9 Amazing Facts about Tortoiseshell Cats

Facts About Tortoiseshell Cats

Much like calico cats, tortoiseshell cats have some pretty interesting genetics. Tortoiseshell cats are named for their bi-colored coats that look like the shell of a tortoise.

Affectionately referred to as “torties,” these colorful kitties are favorite pets in many homes. Thanks to a number of genetic mutations, their coats develop with almost marbled patterns.  

Whether you’re considering adopting a tortoiseshell or just want to learn more about these fun and frisky cats, these facts and photos are sure to delight.

As a tortie cat mom myself, I can tell you, these kitties are so much fun! I am so happy she stumbled into our home forever.

1. Origin of Its Name

Let’s do a fact within a fact for a second. First, did you know that Tortoiseshell is not a specific breed of cats? It’s true.

They are actually named after their distinct multi-color fur.

The traditional tortoiseshell coating will have black and orange fur with brown and red mixed in.

There are also diluted tortoiseshell cats with less intense coloring due to genetics. Similar to the diluted calico breed.

Similar but different.

2.Types Within Breeds

So what types of breed could a tortoiseshell cat be?

Tortoiseshell cats occur in a variety of breeds, including American Shorthair, British Shorthair, Persian, Cornish Rex, Ragamuffin, and Maine Coons.

Tortoiseshell cats can be either long and short-haired cats and can come from purebred litters and mixed breeds.  

When it comes to fur, the most common coat style for torties is something call mosaic. A  mosaic is a tortoiseshell cat with the traditional color combination mixed randomly together.

There is another type which is called a chimera. A chimera describes a tortoiseshell cat that is one color on one side of its body and a different color on the other side. It can happen on the face or throughout the entire body.

If you look at Venus Two Fact on Instagram, she is a Purrrfect example of the beautiful chimera coloring!

>> You May Also Like: Do Cats Know Their Name?

 

3.The Tortoiseshell Name

So where does the tortoiseshell get their name?

They are names after tortoiseshell materal.

Tortoiseshell—from real, live tortoises—was a super high-end material that was used to produce jewelry, eyeglasses, and home decor items prior to the 1970s. 

Tortoiseshell cats were named after this material because their coats are reminiscent of the colors and pattern.

Thankfully the use of the material has since been banned and synthetic tortoiseshell was developed.

So tortoises are safe! But the torties are thriving.

4.Their Coat’s Intricacy

Did you think their coating could only be mosaic or chimera? Guess again!

In addition to a tortoiseshell cat’s fur needing to be particular colors and then classified as mosaic or chimera, their coat can also be categorized once more. These two are considered bridled and patched.

If the colors in a tortie’s coat appear to be woven together, it’s bridled. But if colors appear in large sections all over the body, then it’s patched.

Both of these coatings distinctions are more common in mosaic types cats than chimera, but it is not uncommon.

5.A Tortie’s Life Span

How long do tortoiseshell cats live?

Truthfully that answer is hard to say.

Because tortoiseshell cats are made up of different breeds (and those breeds may differ from cat to cat), their lifespan and weight vary.

One of the oldest torties was named Marzipan who lived to be 21-years-old.

If you want a better estimate on your kitties age, my best recommendation is to look at their particular breed. That will give you more information than their coloring.

>> Spoil Your Tortie With Our Favorite Calming Cat Bed

6. Tortoiseshell Cats Are Considered Good Luck All Over the World

Not only are these cats beautiful and come in all shapes and sizes, they are also good luck charms!

There are legends all over the world about tortoiseshell cats. A few are:

    • In Southeast Asia, tortoiseshell cats were formed from the blood of a young goddess.
    • In Japan, it’s believed that tortoiseshell cats can help protect the home from ghosts.
    • English folklore says rubbing a tortoiseshell cat’s tail on a wart will cure the affliction.

7. Most Tortoiseshell Cats Are Female and Males Are Extremely Rare

If you have read about calico cats, then chances are, you know that most calico cats are female.

Like calico cats, you’ll find most tortoiseshell cats are female. That’s because the same chromosomes that determine their sex also determine the colors in their coats.

The female sex chromosome (X) also carries the genetic code for orange or black coat colors; the male sex chromosome (Y) does not carry information on coat color.

Because females have two X chromosomes, they have two sets of genetic information that can determine their coat color. The embryo shuts off one X chromosome in each cell, resulting in orange and black color variations in their coats.

Because a male cat has one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, he’ll only be orange or black—not both.

In very rare cases—about 1 in 3,000—a male tortoiseshell cat can be born with two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome. Unfortunately like with calico cats, most male tortoiseshell cats are sterile. Worse is that they often have serious health issues, resulting in significantly shorter lifespans than female torties.

8.Tortoiseshell + Attitude = Tortitude

When speaking about tortoiseshell cats, their alleged “tortitude” always comes up.

Cats are called out for their fieriness, but it seems torties are on a whole different level.

They are recognized as being the divas of the cat world for their strong-willed and fiercely independent nature.

But there is no real proof that tortoiseshell cats actually have more attitude than the average kitty.

As a tortie cat mom myself, I don’t know if this is a completely myth, or if my kitties is the rarity. She is the most angelic cat I have ever had.

She gets along with ALL of the animals in our household (my parents cat and dog, my brothers puppy, and all the cats in our home).

Everyone loves her, she is super calm albeit jumpy at times.

The names sounds cute, but it definitely doesn’t fit our Zoe-cat.

>> Want to keep learning? Read What Colors Do Cats See?

9.Tortoiseshell Cats Can Also Be “Torbies”

Just when you thought torties couldn’t get any more unique, the torbie comes into play.

When you cross a tortoiseshell cat’s coloring with a tabby’s stripes, you get a “torbie.”

You may also hear them being referred to as “tortoiseshell tabbies” or “striped torties.”

 They have gorgeous, colorful coats with distinctive stripes with lots of variation.

 

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