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Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
The medium-size Toyger was created by crossing a Bengal cat with a striped domestic shorthair. He is all domestic cat, with no wild blood, but he was developed to have branching stripes and orange and black or brown coloration reminiscent of a tiger’s pattern.
A cat named Millwood Sharp Shooter helped make the Toyger a reality after his owner, a Bengal cat breeder, noticed tabby markings on his temple.
The lion may be the king of beasts, but the tiger is arguably the most majestic of the big cats. Sadly, tigers are highly endangered, and it seems as if little can be done to stop their slide toward extinction. But breeder Judy Sugden and other cat breeders who followed her lead hope that their creation—the Toyger—will help bring recognition to the tiger’s plight.
As the muscular Toyger slinks through your living room, it would be easy to imagine that he is truly a tiger cub. A tiger cub that won’t grow up to eat you. The Toyger has a sweet, calm personality and is generally friendly. He’s outgoing enough to walk on a leash, energetic enough to play fetch and other interactive games, and confident enough to get along with other cats and friendly dogs. He can also be a good choice for families with children as long as their interactions are supervised. Toygers usually weigh seven to 15 pounds and live for 13 or more years.
Brush the Toyger weekly to keep his coat shiny and healthy. The only other grooming he needs is regular nail trimming, tooth brushing, and ear cleaning.
The Toyger is well suited to any home with people who will love him and care for him. Keep him indoors to protect him from cars, diseases spread by other cats and attacks from other animals.
Lots of cats are named Tiger, but it wasn’t until Judy Sugden was struck by the two spots of tabby markings on the temple of her cat Millwood Sharp Shooter that it occurred to her that they could be the secret to developing a domestic cat that truly resembled the lord of the jungle. Starting with a striped domestic shorthair named Scrapmetal and a Bengal cat named Millwood Rumpled Spotskin, and later importing a street cat from Kashmir, India, who had spots instead of tabby lines between his ears, she went to work to create a tiger for the living room. Other breeders who shared her vision and contributed to the breeding program were Anthony Hutcherson and Alice McKee. They came up with a domestic cat that had a large, long body, tabby patterns and rosettes that stretched and branched out, and circular head markings.
The International Cat Association began registering the Toyger in 1993, advanced it to new breed status in 2000, and granted the breed full championship recognition in 2007. Currently, TICA is the only association that recognizes the Toyger.
The friendly and playful Toyger likes people and other pets. He delights in playing fetch, batting around a feather or fishing-pole toy, and just spending time with family members. He’s active enough to learn tricks, but not so energetic that he’ll run you ragged. He has an easygoing personality that makes him suited to most households or families.
Like most cats, the Toyger is highly intelligent. Challenge his brain and keep him interested in life by teaching him tricks and providing him with puzzle toys that will reward him with kibble or treats when he learns how to manipulate them.
Always choose a kitten from a breeder who raises litters in the home and handles them from an early age. Meet at least one and ideally both of the parents to ensure that they have nice temperaments.
All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
The Toyger is generally healthy, but heart murmurs, possibly indicative of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, have occurred in the breed. It is always wise to buy from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new kitten into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Toyger at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his overall health. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier cat for life.
Grooming the Toyger is simple, and much safer than grooming a tiger. Brush or comb him weekly to keep his coat shiny and healthy.
The only other grooming the Toyger needs is regular nail trimming, usually weekly, and ear cleaning only if the ears look dirty. Wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle ear cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Start brushing, nail trimming and teeth brushing early so your kitten becomes accepting of this activity.
You want your Toyger to be happy and healthy so you can enjoy your time with him, so do your homework before you bring him home. For more information on the history, personality and looks of the Toyger, or to find breeders, visit the websites of the Fanciers Breeder Referral List and The International Cat Association.
A reputable breeder will abide by a code of ethics that prohibits sales to pet stores and wholesalers and outlines the breeder’s responsibilities to their cats and to buyers. Choose a breeder who has performed the health certifications necessary to screen out genetic health problems to the extent that is possible, as well as one who raises kittens in the home. Kittens who are isolated can become fearful and skittish and may be difficult to socialize later in life.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include kittens always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any kitten, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your feline friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and unhealthy catteries can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick kitten, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy kittens. Put at least as much effort into researching your kitten as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Be patient. Depending on what you are looking for, you may have to wait six months or more for the right kitten to be available. Many breeders won’t release kittens to new homes until they are between 12 and 16 weeks of age.
Before you buy a kitten, consider whether an adult Toyger might be a better choice for your lifestyle. Kittens are loads of fun, but they’re also a lot of work and can be destructive until they reach a somewhat more sedate adulthood. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an adult cat instead of a kitten, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show or breeding cat or if they know of an adult cat who needs a new home.
The Toyger is an unusual and uncommon breed. It is unlikely that you will find one in a shelter or through a rescue group, but it doesn’t hurt to look. Sometimes pedigreed cats end up at the shelter after losing their home to an owner’s death, divorce or change in economic situation. Check the listings on Petfinder or the Fanciers Breeder Referral List, and ask breeders if they know of a Toyger who is in need of a new home.
Wherever you acquire your Toyger, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “pet lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.
Kitten or adult, take your Toyger to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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