The Toyger is a “Frankencat”, so said an American television presenter. He was being impolite. He was referring to hybrid cats. The Toyger is a hybrid cat. Hybrid cats are nearly always man or woman-made; a human creation. When hybrid cats are also domestic cats they are sometimes referred to as “exotic cats”. They are often recognised cat breeds. Exotic cats like the Toyger are also referred to as “designer cat breeds” because they have been designed like a car or a building to suit certain clients.
The Toyger is still a relatively rare cat. Today, it is fully accepted as a cat breed by The International Cat Association (TICA). The breed is gaining in popularity. So much so that people keen to purchase this exotic cat travel from afar to get to one of the few breeders. There are three Toyger breeders in the UK.
TICA, lists only four breeders, one in each of the following countries: Denmark, Italy, Russia and the USA (New Jersey – Aluren).
Because demand outstrips supply the price of the Toyger has been pushed up and you’ll have to be a good cat caretaker because Toyger breeders are selective. Prices depend on quality. The quality that a purchaser usually wants is show cat quality. These cats will be the best that breeders can produce, currently. They will look more like tigers; the objective of the whole exercise – to create a toy tiger. These cats might cost £2,500 in the UK and the dollar equivalent in the USA (or higher).
Typically prices vary from about $500 or £500 to around (£)$1,000. Pet quality cats are true pedigree, purebred Toygers but the way the cat looks is not quite right when referenced to the cat’s breed standard (guidelines for judges and breeders).
How do you get a domestic cat to look like a tiger? Well, you do it through lots of selective breeding, which in the case of the Toyger started in the late 1980s. Choosing foundation cats that have nice stripes and the correct body conformation. The starting point was mackerel tabby cats. Selective breeding included a large boned Bengal cat (which is a tabby cat) and a tabby cat from India that had the right sort of pattern on the head.
It is really a case of constant refinement through breeding. There is also the need to recreate the orange background colour of the tiger. There are other aspects: the way the tiger walks and the I presume there was some focus on head conformation. The tiger has a very square muzzle.
One of the declared reasons for creating this cat was to highlight the plight of the tiger, which we all know is gradually being made extinct, in the wild, through human activity. I’ll be honest, I don’t believe the Toyger makes one jot of difference with respect to tiger conservation. If a person wants to buy a Toyger they’ll do it without giving more than a minute’s thought to the tiger.
Also I find that the name “Toyger” sets the wrong tone. It implies that the cat is a toy. Some people do treat cats as toys rather than focusing on the cat as a feeling being.
On the Toyger Cat Society website, the author refers to the cat’s coat as a “pelt”. I disagree with the use of this word in this context. “Pelt” is used by fur traders and we know what fur traders do to wild cats like the bobcat and lynx. The use of this word hints at a breeder’s attitude. A slight lack of sensitivity towards the cat as a sentient being.
Finally, there is something faintly obscene in breeding and promoting “designer” man-created cats when there are millions of unwanted cats. It seems to mirror human society: the ones at the top, immune to financial recession, and those at the bottom, the forgotten ones.