20 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know about Tortoiseshell Cats

Some people are dedicated dog lovers and others would far prefer to spend the majority of their time around cats. For some, it doesn’t really matter what the animal in question might be because these individuals seem to have a natural-born connection with animals of just about any type.

One of the most remarkable things about the animal kingdom, apart from an animal’s ability to recognize a person for who they are and understand their feelings without single word ever needing to be said, is that there are so many different variations among particular breeds of animals.

Sometimes there is a particular combination of breeds that are purposefully combined in order to create something brand new. At other times this combining of various breeds happens completely by accident.

One of the most remarkable things is when certain combinations happen within a particular breed. In some cases, those combinations even cross the boundaries of breeding and appear in virtually every member of a particular species, even if the occurrences are fairly rare.

One of the more unique types of cats involves the tortoiseshell cat, given its name because it’s color combination tends to look something like the shell of a turtle. These types of cats don’t really come along all that often, but when they do, they are typically very popular, both with breeders and casual cat owners alike. Below are 20 fun facts that you probably didn’t know about tortoiseshell cats.

Even if you have a tendency to know quite a bit about different types of cats, this is a list that is likely to surprise you. Considering this is one of the more interesting types of cats out there, it’s good to know that there is a lot of information about them. If you really want to be surprised, just keep reading.

1. They’re named after the look of their coats

As previously mentioned, these cats got their name because the color combinations in their coats remind some people of the shell of a turtle. You have to be a little bit creative in order to make the connection, but the colors are definitely there.

While not everyone is quite certain of the technical name for these cats, virtually everyone has at least seen a picture of one. If you’re really lucky, you’ve even gotten close to one at some point in your lifetime.

2. They tend to look like a photo negative of a calico cat

If you still can’t imagine in your mind what one of these cats looks like, think of a calico cat in a photo negative or better yet, a black and white photograph. Where calico cats are mostly white, tortoiseshell cats are a much darker color.

They tend to have many of the same color combinations, replacing the white coloring with dark brown or black. Some cats also have grey fur where the white fur of the calico would typically be. If you really want to get creative, you might think of a tortoiseshell cat as a dirty-looking calico. With that being said, such a description doesn’t do the tortoiseshell cat justice.

These are beautiful creatures in their own right. Most people think they are just as pretty as a calico and in some cases, people think they are even more beautiful.

3. They’re usually female

Thanks to the work of genetics, most tortoiseshell cats are females. If you have previously searched for a cat of this type and virtually every one that you run across has been a female, it’s not just by chance.

You might have thought that you were just fortunate or that you were having a run of bad luck if you were looking for a male, but that isn’t necessarily true. When it comes to this particular type of coloring on a cat, it almost always appears on females instead of males. 

 But not all gingers are male, though most are. The reason is that in cats the color gene is carried on the X chromosome.

4. Male cats with this color are hard to find

If you read the paragraph above, you’re starting to get the idea that finding a male tortoiseshell cat just might be a bit of a challenge. The truth is, less than 1 percent of the tortoiseshell cats that are born are males.

The exact numbers are a little sketchy, but it’s something like one tenth of a percent. As you can imagine, this is going to make it extremely difficult to find a male tortoiseshell cat. If you do happen to find one, good for you.

However, your chances of finding a cat that looks like this are much greater if you’re willing to be just as happy with a female.  Either way, it shouldn’t really make too much of a difference.

5. Most male tortoiseshells are incapable of reproducing

If you think it’s difficult to find a male tortoiseshell, that’s nothing compared to finding one that’s actually capable of getting your female cat pregnant. Once again, you have genetics to thank. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to find a male tortoiseshell cat that is capable of reproducing.

In this particular case, incredibly difficult practically borders on the impossible. If you happen to find one, you’re doing better than most. The good news is that this color combination can appear out of just about anywhere so you don’t necessarily have to have a male tortoiseshell in order to get kittens that have this color combination.

6. These cats are highly sought-after

A tortoiseshell cat is relatively rare. Even if you have known a few of them in your lifetime, stop and think about how many cats you see that look like this as compared to every other cat that’s walking around.

They just don’t happen all that often. This makes them highly sought-after by people that want to have something that is just a little bit different. There is also some stuff in folklore that makes them more popular than most other types of cats.

This is stuff that will be discussed later on, so for now it’s good enough that you know that these cats are very popular with people all over the world for a lot of different reasons.

7. They occur in any breed

Tortoiseshell cats are not a breed in and of themselves. Remember, this refers to a color combination. In reality, a tortoiseshell cat can occur in any breed because it has a lot more to do with the way dominant and recessive genes create the colors of the coat than it does with breeding.

8. This color combination happens in purebreds and mixed breeds alike

You might think that the tortoiseshell color combination happens only in mixed breed cats but that isn’t necessarily true, either. In fact, it happens in purebred cats as well.

In some cases, people are somewhat less thrilled about it when the cat in question is a purebred because they are going for a certain look and in some cases, even a certain personality type. However, those individuals that are constantly searching for a tortoiseshell cat are usually happy to find one regardless of the breed.

9. It’s all in the genes

It’s important to remember that the tortoiseshell color combination happens because of dominant and recessive genes. The thing about this particular combination is that even when a lot of thought is put into the genes of both parents, this is still something that happens even when it’s not intended to.

It has a lot to do with the way that certain genes combine when an embryo is still developing and in some cases, it even has to do with two completely different embryos joining together. There are several different ways that a tortoiseshell cat can become a reality, and many of them will be discussed later on.

10. They can be either chimeras or mosaics

You’re probably scratching your head on this one. A chimera happens when two embryos join together inside the womb, effectively creating a single embryo with two distinctly different traits.

Once the kitten is born, this usually appears as a cat that is one color on one side of its body and a completely different color on the other side, almost as if a line has been drawn right down the middle of it. Sometimes this occurs only on the face and at other times, it occurs throughout the entire body. It definitely creates some interesting looking individuals, to say the least.

On the other hand, mosaics occur when something happens with the chromosomes and they join together in ways that don’t typically happen. You might end up with a cat that has an extra chromosome and that creates a very unique color combination. Most tortoiseshell cats that are not chimeras are in fact mosaics.

11. They’re known for their personalities

These cats don’t just look different, they act different as well. Just as the genes affect the way they look, they also tend to give these cats very distinct personalities. Cats in general are known for having quite a bit of attitude and they like to do things their own way.

These cats seem to have all of these traits in rather large doses. Make no mistake about it, some cat owners love this. In fact, that is one of the reasons that some individuals look high and low for tortoiseshell cats.

They like having one that has a very distinct personality, even if that means they have to work harder to develop an effective relationship with it. With that being said, you shouldn’t get the wrong idea here. Tortoiseshell cats, as well as calicos, are perfectly capable of showing affection. In some cases, they are among some of the most affectionate cats out there.

12. They can be feisty

The ability of a tortoiseshell cat to show affection has already been discussed. With that being said, there’s always a flip side. The flip side of this particular issue involves cats with this color combination that can be particularly difficult to handle.

For the most part, you can find one that you can develop a close bond with but you do have to be careful. Tortoiseshell cats have a higher tendency than a lot of other cats to scratch, bite and show other aggressive action, whether provoked or not.

That certainly doesn’t mean that you should refrain from ever owning one of these cats. However, it does mean that you should get to know the cat in question and find out what its personality is like before you take it home and discover that you might have made a mistake.

13. They’re tied to a lot of old Celtic beliefs

Remember how a lot of people think these cats can bring good luck? Much of this comes from ancient Celtic beliefs that are tied to tortoiseshell cats. More specifically, many people had the idea that bringing these cats into their houses would ultimately bring them good fortune.

As a direct result, the cats became extremely popular in Celtic cultures. This is largely why many people still believe that the cats are capable of producing good luck.

14. Many people believe they’re lucky

Another reason that people like to have these cats around is because there are a lot of legends, tales and folklore that make people believe these cats are basically walking good luck charms.

Of course, not everybody buys into this but a lot of people do. That is one reason that so many individuals typically flock to these types of cats. They think if they have one of their own, they will have more good luck and less misfortune.

15. People in the U.S. believe these cats can bring wealth

This is a rather interesting spin-off of the idea that these cats bring good luck. Somehow, people in the United States got the idea that owning one of these cats could somehow bring them wealth. Eventually, people started trying to own multiple tortoiseshell cats with the hope that they would somehow have money raining out of the sky and landing on their heads.

Believe it or not, this is still something that is believed by a lot of people. As a result, these types of cats are still in high demand throughout the United States, not just because they look cool, but because people think that owning them might make the rich.

16. People from Ireland and Scotland still associate them with luck

It seems crazy to think that people in the United States believe that these cats are going to bring them monetary fortune. Somehow, it seems less crazy when you think of people from Ireland and Scotland that still own these cats today because they believe that they bring good luck.

After all, this is the same area where this type of folklore began so it seems to make sense that it still exists to some extent. The cats may or may not have anything to do with luck but the people that own them have a tendency to think that their life will be luckier because these cats are in their lives. To be honest, most of this is probably nothing more than a matter of perspective.

The truth is, if people expect to be lucky then they tend to see the good things that happen to them more than focusing on the hurdles they have to overcome. It’s just like convincing someone that something bad is about to happen to them. Before you know it, they’re looking around every corner and they think that practically everything is negative in one aspect or another.

It’s an interesting study in human dynamics, to say the least. It boils down to this. People usually believe that they’re either mostly lucky or mostly unlucky. In either case, they’re usually right because they create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

17. They’re extremely popular in Asia

Again, this comes back to the cats being linked to good fortune. In Asia, these cats also serve as something of a status symbol. A lot of people want them because the cats are considered to be more regal than other cats that don’t incorporate this color combination into their coats.

As you can see, the cats are popular in different parts of the world for different reasons. All of it is good for the cat, and it is one of the reasons that you don’t frequently see a tortoiseshell cat running wild.

18. Some people think they scare away ghosts

If you don’t believe in ghosts, you’re probably either rolling your eyes or laughing hysterically at this one. However, if you do believe in ghosts you might be seriously considering getting one or two of these cats, maybe even five or six.

In ancient times, sailors had a habit of bringing the cats with them when they would go fishing. They actually believe that they were more prone to being attacked by ghosts out on the sea and they thought that these cats were capable of scaring the ghosts away.

It might sound crazy, but there are still people that get tortoiseshell cats just for the express purpose of keeping their homes free from things that go bump in the night. Obviously, this is a matter of personal perspective, but if you happen to be one of those people that believes in ghosts, it’s certainly something to keep in mind.

On the other hand, they might be just as bothered by spirits as any other animal. Quite clearly, this is something that you will have to decide for yourself.

19. They have lots of energy

Remember the part about tortoiseshell cats being a little friskier and feistier than a lot of other cats? They also have a lot more energy than most other cats. Granted, you don’t typically walk a cat but you might find yourself in a situation where the cat likes to play and run through your house a lot more than most.

Some people absolutely love this because they want an animal that has more energy and won’t spend as much time simply lounging around. Other people can’t stand it. The most important thing to remember here is that you should judge each cat for its own unique personality and decide whether or not to bring it into your home based on your ability to develop a relationship with it where both you and the cat can be happy.

If you can do that, great. If you have serious doubts about it, it’s probably a good idea to continue looking for a cat that is ideal for you as opposed to trying to make a situation work that you already have concerns about.

20. They tend to demand more from their owners

Tortoiseshell cats like attention and in most cases, they tend to be a little bit more demanding than most cats. If you had cats in the past, you know that the overwhelming majority of them come and go as they please and for the most part, they don’t really care if you shower attention on them. In fact, some of them distinctly prefer to be left alone and they’re not afraid to tell you this in their own special way.

On the other hand, the average tortoiseshell cat, provided there is such a thing, seems to have a tendency to want almost as much attention as a dog. They like to be petted, they want you to play with them, and they like to get up on your lap.

If you’re really looking for a companion and you like cats, this might be a perfect combination for you. If you like cats because you want a pet that doesn’t really bother you all that much, this could be a problem.

Again, it comes down to understanding that particular cat’s personality and deciding whether or not you want to interact with it on a daily basis.

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