats the Toyger is modeled from. From an interview with National Geographic: Toyger creator Judy Sudgen said she hopes the playful pets will inspire more people to care about wild tiger conservation.

    "We use part of the price of the kittens to help the conservation of tigers since that's our inspiration," she said.

  • The Toyger's Head:
    The ideal head would have the circular markings which cannot be found on any other cat breed today. The nose would be broader at the base, with the jowl area correspondingly wider. The "Before" and (projected) "After" photos found on the Toyger Cat Society website will give you a better approximation of these projected changes. The shape of the head in profile is described as a "half hexagon" in an article by Roman Toygers.
  • The Toyger's Coat:
    From TICA: "As with the tiger, the colors being sort (sic) are dark markings on a vividly bright orange background on the outer to top portions of the cat with a whited ground color on the undersides and insides. These beautiful dramatic patterns, each of which is unique to the individual like a fingerprint, are enhanced by the scatter of gold glitter over the top to enrich the coat pattern even further." (The pattern may be the "mackerel stretched rosettes," or a vertical "braided" pattern.
  • The Toyger's Temperament:
    The personality of the Toyger is said to be "laid back," outgoing and friendly to all, able to get along well with other cats, even dogs, and children. Intelligent and easily trained to a leash.

Joining Judy in 1993 in this pioneering work were Anthony Hutcherson (JungleTrax) and Alice McKee (Windridge). That same year, TICA also accepted the Toyger for registration only. The Toyger is now listed as a Championship Breed in TICA.

Judy Sugden is also the founder and driving force behind the Toyger Cat Society Judy's own website, Eeyaa Cats is actually part of the Toyger Cat Society website.

The Future of the Toyger Cat:

At first, it was a challenge tracking down active Toyger breeders. Although Anthony Hutcherson still is an active Bengal breeder, his website does not reflect any current activity on the Toyger front. I have been unable to track down any website for Windridge, nor is it linked on the Toyger Society's list of Toyger Breeders, nor listed with TICA.

The TICA lists only Three Toyger Breeders, Ailuren in the U.S. (New Jersey), Hommelshof in the Netherlands, and NobleUnion in Russia.​

However, the TICA website with reference to Toygers has not been updated regularly, and links to several photos on the main Toyger page are broken.

Active Toyger Breeders

Fortunately, after discovering the Toyger Society website, I was able to locate a number of Toyger breeders. As nearly as I can determine, the following are some of the better websites of active Toyer breeders in the U.S. and elsewhere, listed alphabetically:

While the Toyger cat is a "work in progress," it appears that a solid foundation has been established for this relatively new "designer cat." My favorite cats still remain the domestic cats, however, someone looking for a cat with the "Look of the Wild," and the personality of a moggie, the Toyger might be a perfect choice.