A Fun Guide to Tortoiseshell Cats

Tortoiseshell Cat
If you are looking for a cat with a coat that is a rich tapestry of colors and a personality to match - meet the tortoiseshell cat.
This breed of cat even has a rich history and according to Tortoiseshell Cats, a site in the UK:
Black cats have always been regarded as lucky, but stories about torties in particular go back to ancient times when the Celts believed that tortoiseshell cats brought good luck to their homes. It is still regarded as good luck in both Scotland and Ireland if a stray tortie settles in your home, and we certainly believe that any home with a tortie is a lucky one!

These are a beautifully painted, loving, and attention-seeking cat whose very history claims that they are a sign of luck.

But if you are wondering where they get their distinct look...

This is Where it Gets Confusing

As beautiful as the tortoiseshell cats are, it can be difficult to pinpoint certain things about them since there is not an individual tortoiseshell cat breed. In fact, the tortoiseshell coloring is what is found in a variety of breeds and is caused (or gifted) by x-linked genes. The name for this is the beautiful phrase, mosaic expression.
The other unique thing about the tortoiseshell cat is that most are females. It is only females who have two X chromosomes and you must have a heterozygous situation for certain x-linked genes in order for a tortoiseshell cat to be possible.
There are males of course, but not only are they rare but they are usually sterile. However, since this cat is created due to chromosomes, not breeding - there isn't a chance that they'll die out due to not having males.
So, if you have a tortoiseshell cat as a companion, you should know that this is one very unique and special kitty. No wonder they are considered good luck.

What About Lifespan, Health, and Characteristics?

Tortoiseshell Cat Photo
This is a harder question to answer since this is not a specific breed. A typical cat's lifespan is around 15 years and as far as health considerations, keep your tortoiseshell cat healthier by regular vet visits and keeping it indoors with plenty of good food, fresh water, and interactive toys.


This was mentioned earlier and tortitude is one thing that tortoiseshell cats have in spades. This is indicative of their distinct personality. While they may not be a specific breed, they certainly have a lot of charisma.
The tortoiseshell cat is very much the attention seeker. They will demand attention from their owners by wanting cuddles and petting. In fact, you may find that they are quite possessive but not in a strange ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend way, thank goodness. More like wanting to be around you constantly and in this case, that is a good thing.
The tortoiseshell cat even loves attention from strangers so while you'll get their full attention, they may just surprise you by attaching themselves to anyone who comes into your home - including the cable guy! But don't worry, that is just a brief distraction; it's you that they love - really!
Have you been fortunate enough to have a tortoiseshell cat as a companion? What do you think of the colors? Let us know in the comments below.


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Christine Whitt
Christine Whitt


4 Responses

Emily Chandler
Emily Chandler

May 10, 2019

I actually have three torties of my own. The oldest is 5yrs old and she was a blessing in disguise. She is just the sweetest and cutest thing I could ask for. Then the other two I got from a local shelter and they were in the same cage together so I had to take them both home, though I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Once they got settled it was like they both had totally new personalities, they definitely got the tortitude part checked.


April 30, 2019

I wasn’t planning to get a cat but last February I went to visit my mom and a 2-3 month old kitten jumped in my car. I checked around and the manager said it was a stray, being taken to the SPCA that day. I took her home instead. I didn’t realize until later when her colors started changing that she was a tortoiseshell.She transformed from a dark brownish/ black kitten to a brown and gold beauty. Her hair is fairly long and sunlight makes her glow. I don’t know about her bringing good luck but she has certainly been a bright spot in my life this last year.


January 04, 2019

Took in a stray tortie.. or… she came in and i couldn’t pick her up due to agression so she stayed. more her decision than mine. But i love her so much now and can’t think of being without her. Very distinctive personality, who she likes and who she dislikes, whats she eats and won’t eat and “talks” a lot. She goes crazy once or twice a day and attacks and plays with everything in range. Adorable. All my friends are so afraid of her but she’s just a little furry cuddle cat.


December 22, 2018

I just found my tortoiseshell cat on the street. I didnt evan now she was a toiseshell was in till she came home frome the vet.. For what i seen of my new friend they are great she sleeps with me all night long. Now i can barge about her and all thes now facts thanks.

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