A golden Toyger
'Toyger Cats' in Birmingham
By Brett Birks
American designer cats – bred to look like miniature tigers – are finding their way into family homes.
Toyger and silver Toyger baby
Known as 'Toygers', the felines bear an uncanny resemblance to their ferocious cousins and are being sold for up to £4,000.
Said to be more 'dog like' in terms of personality (they'll happily play 'fetch the ball'), Toygers are the result of a special Californian breeding programme that began in the mid 1990s.
Proud owner Colette Cope, 36 from Sutton Coldfield, has had her 'toy tiger'– Hazel – for two months.
"She's absolutely adorable," said Colette. "She loves cuddles and is so sweet. She has a feisty personality but has really taken to my youngest child. I would recommend a Toyger a hundred and fifty percent!"
A golden Toyger
Dave Penson and his family bought their striped moggie – Orson - in October 2008.
"My wife was looking for a cat on the internet and saw a Toyger and liked it," he said. "He's lovely and quite big! But he has a lovely personality. Unlike a lot of cats, he doesn't just skulk off when people visit – he comes over for fuss."
It was 39 year old Gaynor Jean-Louis from Aston Fields who first imported a pair of Toygers to the UK five years ago.
"A Californian lady called Judy Sugden had spotted some street cats near her home," explains Gaynor. "Their markings reminded her of tigers. It gave her the idea to start a programme to breed a family of cats that had distinctive tiger-like characteristics. I heard about them and desperately wanted one.
Gaynor with a baby Toyger
"I spent two years talking to Judy and she eventually agreed to let me have a pair and get involved in the programme. I am currently one of only three Toyger breeders in the UK."
The Toygers come in two colours, golden orange with black stripes and a silver-lined variety, reminiscent of the famed white tiger.
Aside from their patterned fur, they have distinct physical characteristics that are recognised by TICA (The International Cat Association), including rounded noses, defined muzzles, long toes and muscular, powerful physiques.
Four weeks old
"In terms of temperament, Toygers are more 'dog like' in nature," explains Gaynor. "They're highly intelligent, very attentive, full of character and get on very well with other dogs and cats and especially children. To be honest, I was always more of a 'dog person' but because of the nature of Toygers I fell in love with them."
Gaynor says she's bred between 40 and 50 golden and silver Toygers. As well as having local customers like Colette and Dave, she says many have been bought by cat lovers as far afield as Australia and Canada.
"I sell Toygers as pets from between £600 and £1,200. Breeders go from between £2,500 and £4,000. All the cats are neutered before they leave me. The programme to breed them has been so carefully done that we can't risk someone who's not right getting involved. People fall in love them upon seeing them though so don't mind paying this much money."
A cuddle from mummy!
Toygers have been bred to be apartment cats and will eat cat food like any other domestic feline. There's no reason why they can't venture outside but owners seem reluctant to let them roam the streets due to the high risk of theft.
"It's amazing how many people say: 'Don't they look like a tiger?!' says Gaynor. "I get a lot of attention in places like the vets when people see them. They always come up and ask about them.
"Toygers are an absolute pleasure to live with. Because they get on so well with other animals and children they're perfect household pets. For anyone who's ever dreamed of owning a real tiger, this is a great alternative!"
'Dog-like' in personality
For more information on Toygers and to contact Gaynor Jean-Louis, visit her website by clicking the link below:
Do you own a Toyger? What do you think of designer cats? Tell us in the box below:
last updated: 10/08/2009 at 16:22
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