9 Awesome Facts About Tortoiseshell Cats


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Is it true that tortoiseshell cats have an attitude?

Tortoishell cats are thought to be feisty cats with a lot of personality, often called ‘tortitude’.

But what are they really like, and what is this type of cat really about?

In this article, we’ll find out as I go through 9 awesome facts about tortoishell cats.

9 Awesome Facts About Tortoiseshell Cats

My name is Derrick, and I write for Simply Cat Care. Our goal with this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats. This is a lighthearted article to learn a bit more about tortoiseshell cats.

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions relating to your cat’s health.

Let’s look at what will be in this article

Let’s get into the article.

9 Facts About Tortoishell Cats

1. Tortoiseshell Cats Come In Unlimited Types

There are no two types of tortoiseshell cats that are the same.

This is because the variation of colors comes from inactivated X chromosomes. A lack of pigment forms from this inactivation.

These sites of inactivation occur at random. This means the coat has blotches of colors at different points on all tortoiseshell cats.

Moreover, there are further color variations depending on the presence of the dilution gene.

If this gene is recessive, it modifies the black part of the tortoiseshell to a grey or cream color.


Tortoiseshell is a way of describing the pattern of a cat and isn’t a breed. That means the pattern appears on a wide variety of different breeds of cats, resulting in many interesting possibilities.

Learn more awesome facts about cat patterns here.

Maine Coon tortoiseshell kittens

2. Do Tortoiseshell Cat’s Have An Attitude?

Not necessarily.

Many people claim that tortoiseshell cats are feisty. The name for this is ‘tortitude’.

However, this belief is based on public perception rather than hard evidence.

Color and pattern don’t make a lot of difference in personality beyond breed type.

Neutering and housing conditions do affect a cat’s behavior. Intact cats may be more aggressive in general than neutered cats.

That said, I’ve had a tortoiseshell cat who was very feisty and independent growing up.

Your mileage may vary!

3. Tortoishell Cats Are Associated With Good Luck

Unlike black cats which have a reputation of being bad luck, tortoiseshell cats are associated with good luck.

According to folklore, Japanese fishermen carried male tortoiseshell cats to protect them from ghosts.

In East Asia, the Kymers thought tortoiseshells were born from a lotus flower.

4. Where Does The Name Tortioseshell Cat Come From?

The name tortoiseshell comes from the pattern and colors being similar to that of an actual tortoiseshell.

Tortoiseshells are used for ornaments and other household items.

Their distinct colors and patterns are attractive for consumers.

5. Most Tortoiseshell Cat Are Female

Many tortoiseshell cats are female, and there’s a good reason for this.

The X chromosome encodes color. Females have two X chromosomes.

Silenced (i.e. turned off) X chromosomes don’t produce the same color as the other X chromosomes.

This leads to the blotches of colors on the tortoiseshell cat.

Males have one X and one Y chromosome.

They get color pigment encoded on the X chromosome and either become black or orange. There’s no combination of the two.

If a tortoishell gives birth to two male cats, they may come out as one orange and one black cat depending on what X chromosome they got.

A tortoiseshell cat’s litter. Notice how there’s one tortoishell kitten, two black kittens, and two orange kittens. This is because a tortoiseshell can give birth two a range of litter depending on their gender and what X chromosome they get.

6. Male Tortoiseshell Cats Are Rare

Males have an X and a Y chromosome.

A tortoiseshell cat needs two copies of the X chromosome to display the tortoiseshell pattern.

This means a male can’t be a tortoishell under normal circumstances.

It’s only with a genetic mutation that produces an extra X chromosome, that tortoiseshell patterns are possible for males.

The most common mutation is an XXY karyotype. Male tortoiseshell cats have a few characteristics that include small size and infertility.

7. Tortoiseshell Cats Have An Average Lifespan?

Cats live an average of 16 years.

Some breeds tend to live longer than others.

Tortoiseshell cats aren’t a breed, so their lifespan varies depending on lifestyle factors and their underlying breed.

Check out my article on cat lifespan to learn more about how to help your cat live a longer and healthier life.

8. Tortoiseshell Cats Are Mosaic or Chimera Types

If a tortoiseshell cat has a different color on each side, it’s said to be a chimera type.

A mosaic pattern is a random smattering of the two colors placed over the cat and is more common than the chimera.

A tortoiseshell cat with a mosaic pattern. This is the most common pattern type.
A tortoishell cat with a chimera pattern. This is less common and involves a division of colors on each side.

9. A Calico Cat Is A Tortoiseshell Cat With White Patches

A calico cat is very similar to a tortoiseshell.

This type of cat has a greater proportion of white on its coat. The KIT gene (W/w) is responsible for the white part of a cat’s coat.

There are two forms of the dominant white gene, the white spotting or the dominant white gene.

A dominant homozygote for the latter will result in a default white cat, whilst the former results in a spotted white cat (e.g. calico cat).

A calico cat is the same as a piebald cat, with the two colors from the X chromosomes on top.

White patches are due to pigment cells not multiplying enough during the embryonic stage of development. This means not enough cells go from the back (where they start) to the front of the cat.

That’s why the white patches of the cat are on the front (belly side) of the calico cat, and not the back or rest of the body.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Tortoiseshell Cat?

A tortoiseshell cat is a coat pattern that has a mixture of two colors.

What Do Tortoiseshell Cats Look Like?

The main colors of a tortoiseshell are black and orange, although there are variations (e.g. grey).

Some tortoiseshell cats have a small amount of white on their coat, although these cats are often referred to as calico cats or tricolor cats.

Since they are not breeds, they have a variety of coat lengths and eye colors.

No two tortoiseshell cats look exactly the same.

Are Tortioseshell Cats Hypoallergenic?

It depends on the breed of the cat.

Tortoiseshell cats are a type of pattern and not a breed.

The breed of a cat and coat length may influence the allergenicity of a cat, but this isn’t proven.

How Much Do Tortoiseshell Cats Cost?

Costs range depending on the breed of the cat.

Some cats may range in the hundreds or thousands if they are purebred.

Shelter cats are usually more affordable options for adoption.

Are Tortoiseshell Cats Mean?


There’s little evidence that colors or patterns link to personality.

A cat’s personality depends on the breed and its development from a kitten to an adult.

How Do You Look After A Tortoiseshell Kitten?

Like any kitten, you have to make sure you are prepared.

Have you set up your house in a cat-friendly way?

All kittens need access to the litter box for training purposes. Check out my article on tips for training your kitten for litter box usage.

Make sure you have the right nutrition for your tortoiseshell kitten. Read my top choices for kittens to learn more about what to feed your kitten.

Speak with your vet for more about worming, toys, and other considerations for your new kitten.

Do Tortioseshell Cats Have Any Health Problems?

Male tortoiseshell cats are usually sterile.

Other than that, there aren’t any specific issues for tortoiseshell cats.

Some breeds may be predisposed to more health issues.

Speak with your vet for more information.


In this article, I talked about tortoiseshell cat facts.

Tortoiseshell cats are a color and pattern type, not a breed. This means their personality, health, lifespan, and coat length is dependant on their breed.

This type of cat is usually female due to genetics. Female cats have two X chromosomes. If one copy of the X chromosome is silenced, the cat will have a mixture of tortoiseshell colors.

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We may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for yourself. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. As a Chewy affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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