7 Pretty Tortoiseshell Cats and Kittens

tortoiseshell cat
  • 01 of 07

    What You Need to Know About Tortoiseshell Cats

    tortoiseshell cat

    Tortoiseshell cats are named for their bi-colored coats that look like, well, tortoiseshell. Affectionately referred to as "torties," these colorful kitties' coats are made up of large patches of two colors, sometimes including tiny patches of white. 

    Much like calico cats, tortoiseshell cats have some pretty interesting genetics–and have become mainstays in folklore all over the world.

    Whether you're considering adopting a tortie or if you're already a tortie parent, read on for some fascinating facts–and super cute pictures!–of tortoiseshell cats and kittens. 

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  • 02 of 07

    Tortoiseshell Isn't a Breed

    tortoiseshell cat

    What makes a tortoiseshell cat a tortoiseshell? Her coat–not her breed. A tortoiseshell breed of cat doesn't actually exist! Several breeds, however, can exhibit tortoiseshell markings, such as American Shorthair, British Shorthair, Cornish Rex, Persian, and Maine Coons, among others. 

    Although tortoiseshell coats are most commonly ginger-y red and black, they can also have hints of cream, orange or gold. The colors in their coats are either "bridled" and look like they're woven together, or "patched," which means the colors form in large patches all over the body. 

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  • 03 of 07

    Most Tortoiseshell Cats Are Female and Males Are Extremely Rare

    Like calico cats, you'll find most tortoiseshell cats are female. Why? The same chromosomes that determine their sex also determine the colors in their coats. 

    Ready for a biology lesson? Here's how it works. 

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

    Because females have two X chromosomes, they have two sets of genetic information that can determine their coat color. How does a kitty embryo decide which genetic code to use? She 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 to be a bit more precise–a male tortoiseshell cat can be born with two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome. Unfortunately, male cats with XXY Syndrome are sterile, and often have serious health issues, resulting in significantly shorter lifespans than female torties. 

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  • 04 of 07

    Torties Have a Distinct Temperament

    tortoiseshell cat

    Tortoiseshell cats aren't a specific breed, so can they have a distinct temperament? 

    In a study conducted by UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, researchers pondered the link between a domestic cat's coat color and its behavior. The center of this study? Tortoiseshell cats (along with calicos and "torbies"). 

    After the study was published, word spread that tortoiseshell cats have a distinct, somewhat sassy temperament, which was quickly coined "tortitude." And, anecdotally, many tortie parents agreed–their cats were high-energy, sassy, and even slightly aggressive.

    But the reality? Researchers actually didn't find a distinct link between coat color and behavior, temperament, or personality. 

    Maybe "tortiude" was just confused with regular old cases of catitude.

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  • 05 of 07

    Tortoiseshell Cats Are Considered Good Luck All Over the World

    tortoiseshell cat

    Tortoiseshell cats are touted for their good luck all around the globe.

    • So, if male tortoiseshell cats are sterile, how are they born? Forget about science and the magic of genetics for just a minute. According to folklore from Southeast Asia, she was formed from the blood of a young goddess. (That should make you look at your tortie in a totally different light.)
    • In Japan, tortoiseshell cats can help protect the home from ghosts. 
    • Can't get rid of a stubborn wart? Fly to England and rub a tortoiseshell cat's tail on the affliction. English folklore says it'll cure what ails ya. 
    • In the United States, tortoiseshell cats are believed to be "money cats" that will bring good fortune into the home. 
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  • 06 of 07

    They're Named After Tortoiseshell Material

    tortoiseshell cat

    Have you ever heard of tortoiseshell glasses? Well, that's where your tortoiseshell cat got her name!

    Tortoiseshell–yes, from real, live tortoises–was a super high-end material that was used to produce everything from jewelry, to eyeglasses, to home decor prior to the 1970s. Because tortoise populations were being decimated world-wide, the use of the material was banned and synthetic tortoiseshell was developed. 

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  • 07 of 07

    Tortoiseshell Cats Can Also Be "Torbies"

    tortoiseshell cat

    After reading about the UC Davis study earlier, you may be thinking to yourself, "What the heck is a torbie?" Well, when you cross a tortoiseshell cat's coloring with a tabby's stripes, you get a torbie! They have gorgeous, colorful coats with tons of variations.