Learn everything about a tortoiseshell cat, facts, lifespan and more!

Are you thinking about owning a tortoiseshell cat? If so, you're probably wondering if the tortoiseshell cat is the right choice.

Well, let us tell you this. Your life will never be the same again with tortoiseshell cats. Moreover, why is that?

First and foremost, tortoiseshell cats are amazing companions. Aside from their remarkable coat pattern, tortoiseshell cats (or simply torties) have unique characteristics and lovable personalities.

So, what makes them different from other kitties? There are over 40 different pedigree breeds of domestic felines known today.  Not only that, but each race also has countless color variations and breed mixes.

In short, there’s a wide range of options to choose from which makes it so difficult to pick the best.

It's true that physical attributes and unusual coat patterns are essential features to consider in choosing a feline pet. However, we should also look into other essential factors such as temperament, characteristics, life span, and health concerns.

How about tortoiseshell cats? One thing is for certain; you can never go wrong with tortoiseshell cats. Moreover, we're here to convince you to get your torties now.

We will cover everything you need to know about torties, from general info to some fascinating facts about tortoiseshell cats.


Felines have the most unpredictable behaviors among the members of the animal kingdom. Moreover, tortoiseshell cats are the most convincing proof to that.

There are no definite characteristics when it comes to these kitties. It is deemed that no two torties exhibit the exact similar characteristics. This shows how unique these felines are.

Pet owners who own torties can attest to the uniqueness of these kitties. Some owners say that their torties are energetic and playful while others claim that their pets are calm and shy.

Some torties are friendly and sociable towards other household pets while there are also those that are aloof and hostile.

In other words, tortoiseshell cats have distinctive characteristics of their own. This makes it impossible to choose a particular tortie with specific attitudes to your liking.

If you intend to adopt a tortoiseshell cat, you have to accept whatever characteristics it has. However, look at the bright side. Your new tortie pet may surprise you in the most amazing ways possible.

It's like having your child. You can't pre-determine how your baby would look like. Moreover, it's impossible to preset a child's personality because it is innate in them.

Moreover, you have no other choice but to accept everything about your child. The same is true in choosing pets.

However, for whatever reason, being unable to predict how your pet behaves is what makes everything more exciting.


facts about tortoiseshell cats

Tortoiseshell cats are often mistaken for calicos due to their striking resemblance.

Calicos usually have three-color combination pattern of white, black, and red-orange. They often also have a mixture of colors all over, especially on their top side and back. However, they mostly have a white streak on their fur, particularly on the belly.

Tortoiseshell cats, on the other hand, have a mottled pattern and usually lack the white streaks that calicos have.

Torties typically have a combination of two colors -  black and red. However, there are also variations called dilute tortoiseshell cats.

Dilute tortoiseshell cats either have diluted blacks that may appear brown or grey or diluted red that may appear orange or gold.

Generally, they are called tortoiseshell because their coat closely resembles the pattern of the shells of the larger species of tortoise and turtle.

Personality and Temperament

dilute tortoiseshell cat

Some people believe that a feline's character has something to do with the breed. While there is no affirmation to attribute specific personality to certain races, the link between breed and characteristics is evident in some kitties.

However, that is not always the case. Specific breeds do have reputations for manifesting certain personality and temperament, although it may vary from feline to feline.

Felines are intriguing creatures. It's true that they share some similar traits and characteristics, but they're a lot like people personality wise.

Tortoiseshell cats, for example, are unpredictable felines with no specific or standard personality.

In other words, tortoiseshell cats are probably the closest felines to humans as far as personality is concerned. Most tortie owners still have something to say, however.

These kitties are very opinionated and are very independent. One of their most amusing traits is that they have this unique attitude that they are above anything else.

They are often strong-willed and hot-tempered. It is also important to point out that they are a bit possessive of their human. Moreover, they tend to get jealous if they see you petting other pets. Sounds exactly like humans, right?

However, just like any other furry felines, they are very affectionate and loving pets. Although they are fiercely independent, they would demand cuddles, and head rubs once in a while.

With that being said, take time to take them onto your lap and spend some relaxing time together.

10 Interesting Facts About Torties That Will Surely Surprise You

Tortoiseshell cats are fascinating creatures. To prove this, we have these ten fascinating facts about tortoiseshell cats to let you learn more about them.

1. Tortoiseshell cats are not a specific breed.

tortoiseshell cat lifespan

Let's set the record straight, once and for all. Tortoiseshell is not a distinct breed of felines instead the term refers to the pattern of their coat.

This also means that several breeds can be tortoiseshell cats. Moreover, the same holds with calicos.

Torties and calicos may look similar. However, unlike calicos, torties have fewer or no white on their coat.

The color combination of black and red makes their coat resemble the shell of a large tortoise or turtle. A variation of this coat pattern, known as a dilute tortoiseshell cat, has either diluted black or diluted red.

2. Tortoiseshell cats are predominantly female.

tortoiseshell cat

Torties are almost always female, and there's a scientific explanation for this gender partiality.

The X chromosome contains the code responsible for coat colors. This means that torties carry two X chromosomes that include black and orange codes in which females predominantly possess.

However, that doesn't mean that there are no male tortoiseshell cats. Male torties are rare though, but they exist.

About 1 in every 3,000 torties is male and finding a male tortie is a rare catch.

This is because they have a very slim chance of having orange coat color. Therefore, only male torties with an XX-Y gene will display a tortoiseshell pattern.

3. Male tortoiseshell cats are mostly infertile.

facts about tortoiseshell cats

Male torties are not only quite uncommon, but they are also prone to infertility. Their sterility is due to the abnormal chromosomal pattern and number in their cellular DNA.

As a result, the abnormal genotype contributes to non-functional tissues in the testes. Thus, they are unable to produce testosterone for reproduction.

Significant reduction in testosterone is a condition that also occurs in humans. Klinefelter syndrome features small testicles and infertility, a situation that is prevalent in male tortoiseshell cats.

Testosterone also plays a vital role in behavior and temperament. Male felines with lower testosterone levels are often calm and gentle.

If you're lucky enough to find a male tortoiseshell cat, then it's highly likely that you've got a pet with a sensitive personality.

However, if you happen to stumble upon a noisy and hot-tempered male tortie, then you're even luckier. This is because highly-spirited and feisty male torties are exceptionally rare.

4. Tortitude – unique tortie attitude

dilute tortoiseshell cat

The word tortitude is a common term used by pet owners to describe tortie attitude. So, if you’re planning about owning one, you might as well get familiar with it.

Considered as possessive pets with feisty personality, tortoiseshell cats are known to have a bit of an attitude.

Amusingly, they usually act like they’re the ruler of the house and feel like they own their humans. So, be prepared to be the servant if you want to adopt one.

If you happen to have other pets in the house, expect your tortie to be more dominant than the others. Moreover, you can't help but watch the ‘mighty' tortie take over because that's how they are.

Good for you, there are several ways to make them succumb to you. Just whip out their favorite treats, and you can watch them bow down at your whims.

Alternatively, you can gently give them a relaxing head brush to make them calm down.

Either way, you’ll need to keep up with their tortitude and know your place if you want a harmonious relationship.

5. What are torbies?

tortoiseshell cat lifespan

Torbie is a term used to refer tortoiseshell-tabbies.

Generally, tortoiseshell cats have more black than red on their coat. In rare cases, they may have more red than black, and this pattern is referred to as ‘reverse torties' or simply ‘torbies.'

Furthermore, torbies have tabby stripes and may have some red patches on their feet.

Some people may find the difference between torties and torbies confusing. If you see some tabby stripes on the black parts of the kitty’s body, then she’s a torbie.

6. Dilute tortoiseshell cats

tortoiseshell cat

A dilute tortoiseshell cat also has the same markings and patterns as true torties. However, dilute tortoiseshell cats have less intense colors making them appear a bit washed-out and faded.

Their diluted colors are what make them appear like a pair of faded pants.

Compared to torties, dilute tortoiseshell cats have lighter-colored fur. The variation of color intensity is the result of the combination of their chromosomes or genes.

Some of the most common patterns seen in dilute tortoiseshell cats are blue-grey, blue-cream, gold and silver that dominates the white.

7. Tortoiseshell cats are mythical.

facts about tortoiseshell cats

One of the most intriguing facts about tortoiseshell cats is their rich history.

There are several myths and legendary stories that surround tortoiseshell cats.

One of these stories dates back to the Celtic times when ancient people believed that male tortoiseshell cats would bring good fortune.

Another Asian folklore recounts that Japanese fishers used to bring male torties aboard their ships. Japanese strongly believed that these felines have supernatural powers that can drive away ghosts from their boats.

If you think these stories are ridiculous, wait till you hear about this one. Don’t you know that in some parts of UK, people use to rub a tortie’s tail on their skin to remove warts?

Whether they can bring in fortune, or act as Ghostbusters, or as wart-removal remedies, there’s no denying how intriguing they can be.

8. A Tortoiseshell cat served as a station master.

dilute tortoiseshell cat

In January 2007, a financially-struggling local railway in western Japan appointed a tortoiseshell cat as the station manager.

Tama, a female tortie, was adopted by the former station manager and has been a regular sight at the Kishi station.

Due to financial problems, the station was almost shut down in 2004. However, the company found ways to cut costs by destaffing the stations.

Since Tama has been living most of her life in the station, railway officials decided to appoint her as the station master. All she has to do is greet passengers as they enter the station.

For compensation, the railway provided a year’s worth of cat food and a gold tag collar engraving her name and position.

News about the newly-appointed (and unlikely) station master spread all over the country, leading to a staggering 17% increase in passengers.

Tama’s nationwide popularity was reported to have contributed 1.1 billion yen to the local economy.

In 2009, the railway introduced a new train on the line and named it ‘Tama Densha' or Tama Train. Moreover, in January 2010, Tama was promoted as an operating officer and became the first feline to become an executive of a company.

Tama’s surging career didn’t stop there. On January 2011, she was again promoted to managing executive officer. Then she was elevated as Honorary President of the railway company on January 2013.

Sadly, the adorable kitty passed away in June 2015 due to old age, leaving her legacy as the most influential station master of all time.

9. Tortie is the official cat of Maryland.

tortoiseshell cat lifespan

Some states have cats as their official animal symbol.

The Maine Coon, for example, is the official cat of the State of Maine. Moreover, the tabby cat has been named the official animal symbol of the State of Massachusetts.

In Maryland, a specific type of tortoiseshell cat with white patches orange/black pattern was selected as the state’s official cat.

The color combination perfectly matches the colors of Maryland’s official state bird, the Baltimore oriole and its official state, the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly.

10. The tortoiseshell cat is the symbol of good luck.

tortoiseshell cat lifespan

Here's one of the exciting facts about tortoiseshell cats. Ancient Celts believed that male torties could bring good fortune if you keep them at home.

Even today, Japanese and Scottish highly deem tortoiseshell cats (particularly males) as lucky creatures that can bring good luck.

In the United States, torties are also called ‘money cats’ due to this ancient superstition.

No one can tell if this notion is true or not. Well, Tama is an excellent example of how lady luck favors torties.

However, we will not be quick to assure that adopting a tortie would make you wealthy. There is one thing that we can guarantee though, a tortoiseshell cat as a pet would bring happiness and joy to your life.

Moreover, that is undoubtedly something that even money can't buy.

Health Concerns

tortoiseshell cat

Contrary to most beliefs, the color of the coat is not connected to a cat's health. However, this doesn't mean that torties are not susceptible to health problems that are commonly associated with felines.

A tortie's health condition depends on the breed as well as its lifestyle. Specific breeds are prone to particular health issues. That's why it's important to be aware of a tortie's kind and be cautious for the health implications that are common to the breed.

If the breed is specifically at high risk of significant health concerns, a regular visit to the vet can help you manage the risks.

Also, providing a healthy diet and regular exercise can optimize their overall health. This can significantly help prevent diseases and illnesses from occurring.

Tortoiseshell Cat Lifespan

Generally, felines have an average lifespan of up to 14 years. However, just like health concerns, a tortoiseshell cat lifespan depends on its breed and upbringing.

Certain breeds can live beyond 20 years just like the American Shorthair and the Siamese.

However, it is also notable to point out that in February 2015, a tortie set the record as the oldest living cat in the world.

Tiffany, a 26-year old black-and-orange tortie from California took the Guinness World Record from a 24-year-old kitty from Bournemouth, Dorset.

Unfortunately, Tiffany passed away in May 2015 at the age of 27. Tiffany is proof that any kitties, regardless of their coat color, can outlive the average feline lifespan.

Keep in mind that a well-balanced diet, sufficient physical exercise, and TLC significantly extend a tortoiseshell cat lifespan.


There’s no denying the fact that tortoiseshell cats have the most beautiful coat pattern in the feline kingdom.

Aside from their beautiful coat patterns, their unique tortitude and fascinating historical background make them more interesting.

They may manifest a bit of attitude to show their supremacy over other household pets (or even you) from time to time. However, that's the beauty of their tortitude.

If anything, you may even find their dominant behavior amusing and entertaining.

Living with a tortoiseshell cat is an everyday bliss because their engaging personalities are always on full display.

Those people who have shared their lives with torties claim that these adorable kitties have made their lives more colorful.

Moreover, if you're ready to add more excitement to your life, you should also get your own too!

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