"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.



  • Amber Clark

    I have the tabby version of a tortie. She has been a bitchy momma since day 1. She was born at the animal hospital that I worked at and I picked her to be mine immediately. Fast forward almost 16 years and she’s still my sassy, bitchy, spitfire. I’m her person and she’s my soulmate.

  • Rebecca Houk

    I was given a male Tortie today and named him Merlin. Now I have to find a apartment that will let me keep him. I’ve been looking all day. I know there is one out there because Merlin is a Magician even at 9 weeks old.

  • Donna

    We have a tortie she is 11 never throws up but once , chokes like she has hair all but nothing comes up. Just adopt a 1 yr tortie and she does the same thing coughs like she has a hair ball but nothing Is it a tortie thing?

  • Deborah

    I have a female tortoise-colored cat name Charlie. She loves me and her original owner, my daughter, the most of anyone. She sleeps with me a lot at night. But during daytime and early nighttime hours her mood can change to a bitchy, mean cat who tries to swipe at you and has nailed me on occasion!

  • Robert

    I have a tortoiseshell cat. And I can say she does not have tortitiude. She is an outdoor cat we sometimes let in and is really scared of our goofball pitbull. She will hiss at him and hide under our beds. Anyway she is really loving and is always in the mood for some cuddles. Sometimes she has “Had enough” of our cuddles and starts to get scared. She will hiss at us but that’s it. Even if we try and grab her when she is in this mood the most she does is hiss. She even still lets us pet her during this time. Overall she is a really loving cat and doesn’t have much tortitude.

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