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Tortoiseshell Persian Cat: Facts, Pictures, Origin & History

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 28, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

tortoiseshell persian cat on the grass

Tortoiseshell Persian Cat: Facts, Pictures, Origin & History

Tortoiseshell Persians are a unique variety of Persian cats named for their multi-colored coat that resembles a tortoiseshell. Known as “torties,” Tortoiseshell Persians have a stunning marble pattern on their long, fluffy coats, making them a popular choice for a purebred cat.

Breed Overview


10–15 inches


7–13 pounds


10–13 years


White, red, cream, black, blue, chocolate, lilac, silver, golden, tortoiseshell, blue-cream, tricolor, sable, tortoiseshell, bicolor, tricolor, tabby, smoke, shaded, Himalayan

Suitable for:

Families or singles in a quiet household


Calm, affectionate, laidback, playful, gentle, quiet

Tortoiseshell Persian Cat Characteristics

A high-energy cat needs a lot of physical and mental stimulation to keep healthy and happy, while a low-energy cat needs minimal physical activity, but still needs mental stimulation. When choosing a cat, It’s important to ensure their energy levels match your lifestyle.
Cats that are easy-to-train are more willing and skilled at quickly learning prompts and actions with minimal training. Harder-to-train cats are usually more stubborn or aloof and require a bit more patience and practice.
Certain cat breeds are more prone to various genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every cat in those breeds will have these issues, but they do have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Due to their size or potential genetic health issues of a specific breed, some cats have shorter lifespans than others. Proper nutrition, exercise, mental stimulation, and hygiene also play an important role in your cat’s lifespan and quality of life.
Some cat breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other cats and animals. Cats that are more social have a tendency to rub up on strangers for scratches or jump on laps for cuddles, while cats that are less social shy away, hide, are more cautious, and even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed or gender, it’s important to socialize your cat and expose them to many different situations.

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The Earliest Records of Tortoiseshell Persian Cats in History

It’s unclear when long-haired cats first appeared in history. The African wildcat, an ancestor of domestic cats, has no long-haired specimens. The first documented ancestors of the Persian Cat were imported from Persia into the Italian Peninsula in 1620 and from Turkey into France around the same period. Known as Khorasan cats, these cats were gray- or white-coated.

The breed still gained popularity throughout Great Britain for its luxurious appearance. Genetic research indicates that modern Persian cats are related to the cat breeds of Western Europe, not the Near East like their predecessors.

The Tortoiseshell markings have a murky history. Leonard Doncaster proved that tortoiseshell is a female heterozygote of orange and black at the start of the 21st century, but they appeared before then. Tortoiseshell patterns can appear in many breeds, but like calico markings, it’s almost always in females.

shell persian cat
Image By: Ewa Urban, Pixabay

How Tortoiseshell Persian Cats Gained Popularity

Persian cats quickly gained popularity for their distinctive and luxurious appearance. These cats became popular in the UK before expanding to North America. In 2008, the Persian was the most popular breed in the US. It now lags behind the British Shorthair, Ragdoll, Siamese, Maine Coon, and Burmese in the UK.

There are many popular color varieties in Persian cats, including pointed colors like seal, blue, and flame. Tortoiseshell is not one of the most popular varieties, but tortie point, a tortoiseshell point pattern, is. Overall, tortoiseshell is a desirable color for its unique look and relative scarcity, especially for male tortoiseshell cats, which are exceedingly rare.

Formal Recognition of the Tortoiseshell Persian Cat

The first Persian cat was presented at an organized cat show in 1871 in the Crystal Palace in England. The Persian became popular, leading breeders to differentiate the breed from the similar Angora. The first breed standard was issued in 1889 by Harrison Weir, a cat show promoter. He established the Persian as different from the Angora with its large head, less-pointed ears, fuller coat, and longer tail.

Tortoiseshell Persian cat staring up the camera
Image By: Dudakova Elena, Shutterstock

Since then, both Angoras and Persians have been crossbred, creating improvements in both breeds and a range of varieties. The Peke-face and ultra-typing Persians, like Pekingese dogs, were popular before their serious health issues were recognized. Himalayans, Exotic Shorthairs, Chinchillas, and toy and teacup sizes are also popular among cat owners.

Tortoiseshell Persians and some variants are recognized by The Cat Fanciers’ Association and other major cat associations like The International Cat Association.

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Top 3 Unique Facts About Tortoiseshell Persian Cats

1. Tortoiseshell Cats Are Lucky

In the folklore of several cultures, Tortoiseshell cats are believed to be good luck. In Ireland, Tortoiseshell cats bring luck to owners, and in the US, these cats may be referred to as “money cats.” In Japan, they’re believed to bring good luck against shipwrecks. Other cultures interpret the Tortoiseshell cat as a sign of bad luck, however, such as England.

2. Tortoiseshell Owners Believe Their Cats Have “Tortitude”

One study found that Tortoiseshell cat owners believe their cats have “tortitude,” or increased attitude. There’s little evidence suggesting this is based in fact, however—it’s merely the perception of cat owners.

That said, a 2015 study from the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine established links between a tortoiseshell pattern and a cat’s likelihood to hiss, bite, chase, slap, or scratch. Another study in 2016 showed an association with increased aggression and prey drive. More research is needed to find a definitive link.

a tortie persian cat
Image By: coryr930, Pixabay

3. Persian Cats Are Frequent Art Models

The Persian cat has been featured in art for centuries. One of the most popular paintings of a Persian is “White Persian Cat” by artist Warren Kimble. The “World’s Largest Cat Painting” also sold at auction for nearly $1 million.

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Does the Tortoiseshell Persian Cat Make a Good Pet?

Other than possible “tortitude,” the Tortoiseshell Persian cat makes a great pet. These cats are generally quiet, placed, and well-suited to apartments and mellow environments. Persian owners also consider their cats more affectionate and friendlier than other breeds but note that they’re vocal and fussy about food.

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Tortoiseshell Persian cats are a beautiful variety of the popular Persian cat breed. Though Tortoiseshell patterns can appear on many cat breeds, the striking markings look particularly attractive on Persians because of their long and luxurious coats.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: andres felipe Aristizabal, Pixabay

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