All About Tortoiseshell Cats

Cats are acknowledged for having reputable characters, which can vary from playful and devoted to unfriendly and independent.

There are many varieties of cat breeds and lots of different colors. One coloring is the tortoiseshell, and felines with this kind of fur are recognized as Tortoiseshell cats.

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What Is A Tortoiseshell Cat?

The term “Tortoiseshell” was derived from the mishmash of different fur colors which resemble a tortoise’s shell. It is important to note that Tortoiseshell cats aren’t recognized as a type of breed; the name merely denotes the color of the feline’s coat.

Tortoiseshell Cat Characteristics

Tortoiseshell Cat

Tortoiseshell Cats are known to be extremely intelligent

It is known that no two Tortoiseshell cats exhibit the exact similar personalities, or “tortitude”. After verifying with hundreds of “tortie” (short for tortoiseshell) cat humans, it can be concluded that this type of feline actually has a wide array of personality characteristics;

  • Curious– Virginia greets her owners by walking over to them, staring at them, and then burrowing her nails into the owner’s legs to use them as a scratching post.
  • Compassionate– Amber is known as the “anti-tortie” – she is calm, a little headstrong, gentle, and quite shy.
  • Cheerful– Buckley’s tortitude is manifested in her excitement. She loves everybody and everything.
  • Clever– Allegra is highly sensitive to her surroundings and quick to respond to anything that she sees as a threat.

Those among us who like torties accept their exceptional personalities. It is essential to know that every kitten, irrespective of its coat coloring, is an individual.

Not every cat will show the characteristics attributed to these attractively colored felines, but the majority seem to fulfill their reputation. As far as we’re concerned, tortitude is real.


Tortoiseshell cats

Tortoiseshell cats have particolored coats with patches of various shades of yellow, orange, red and black

What distinguishes a tortie from a torbie (tabby tortoiseshell) cat is that the true tortie has the color black as its primary coloring.

We know, it can get awfully confusing sometimes, and the fact that torbies are used to be called reverse torties makes it even more confusing.

If a cat has any white in their coloring, even if they have a mixture of colors all over (black, brown, tan, red, amber, chocolate, cinnamon, etc.) they are referred to as a Calico cat.

Calico cats will often have a lot of colors in their fur, especially on their backs or on their top side, and the white streak will often be on the belly. So if you see a tortie with a white belly, it’s most probably a Calico.

Tama, the feline from the Japanese Kishi train station, is a well-known Calico. She gained her fame by being appointed to a station master position in 2007, and was rewarded with cat food.

Her presence at the station boosted the station’s popularity, which significantly contributed to the locals. She happened to be a celebrated and much-beloved part of the station, until her death in 2015.

Personality and Temperament

long haired tortoiseshell cat

Playful long haired tortoiseshell cat

Many people believe that there are steady guidelines to what a cat’s personality and behavior will be like, but that is not necessarily always the case. Lots of myths exist, attributing certain characteristics to certain breeds of cats.

Certain types of cats do have reputations for being a certain way personality-wise, but individual character will vary from cat to cat.

Tortoiseshell cats are a whole lot like people in a lot of ways. There are broad strokes of personalities, but every individual will be unique. That’s probably why we bond so well with our cats, they remind us of ourselves in some ways.

tortoiseshell cat lifespan

Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash: The average lifespan of a tortoiseshell cat is 10-15 years

In general, Tortoiseshell cats are thought to be very opinionated creatures, and somewhat aloof, going about their lives as if they were above everything.

They tend to be strong-willed cats, unpredictable, and independent. Real “cat’s cat”, if you will. But, as mentioned above, this is just a broad guideline and will not always hold completely true. All cats will have their own inherent traits.

These type of cats are located all around the world. consequently, many humans own Tortoiseshell cats or know someone who does.

However, there are several very thrilling facts about those cats that most people are not aware of. The uniqueness of these cats extends a long way beyond their shade.

Many humans simply do not realize how particular and special a Tortoiseshell cat can be.

Here Are Some Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Tortoiseshell Cats:

  • There are various types of Tortoiseshell cat coats: While the colorings of Tortoiseshell cats are usually described as a combination of black and red, color combinations may vary widely.
  • Their coats can have diverse patterns: Not only do the colorings of the Tortoiseshell cats differ between each single individual, but an array of shades can exist as well. Overall, there are two main patterns: patched and brindled.
  • Many cat breeds can bear Tortoiseshell cat type characteristics: As stated earlier, Tortoiseshell is not a specific breed of cats. It only refers to an outstandingly-colored coat. Therefore, Tortoiseshell felines can be either short or long-haired.
  • Many cultures around the world feature Tortoiseshell cats in their folklore: As these lovely cats are found in many places around the globe, they are frequently reminded in folklore.
  • They are thought to be a sign of good luck/ fortune: Even today, these felines are prominent figures for those who are superstitious. Many individuals consider Tortoiseshell kittens to bring good fortune.
  • These cats are denoted by various names: The Tortoiseshell Kitten has also been offered several nicknames, depending on their particular color and location.
  • They are super energetic felines: These felines are not only known for their coloring; they are also identified as exceptionally energetic cats.
  • “Tortitude”: Apart from their highly energetic characteristics, many people claim that these kittens are much tougher than other cats.
  • They are almost entirely females: Only 1 in every 3000 Tortoiseshell felines is male. The reason for this astounding dominance of female Tortoiseshell cats is genetic. The phenomenon which causes cats to be a tortie in the first place manifests itself almost exclusively in female cats.

Have a Tortoiseshell cat at home? Tell us all about what makes her so special in a comment below!


How long do tortoiseshell cats live?

The lifespan of indoor Tortoiseshell Cats is 10-15 years.

Are all tortoiseshell cats female?

Much like calico cats, tortoiseshells are for the most part female. Male tortoiseshells are extremely rare.

Are tortoiseshell cats hypoallergenic?

Tortoiseshell Cats don't possess any special coat qualities that set them apart from others, but they do produce less Fel d1.

How much is a female tortoiseshell cat worth?

There no need to buy a tortoiseshell cat. You can adopt one at your local pet shelter or rescue group.

Are tortoiseshell cats mean?

They're really not, tortoiseshell cats are extremely kind, friendly and affectionate

50 thoughts on “All About Tortoiseshell Cats

  1. AvatarPet Brain

    Hi had a tortoiseshell cat in the past and he was a combination of black and red. And I can confirm that he was a very energetic cat!! I miss him so much!

    1. AvatarHelp me

      There is this homeless abandoned cat that I take care of, but is mixed fur that has about almost equal quantity of colors. She is fully colored with no white, what type of tortie is she?

      <3 cat lover

  2. AvatarEmma

    My precious Tortie crossed the rainbow bridge on February 28 almost 4 weeks ago. I miss my baby girl, she was almost 13 yrs old. I have not felt a lump in my throat for years and now I can’t get rid of the lump in my throat and pain in my heart. I love you Shaak.

    1. Avatarxjennyx

      Your in my thoughts and prayers! Keep in mind, she is waiting for you at The Rainbow Bridge, you’ll see her again. Keep your heart and home open to another kitten or cat that needs a home, she’ll understand and be thankful you gave a home to a cat in need.

      1. AvatarMalcolm cole

        I have a beautiful tortie.. Named “CALI” she is now preggers.. She’s a very protective cat and very feisty, yet so very lovable…
        Wish i could send a pic of her..

    1. AvatarDenisia Goings

      I have a tortie & she is very energetic (she gets these Burt’s of energy where she runs up & down the hall like a crazy person). She is also very vocal & seems to think she is a human because she wants our human food all the time. She’s a cuddle bug & durning the day she is almost always on my lap.

      1. AvatarTerry Bell

        Mine is 17 1/2 years old, very energetic and still runs around the house. I love it! She’s so sweet. Definitely a lap cat and loves her toys. She too is very vocal. I thank God regularly that I still have her.

  3. AvatarAshley Bessesen

    Hello, we just adopted a Tortoiseshell cat on Sunday April 8th from the local Human Society. 2 weeks ago we adopted an American Bulldog. The AB has settled great. We are wondering when the cat will. She still likes to hide everywhere. Isnt social at all. Does anyone else have a dog along with this type of cat?

    1. AvatarSuzette

      Please, give her time…she is scared, as you would be if all of a sudden your in a strange place with folks you don’t know;…therefore she will hide awhile until she discovers she is safe.

      Many years ago when I was younger I adopted my first Cat who was a beautiful long-haired Tortoisehell kitten. She had so few other visible colors in her dark brunette hair that she looked almost black. This was my first kitten ever owned. After taking her home I simply placed a bowl of food on floor for her presuming she’d eat, but instead she refused to eat and only laid in one spot in the room. I had a small 2/room apartment and lived alone, so at least her environment was not chaotic. But, every day when I came home from work the food bowl remained completely untouched and fresh food offered during the evening also refused.
      Regardless, I bought and served many varieties of canned cat food and even a few dry foods, still she refused to eat.
      Also drank no water.

      She mostly laid in one spot and continued to starve herself.
      She was stoic, never hissed nor had any expression to give me a hint as to why she’s refusing food.

      Finally on the 4th day of her voluntary starvation and my great pity for her I picked her up and laid her in my lap for a long siesta with me, presuming this neurotic cat was starving into death.
      However, I had not previously sought to actually hold the Cat nor be involved because I had a very busy work schedule.
      And, in my youthful ignorance I just figured that as a Cat she needed no true communication because at that time like many humans I thought Cats being loners just did not need nor want the attention a dog requires.

      Anyway, presuming this kitten had probably starved herself after 4/days of not eating, I laid her in my lap as I rested after a long day at the job. After several hours she crawled onto my chest and laid there another hour or more as I slept.

      Later, I got up and took some raw beef liver out of the fridge that I’d bought for her hoping the fresh “kill” smell of raw flesh would entice her to eat, while also giving her strong nutrients especially to make up for all her starvation.

      WOW! She jumped on my legs screaming for the Liver and climbed up my legs onto my buttocks, dug her nails in screaming for the Liver.

      Yeah! I quickly got her off because those nails hurt, she gobbled up the raw beef liver. And from that day forward she began eating and kept eating.

      So I discovered the Kitten had been in a state of traumatic fear: when I first saw the kitten in the shelter she was curled up at the back of the cage while another larger kitten was bullying her and hitting her. So I’d actually brought a traumatized kitten into my apartment wherein her anxiety also increased because now she was in a strange place (at least she knew the residence of the cage) and with a strange human. Also, I had not sought any personal communication with her; SO HER FEAR FOR HER SAFETY CONTINUED TO ACCELERATE, UNTIL I DID THE DEEP COMMUNICATION WITH HER OF LAYING HER ON MY LAP AND ALLOWED HER TO LAY ON MY CHEST WHILE I SLEPT IN THIS COMPLETE UNPROTECTED POSITION OF MYSELF, AND THEREBY SHE THENCE KNEW SHE WAS SAFE, SHE COULD TRUST ME.

      1. AvatarAndy

        We adopted a tortoiseshell cat from the rescue center 18 months ago. She was dreadfully timid, hid most of the time. Scratched, hissed and clawed us. No way could we pick her up (she would turn to liquid and attack). So much so that the vet said there was little chance of this being much of a domestic cat (she was a stray who had lived on the city streets before being rescued). After 6 months she would let us stroke her and would play. After 9 months she was a full on house cat, coming to sit on our laps, roll over to have her tummy rubbed, and would follow us around the house. A few months ago we moved house and she was a bit nervous. The vet gave us some cat-pheromone spray and air ‘fresheners’. That helped a lot. After a few weeks she was fully settled in and is the most sociable creature you could imagine.
        Please give your newcomer time. Time to earn her trust. Give her lots and lots of love. It will pay off I promise.

    2. AvatarMary

      I have 2 dogs and just got a torty about a month ago..tookm@ week or two but she is berry very friendly and lays beside the dogs all the time.

    3. AvatarTammy Thomas

      Just curious if your tortie ever settled in. I’ve had my tortie since she was 10 weeks old, she’s now 8 yrs old. She has never come out of that ‘aloofness’. Most visitors don’t even know we have her because she doesn’t come out of hiding. She is not social at all, not even with my husband and I or our little Havanese dog. She won’t let us pick her up. She won’t sit on our laps. All she will do is walk near our chairs close enough to pat her back and head and will cry incessantly until we do. I sooo wish she wasn’t like this. She is so beautiful but sooo not much of a family pet. I refer to her as our resident snob.

      1. AvatarMickey2942

        Our “Torbie” is like this. She decides when she wants company. She is very high strung. But she does love her Daddy.

    4. AvatarMargaret Maas

      I have only the torti cat. She is rather shy but now that she know me well is the most loving cat I have ever had.

    5. AvatarC.C.

      When we adopted our tortie from Animal Humane, we were required to sign a contract that she would be the only pet. In the first few months, she would often hide and never made a peep. Though she eventually became vocal, she still does not like other animals. we tested the limits with a roommate who had another cat and a small friendly dog. Our tortie did not fare well. She started losing her hair and was nervous all the time, even aggressive/protective. As soon as the other animals were gone, she calmed down and the hair grew back. My cousin had a tortie that grew up with a lab. She tolerated the dog but they were never friends. As I’ve gotten to know others of this type, they do appear to prefer being the only pet as they are very protective and territorial, yet not overtly affectionate. Ours will sit in our lap now but still hates to be picked up or cuddled.

  4. AvatarLaura

    “kittens with this kind of fur are recognized as Tortoiseshell tomcats”

    FYI, tomcats are boy cats. As you say, torties are virtually always girls.

    It’s because the genes for fur color are located on the X chromosome. Females get two X chromosomes, males only one, so males get only one fur color plus white. The exceptions are XXY, Klinefelter’s syndrome (this can happen to humans too) and chimeras, in which two cat embryos merged very early to make one kitten.

  5. AvatarGabby

    Hey idk if this has to do with being a stray/ feral cat but Chester(my cat) will refuse to let me hold him or pick him up and chooses to still let us pet it and rub under his chin… how can I gain his trust so I can pick him Up give him a bath and maybe take him to the vet (he refuses to be in a cage or anything that isn’t our porch)

    1. AvatarC.C.

      We’ve had ours 10 yrs and she still hates being picked up or cuddled. I know she trusts us implicitly as she bares her tummy and lets us rub her belly or sleeps long periods in our laps. We just have to adjust our expectations of affection to match hers!

  6. AvatarRachel

    Yes!.. at her age of 24years you are Miraculously blessed to still have her and sharing your lives together.
    That sharing I miss so very much with the absence of my deceased Cat, as, well, as missing the Cat herself.

    It is so important to be able to share life with someone you love; it’s worth more than gold.

  7. Avatargail

    on september 24 2016 there was a tortishell cat outside my appartment building. i tried to find her owners, apperently they abandoned her because she had a litter of kittens. my friend and i were able to bring the kittens to the humane society. i call her princess. she has a moody personality. sometimes she is chatty othertimes quiet. i love her to bits. i rescued her and she rescued me,

  8. AvatarSuzie

    I have a lovely Tortie we adopted from the animal shelter 16 and a half years ago. She was the scrawniest and funniest looking kitten in cage #1. She mewed and purred so we took her home and have loved ber ever since. What good luck Tortie is for us.

  9. AvatarMarilyn

    I have a male tortoise shell, and was surprised how rare he is! One in 3000! I feel lucky to have him! Anyway,
    I have a question that I’m throwing out for anyone to answer or give an opinion on. Like all calico males, he is sterile. The vet, however, is still suggesting that I have him neutered. She said, depending on his hormone levels, he could still display typical male cat behaviors…such as spraying, etc. He is almost two years old, and I have witnessed none of these behaviors so far. Any opinions as to whether I should neuter him anyway?

  10. AvatarNicole

    We just rescued a stray tortoise shell kitten in our area. At the moment she is very timid and looks at me as I speak to her. Our neighbours are trying to trap the rest of the strays so they have shelter for winter months ahead. We already have four cats, three of them are 10 years and over but the fourth one is only 2 years old and she is a calico. We also found out that the mother of this kitten was our calico’s sister, so this ought to be interesting as our calico looked at the kitten and growled. I’m not worried as my cats do adapt to other cats. As for the kitten, she seems to want to wonder and explore, for some reason I suspect she might go in hiding in the house. So I think perhaps it is safer if I leave her in the cat carrier over night.

  11. AvatarMary Beth ColemanMary

    I adopted my cat from the shelter and had never seen or heard of a tortoise shell cat. I tried to wash the pink off her fur until I read about Torties . Her official name is Ugly Daisy but now I call her Daisy. She recently learned to touch my arm and kiss me for some “candy”.

  12. Avatarcrystal

    we just rescued a tiny bay tortie from the neighbors old dilapidated garage The tenants had moved out.. garage has big holes in roof broken windows full of garbage. It is freezing rain/snow windy very cold / The day after Thanksgiving. we went out on our side porch for a smoke and heard loud mew mew crying coming from neighbors garage..We coaxed out this tiny ball of fluff with a bowl of milk and tiny bits of chewy dog treats as that is all we had available at the time..She was frightened and shy but I grabbed hold of her and brought her in and she now has our hearts and a nice warm home with plenty food..that was a week ago. Took her to vet yesterday..They guess she is 6 weeks. healthy so far. no sign of mom or other kittens..

  13. AvatarJohn Hollis

    My tortie is the best companion and my best friend. Tiger has been with me for the past 6 years. Friendliest cat you ever met. Smart too. Torties are the best.

  14. AvatarBonnie Schultz

    I adopted a Torti back in 2004 from a client who told me a mother cat showed up on her doorstep. I wish I could show you a picture, she was absolutely gorgeous with a beautiful tan stripe all the way from the tip of her nose to her forehead with a white tuxedo chest. She was the most skittish kitty I have ever had. She was afraid of everything, including everyone but me. I think that’s why I loved her so much; I was the only person she ever really loved and trusted. She did not purr until she was 4 years old. She was very territorial, my bed was reserved for just the two of us. If any other cat came for love, she wouldn’t have it! I miss my sweet baby Chica, my beauty queen. She passed away 11 months ago from pancreatitis at the young age of 13. She will be in my heart and sole forever.

  15. AvatarSherri

    I have a 16 year old tortishell and she is far from being playful as of matter of fact she’s my big meany girl I can only pet her for like 10 seconds 😂😂😂

  16. AvatarKerry Ann

    I miss my Tabbi-girl (Tabitha) she recently crossed over the 🌈 rainbow bridge on March 8th (2019) she was turning 15 in June. She had so many vocal sounds. Not the normal mews, meows and purrs. Surprised this article never mentioned their wide vocal noises. She was my Hunter. If anything got in my apartment she was the one to get it. (Not that it happened very often and she was indoor only) also one thing I have noticed with torties is that they tend to be smaller then other cats of the same litter. She had 7 brother and sisters with only one other tortie (although her sister was a tortie and white and had with white paws) both sisters were the smallest of the litter where the other females were a bit bigger and the makes were much larger. The mother must have had a gene for
    the tortieshell coloring.(although she was black) Out of her two (13 kittens) litters she had 4 tortie and whites and one true Tortishell Calico and one calico kitten (white with patches of colors)

  17. AvatarPhoebe

    I hope my beautiful DILUTE Tortoiseshell lives into the 19 + category of years. She turned 14 on February 10, 2019. For those that don’t know, a dilute tortoiseshell has a muted color combination of blue and cream, some areas look gray but the muted blue is gorgeous, especially in the sunlight! Whereas the non dilute tortoiseshell has the mix of black and orange. She is the sweetest and best cat I have ever had. Smart, opinionated, loyal and a true lover of her human mom! She has to be in the same room with me during her awake hours and sleeps with me at night a lot of the time. She’s the cat love of my life!!

  18. AvatarTortieOwner

    We adopted a female tortie just a couple of days ago, and we totally love her. She is super energetic, exciting, fun, playful, curious and affectionate. While she is significantly smaller than our male cat, she is definitely a feisty little thing. She does not wish to follow his rules; she wants to create her own. I hope they will manage to develop a necessary bond, for they have to share the same household for the next few years.

  19. AvatarBob Jones

    I have a rescued tortoise now 5 years old who has never sit in my lap, doesn’t want to be petted, will fight if picked up and only speaks when she wants something specific ie fresh food ,water ect. She is very energetic, plays by her self and dominates our marine coon.she picks the spot where she wants to be fed, at times under the sofa or a hidden area. If we don’t follow her instructions she will back kick the food and refuse to eat. In spite of this I love little Patches.

  20. AvatarCelia

    I have adopted two Torties so far who found us and both have been very special forming quite a bond with me. As many other owners have said, they are very loyal affectionate creatures once you have their trust particularly as some can be very wary of strangers or new circumstances. My present Tortie is very intelligent and has come to understand quite a few words. At times, it feels more as though I have a dog as she follows me around when I ask her to come and goes to her bed when I tell her – extraordinary for a cat!!!! Although demanding, they reward you many times over with their love if you give them what they need – affection, playtime, attention and respect!

  21. Avatarangela

    I have a 19 year old tortie named Asia. She truly is so special and has so much character. Entitlement should be her middle name lol. She makes her own rules and I’m happy with that, as I feel grateful to be her caretaker. There is not one day I take for granted with her. She is extremely manipulative and highly intelligent. I wouldn’t change anything about her. The best thing I ever did in my life, was adopting Asia (formally Tigger) from the SPCA when she was 9 years old. She suits her name (Asia) so well. I cannot believe anybody ever gave her up as she is truly incredible.

  22. AvatarD

    Hey everyone i have loved reading all of these comments. I have a 10 year old calico tortie. Had her since she was lile 4 weeks old. She really is the cat love of my life. She is like a lil doggie. Very smart very strong willed very independent and aloof but so so sweet when she decides to be! I do feed her only all natural cat food but also bad treats lol. Hope she will be with me for years to come.


    My cat is confuseing because her mother is a claico but her father is a tortoiseshell cat. So she has the colors black ,brown ,red ,and white.

  24. AvatarC.C.

    We’ve had ours 10 yrs and she still hates being picked up. I know she trusts us implicitly as she bares her tummy and lets us rub her belly or sleeps long periods in our laps. We just have to adjust our expectations of affection to match hers!

  25. Avatarbrenda makela

    We have recently fostered a long hair tortie from a shelter…COVID19. She is 10 months…beautiful. It has only been 2 days and she is coming around. I can see the independent nature…though only two days with us. For one…she requires two litter boxes. One for each number (lol). Discovered that when the shower floor was used for #2. So…problem solved… A very pretty girl…

  26. AvatarDonna A Coulon

    I have a 15 year old Tortey. She has a thyroid and kidney issue. I know here lifespan inside, is 10 to 15 years. I hope she beats the odds. I’ve had her since She was 5 months old. Her name is Tuts. She is my heart and soul. Please send her healing energy. Thank you. DC

  27. AvatarJessie P

    I have a tortie, she’s less than a year old.. she’s a cuddle bug but she chooses her humans. She’s very much a daddy’s girl, but when he’s not around then I’m good enough to cuddle up with lol. She’s the sweetest cat, but sometimes stubborn. I would definitely say she has a little bit of catitude sometimes. She loves other cats and dogs, and shows no fear around anyone, very confident. The only issue I am having with her at the moment is she shivers a lot, mainly when she sleeps. I’ve never had this problem before with any past cats.


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