Tortoiseshell Norwegian Forest Cat

Every cat has special distinctions that make them the apple of its owner’s eye. Often, we choose our kitten or cat according to their personality and markings. One of the rarest cat colors is the tortoiseshell. These cats are a brilliant mix of orange and black and are often referred to as Torties.

While several cat breeds can have tortoiseshell coloring, finding a male with these markings can be quite difficult and leaves people asking the question, are tortoiseshell cats always female? The answer to this question is not every tortoiseshell cat is female. However, most of them are. If you want to learn more about this rare cat coloration, read on below.

Understanding the Genetics

To try and better understand tortoiseshell cats, you need to learn a bit about cat genetics. Boy cats, like human males, have both an X and a Y chromosome. Female kitties have two of the X chromosomes. The colors orange and black, which are the only tortoiseshell colors, are only present in the X chromosome. Each of these chromosomes only carries one of these colors, not both. What does this mean for male cats? Simply put, a male cat can only be orange or black. They won’t be a mix of both colors.

If you happen to find a male tortoiseshell cat, this means they are a genetic abnormality and will most likely suffer from illnesses and shorter lifespans. For these rare cats to exist, a cat must have an extra X chromosome. This makes their chromosome makeup, XXY. Mosaic cats also exist. These cats have XX chromosomes in certain cells inside their bodies, and XY in others. To meet a male tortoiseshell cat is quite rare and only occurs in roughly 1 in 50,000 cats.

It’s All About the Tortie

There’s more to a tortoiseshell cat than their coloring. When it comes to temperament, these cats are considered quite sassy. These cats also have a lot of energy. If you have a tortoiseshell cat in your home, you may witness random spurts of energy and a small tad of aggressive behavior. This aggression is not like that you’d see in a big cat, but it can happen if you bring one of these gorgeous, yet mischievous cats into your home.

Tortoiseshell cats are also considered good luck in many parts of the world. You’ll also find that different countries believe they can ward off ghosts, remove and fight warts, or even bring money and good fortune. This is why so many cat lovers strive to bring these uniquely colored kitties into their homes. Whether they are truly good luck or not, they do make great pets and loving companions.

tortoiseshell cat
Image courtesy of Pixabay

Where Do Tortoiseshell Cats Get Their Name?

Yes, it’s a bit obvious, but tortoiseshell cats get their name from, you guessed it, the shells of tortoises. Unfortunately, before the 1970s, tortoise shells were used quite a bit in jewelry making, eyewear, and home décor. These high-demand products led to the decimation of the tortoise population worldwide. Sanctions were introduced that put a stop to using true tortoiseshells and synthetic materials were made to make these products instead.

As for the cute kitties with the amazing colors, it’s clear to see where they get the name. The colors and patterns found along their coats are quite similar to those of a tortoise. Black, orange, red, cream, and yellow are all colors you may find mingled on a tortoiseshell cat’s fur. While they aren’t a breed of their own, their unique markings have earned them a special name to show their distinction.

Torties and Breeds

As we’ve mentioned, tortoiseshell isn’t a specific breed, it’s coloring. This may lead you to wonder which cat breeds can have these markings. Honestly, there are quite a few. Some of the most popular cat breeds that have been known to exhibit tortoiseshell markings are American shorthair, Maine Coon, British shorthair, Persian, Cornish Rex, and several others.

One interesting thing to know is that often when the tortoiseshell pattern emerges in a tabby cat, you get what cat enthusiasts have happily nicknamed, a Torbie. This is thanks to the tabby stripes and tortoiseshell coloring mingling together to create a colorful coat and a simply gorgeous feline.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to see that tortoiseshell cats are among the most unique and beautiful cats in the world. While they don’t hold the distinction of being their own breed, their markings are something of a legend. Thanks to the genetics that create these incredible colors, it’s not often that you’ll find a male of these species. But don’t worry, however, allowing the girls to rule when it comes to tortoiseshell cats is a wonderful thing. They’ve been doing it gracefully for ages.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock