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7 Interesting Facts About Tortoiseshell Cats

a tortoiseshell cat in a meadow
Image Credit: Ranya, Pixabay
Last Updated on November 21, 2023 by Nicole Cosgrove

There are few cats as naturally striking as tortoiseshells. These animals look like actual works of art, except you won’t get kicked out of a museum for petting them.

“Tortoiseshell” isn’t a particular species of cat, but rather it refers to a type of marking; specifically, a tortoiseshell cat is one that has two colors other than white. Most often, those colors are red and black, but you’ll also find orange, yellow, gray, and blue mixed in at times.

There’s more to these cats than just attractive markings, though. In this list, we’ll reveal seven interesting facts about these beautiful creatures.

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The 7 Interesting Facts About Tortoiseshell Cats

1. Tortoiseshell Cats Are Almost Always Female

The gene responsible for most of the colors that you’ll find on tortoiseshell cats is almost always found on the X chromosome. As a result, just like with calicos, virtually every tortoiseshell that you’ll see will be a girl.

There are some male tortoiseshells but they’re extremely rare. They’re also usually sterile, so there’s little chance of them passing on their special mutation to future generations.

a close up of a tortoiseshell cat
Image Credit: di_kd, Pixabay

2. You Can Find Tortoiseshells in Many Different Breeds

There are tortoiseshell cats in just about every breed, including purebreds and mixes. They’re also found in both short- and long-haired cats.

Some breeds are much more likely to produce tortoiseshell individuals, though. Japanese Bobtails and Cornish Rexes are two breeds known for having quite a few tortoiseshell members, so if you love these cats, think about adopting one of those two breeds.

3. There Are Two Different Types of Tortoiseshell Cat

There are two distinct types of tortoiseshells: mosaic and chimera. Mosaics have their colors mixed randomly, in large swirls and swaths across their body. Chimeras, on the other hand, have clearly demarcated appearances, with one color on each side.

Mosaic tortoiseshells are more common, but chimeras aren’t exactly rare. If you have a particular attachment to either type, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a tortie kitten that meets your needs.

a tortoiseshell cat sitting on a wood
Image Credit: Julieshoots, Pixabay

4. They Have Different Types of Fur as Well

Beyond the two color types, you’ll also find two types of fur: bridled and patched. Bridled tortoiseshells have their colors mixed tightly together, whereas patched tortoiseshells have large sections of each color all over their bodies.

The two fur types are equally common, so you shouldn’t have an issue finding either one.

5. They’re Named After Tortoiseshell Material

If you’ve ever seen tortoiseshell glasses, then you know how these cats got their name. Tortoiseshell used to actually be made of tortoise shells, and it was used in everything from jewelry to home décor.

However, demand for the material led to tortoises nearly going extinct, so in the 1970s, the switch was made to synthetic tortoiseshell. Tortoiseshell cats, however, are still all-natural.

tortoiseshell and white manx cat
Image Credit: PradaBrown, Shutterstock

6. Tortoiseshells Are Notoriously Feisty

Many people believe that tortoiseshells have more attitude (called “tortitude”) than other cats, and you’ll find all sorts of anecdotal reports that tortoiseshells have extremely short fuses. There’s even been a study that concluded that tortoiseshells are more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviors like biting, hissing, and scratching.

They may not actually be moodier than other cats, but it’s possible that they’re more sensitive to outside stimuli and changes in their routine. As a result, you should try to keep your cat on a predictable routine (unless you enjoy being attacked by your cat, of course).

7. They’re Considered to Be Good Luck in Many Cultures

Many different cultures around the world have a soft spot for these cats, and they’re almost universally considered to be good luck. In Scotland and Ireland, having a tortoiseshell enter your home is thought to be a sign that good fortune will soon come your way, and in the U.S., they’re actually considered “money cats.”

Perhaps the most effusive praise comes from Asia, though, where it’s thought that tortoiseshells come from the blood of a young goddess born of a lotus flower. Japanese fishermen also believe that these cats can ward off storms and ghosts, which does sound rather lucky.

a tortoiseshell cat sitting on the grass
Image Credit: XXXvaldemar, Pixabay

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What’s Your Favorite Tortoiseshell Fact?

Tortoiseshell cats and tortie kittens are absolutely beautiful, all the more so because they can be found in just about any breed. That gives them a variety of quirks and features that helps set them apart from other cats.

Of course, at the end of the day, a tortoiseshell is just a regular cat, with the same needs as any other. While they’re beautiful, they’re no more special than their regularly colored compatriots.

Then again, any cat that can deter ghosts is probably worth keeping around.

Featured Image: Ranya, Pixabay

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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