"Tortitude" Is Real, And Other Fun Facts About Tortoiseshell Cats



Ready for some fast feline facts about Tortoiseshell Cats? These notoriously feisty felines are surrounded by some pretty cool facts - and fiction - from rare genetics to a pretty metal story involving the blood of a mythical goddess. Man, Torties are great. 

Tortoiseshell Cats Are Not Actually a Breed of Cat

Tortoiseshell actually refers to the cat’s coat color and fur pattern. Affectionately shortened to “Torties,” Tortoiseshell cats are named for their distinctive multicolored coats featuring a constellation of black, brown, amber, red, cinnamon and chocolate – and very little or no white markings.

Often confused with calico cats, who are predominately white, orange and black, the Tortoiseshell pattern can be seen in Persians, Cornish Rex, and the Japanese Bobtail - just a few of the many breeds that can produce a tortoiseshell coat, both long and short-haired.

Some variations of the tortoiseshell include "dilution," which results in softer, muted greys and creams instead of red and black. There is also the "Torbie" pattern, which is a tortoiseshell cat with tabby stripes.


Torties are Full of “Tortitude."

If you are the servant – er, owner – of a multicolored kitty like a calico or tortoiseshell, you might already know what “tortitude” is. But for those who aren’t aware, there is a bit of a myth surrounding our multicolored feline friends. “Tortitude” is often affectionately applied to a cat with a tortoiseshell or calico coat that also happens to have a bit more, well, cattitude.

Torties are known for being a bit more challenging, strong-willed, and can be possessive of their human. Other words used to describe torties are “fiercely independent, feisty and unpredictable,” according to Ingrid King, author of the Conscious Cat.

If your tortie has a bit of ‘tude, don’t worry – you’re not crazy for thinking it! According to a study from veterinarians at the University of California, cats with calico and tortoiseshell coats tend to challenge their humans more often than other less flashy felines.

Looking for a way to tame your cat's tortitude? Be sure to provide your kitty with plenty of indoor enrichment, like food puzzles or catnip kicker toys as an outlet for all that pent up 'tude! 


Torties are almost always female.

The color of a cat’s fur is inherited from its parents, much like our human hair color. Because the genes responsible for orange and black fur color in cats are carried on the X chromosome, torties (and other multicolored kitties) are typically born female. This fun feline genetic detail also applies to calico cats

About 1 in 3,000 Torties are male

Because each color is carried on a different X chromosome, a cat needs two X chromosomes to be born with a calico or tortoiseshell pattern, which means they will almost always be born female. However, due to a rare genetic mutation that results in an XXY genotype, a male tortie may be born. But that’s a 1 in 3,000 occurrence – a 0.3% chance! 

Torties Are Mythical

Torties - and calicos, too - are often the focus of folklore and legend. In the United States, they’re referred to as “money cats," being that male torties and calicos are so rare. In Scotland and Ireland, it’s seen as good luck when a male tortoiseshell comes into your home.

Japanese fisherman believed that bringing a tortie onto their boat would protect them from storms and ghosts.

Even the Khmers of Southeast Asia even developed an explanation as to the origins of a tortie: they came from “the blood of a young goddess born of a lotus flower during a magical ritual”.

Do you have a Tortie at home? Now you can get their photo printed on any custom item, like a mug or blanket! Click here for more details.



  • Erin

    When I was at the local shelter looking for a companion for my tabby that we found as a helpless kitten under our deck we immediately became cat lovers(I love all animals but kitties have my heart forever). I was walking through the shelter looking for a kitten and I walked by a teeny tiny Tortie and she picked me! I definitely didn’t pick her. Everytime I would walk by she would stick her front paws out and reach for me as if saying “take me take me” it was fate I had to have her. Both cats are 12 years old now and my Tortie definitely has tortitude! We call her the princess. She wants what she wants when she wants it(especially food my goodness can she eat)! She is a little munchkin cat she is about the size of a 6 month old kitten and her whiskers are only a about an inch and a half long and she can’t meow, she only squeaks. It’s absolutely adorable. But goodness she is so much heavier than my big boy tabby. You would never know my looking at her but she is a fattie alright! She also only wants love and affection on her terms only(my tabby loves being held and being loved on) my Tortie is a bit more aloof until she decides she wants some loving then she will NOT leave me alone. I will be sitting at the kitchen table and she will jump in my lap and force her head in my hands. Also when laying on the couch she will come over and lay on me especially if I have a blanket on. Torties are just wonderful and would recommend anyone wanting to adopt to seek out a Tortie.

  • ML

    Growing up we always had tabby cats. Lots of tabbies! I’m a sucker for stripes but any cat that would turn up, and loads did over the years, was part of the family if it wanted to be. Some were just with us during the heavy winter Montreal snowstorms . Some brought us kittens to look after. All strays. All gentle, sweet, fit in just fine with everyone in the family. They ended up being both in and outdoor cats which worked just fine where we lived I’m our neighbourhood.

    Years later as an adult living in a tiny city apartment I adopted a senior black cat, he was 8 yrs old when I got him; the sweetest most gentle loving cat I’ve ever had. When he died he was16 yrs old it was devastating. It has been about a decade now and I live in a house in the countryside. I knew I was ready for another cat finally. It’s too heartbreaking when they die. I need years between to recuperate! So circumstances led me to adopt what I thought was a calico kitten. I saw her sweet photo on the Humane Society web page and applied to adopt her immediately. She was 3 months old and had been part of a large “animal seizure” from a place that couldnt care for all the animals they had. Poor little thing weighed 3 pounds but she was a brave, gutsy little thing full of intense “kitten power”! Also she turned out to be a tortoiseshell not a calico! This is a totally new experience for me. Not only is she so gorgeous but she does almost everything with me! She’s a snuggler. She’s feisty and strong-willed. And I think she has saved me, actually. I live with a very quiet person who rarely speaks and I’m naturally quite sociable so I love"chatting" with my Tortie! She’s smart, loyal and gorgeous. The total package! My days of “freedom” are over though. I’m back to cleaning litter boxes (try to find clumping scent-free GRASS SEED LITTER, it’s environmentally better and works like a charm!) And…I can’t see ever going away on vacation again unless she comes with us….she’s changed our lives for the better despite these possible drawbacks to having a pet again, and I wish now that I hadn’t waited so long to adopt after my last one passed away. If you are on the fence about “should I or shouldn’t I adopt a cat” the positives outweigh the negatives as long as you are able to provide a stable safe home for them. And if you are lucky-enough to find yourself with a tortoiseshell beauty, so much so the better!

  • Pattie Silver

    I don’t have a tortie, she has me :). She is feral and has been coming around for about 12 years now. She justt started talking to me around last year. She had managed to survive, I’m SURE, because she is so very careful.
    She talks to me shen I come down the stairs to feed her, but will not come near me. She hides until I put her soft food out and go back inside.
    I love her so much; I just wish she would allow me to get close to her.
    Many years ago, she would bring her kittens out while I was gardening. That’s about as much as she has ever trusted me
    A few years ago the TNR lady did our village, and caught her at another Feral feeding spot, Thank God. No more kittens for her !

  • JM2016

    My stray-rescued tortie was always a bit more feisty in play than my marble tabby. Once, though, I heard her growling and spitting and hissing at the window—where on our rooftop was a strange cat! Very territorial. She also purrs and growls and hisses at the same time. She decided to run out of the weeds to where we were walking and there was no mistake she wanted to be rescued. Love her like the dickens.

  • Caroline Farrow

    It’s been a delight to watch my Tortie … a female who was a rescue , my plan in her rescue was to be company for a lap sitting black and white tuxedo coloured male…called Theo, her very first few hours of investigation of where she was and a visited with ,Theo on the windowsill , who was watching her. While I was watching TV she came along the furniture to my shoulder and nozzles me with a hug . I never had such a sweet animal favour me with such an show of an acceptance with approval. This tortie must be one of a kind she has manners , let’s Theo eat first .. I thinks she prays before she eats, to this day. Theo has gone to his rest , she searched for him still to this day occasionally.When he wasn’t well he would sleep in the bathtub for some reason , well a gift of two lovely pet beds came .. she would not use until I moved it in a spot she liked .. in the hall where she could see the door and in front of my room and bathroom. Well I had to move it from there , she wouldn’t use . It was just around the corner .. nope!! I decided to put it at the end of my bed in line of the main door .. success lol I love her pieces .. so impressed with her demeanour for an animal . We are best friends named her Cali .. At first because of her muted colours , thought she was a calico. She has a distinct twaint a beige hind paw .. vet called her little foot after a child’s story. So enjoyed reading about tortes .. ❤️

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