5 Fun Facts About Tortoiseshell Cats

5 Fun Facts About Tortoiseshell Cats

Author WCF Staff


Cats are fascinating creatures. They make fantastic pets to singles and families alike. They have lovely temperaments combined with attractive looks, especially coat colors. One of our favorite coat colors, or more precisely, patterns, is tortoiseshell. If you are just entering the fantastic world of cats, you might wonder what tortoiseshell actually means. Here are our favorite fun facts about tortoiseshell cats.

1. Not a breed

Tortoiseshell cats are not a breed. When cat lovers refer to tortoiseshell cats, they refer to a specific coat pattern. That pattern usually consists of red and black and various shades of these colors. Different cat breeds can exhibit this unique pattern. The tortoiseshell pattern can be seen in breeds like the Maine Coon, Persian, or American Shorthair. This pattern has a unique look. The cat’s coat looks like it’s woven together or creates large patches of color.

tortoiseshell kittens

2. Named after tortoiseshell material

You might have already guessed that tortoiseshell cats, or the tortoiseshell pattern, have something to do with tortoises. You would be right. The name for the unique pattern was given after the tortoiseshell material. Before the 1970s, the tortoiseshell material was used for making jewelry, glasses, and expensive home decor. Unfortunately, people like to go to extremes, so we decimated the tortoise populations across the world to get the expensive material. In the 1970s, tortoiseshell material was banned. Well, tortoiseshell cats have a coat pattern that resembles the material, so it is not surprising the pattern was named tortoiseshell.

tortoiseshell-cat looking left

3. Myths and legends

Tortoiseshell cats have many myths and legends surrounding them. This pattern gives them a bit of a mystical look, so this shouldn’t surprise you that much. The interesting thing is that torties are adored around the globe, and they always represent something good. Here are some of the myths, legends, and superstitions that surround these cats;

  • The United States - Tortoiseshell cats are believed to be “money cats.” They will bring their owners prosperity and good fortune.
  • Japan - The Japanese believe torties have mystical powers. Their main job was to protect their homes from evil spirits.
  • Southeast Asia - In Southeast Asia, torties are believed to be direct descendants of a goddess. They believe tortoiseshell cats were made from the blood of their mythical goddess.
  • The United Kingdom - The British have different beliefs surrounding tortoiseshell cats. They believe that if you rub a tortie cat’s tail on a wart, the wart will disappear.

tortoiseshell cat profile

4. Tortoiseshell cats are usually female

This might sound surprising, but once you learn about the genetics behind the tortoiseshell pattern, you’ll have a lot clearer picture. This is not the only pattern mostly connected to a cat’s sex; calico cats are primarily females, as well. The female sex chromosome (X) will determine the cat’s sex, but it also carries the genetic code for orange and black coat color. The male sex chromosome (Y) carries no information. So if a male cat is born, it can be either black or orange, but it cannot be both.

However, female cats have two female sex chromosomes (XX), and both carry coat color genes. They can mix and match and result with a tortoiseshell kitten. In rare cases, male cats can be born in a tortoiseshell pattern, but instead of having XY chromosomes, they will have an additional X chromosome (XXY). Male tortoiseshell cats are usually sterile, unhealthy, and have significantly shorter lifespans than female torties.

tortoiseshell cat in sun

5. Claims about their temperament

An interesting thing about tortoiseshell cats is that many cat owners describe them as having a unique temperament. These cats are often called “divas” of the feline kingdom. They are described as fiercely independent, mostly stubborn, and dramatic. However, this description has a simple flaw - torties can be of different breeds.

When cat owners describe the temperament of tortoiseshell cats, or “tortietude,” as they often call it, they forget to mention that torties can be of different breeds. A tortie Maine Coon will not have the same temperament as a tortie Persian. Nevertheless, we love that cats are often described mystically, and cat owners give them human characteristics.

tortoiseshell kittens on pink

In conclusion

Tortoiseshell cats are not a breed. The tortoiseshell pattern is a coat pattern different cat breeds can have. It is a combination of black and red (orange) colors that can be combined in various ways on the cat’s coat. They are considered good-luck charms and are adored all over the world. Torties are mostly females because the genes for these coat colors are connected to the female sex chromosome X. Males can be born with this pattern, but they are usually unhealthy and sterile. We are absolutely sure we love this coat pattern in cats and will get our hands on a tortie cat as soon as possible.

World Cat Finder Team

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