Tortitude - a look into the unique personality of tortoiseshell cats
Anyone who has ever met a tortoiseshell cat most likely has picked up on their "tortitude". Let's take a look into the unique personality of these beautiful cats!
What is a tortoiseshell cat?
Contrary to what some people think, tortoiseshell cats are not a breed. They are named for their distinctive coloring – a combination of patches of black, brown, amber, red, cinnamon and chocolate.
The size of the patches can range from a speckled pattern to large splotches of color. Tortoiseshell cats have have very few or no white markings, as opposed to calicos, who are tri-colored cats with larger areas of white fur (pictured below).
In addition to their unique personalities, torties also have unique genetics. The vast majority of tortoiseshell cats are female, because two X chromosomes are required to produce black, gold and orange coloring. Tortoiseshell and calico coats are the result of the interaction between genetic and developmental factors. The occasional and very rare male tortoiseshell cat is the result of a genetic mutation (roughly 1 in 3,000).
In addition to their distinctive coloring, torties also have a reputation for unique personalities, sometimes referred to as “tortitude.”
"They tend to be strong-willed, a bit hot-tempered, and they can be very possessive of their human. Other words used to describe torties are fiercely independent, feisty and unpredictable," Ingrid King, of the Conscious Cat, shared.
"They’re usually very talkative and make their presence and needs known with anything from a hiss to a meow to a strong purr. These traits are stronger in tortoiseshell cats than in calicos – it seems as though these traits are somewhat diluted with the addition of more white to the color scheme."
“I often tell clients that torties are the redheads of the cat world,” says feline veterinarian Dr. Fern Crist, who practices at Just Cats Clinic in Reston, VA.
“They are beautiful, but short-tempered and quick to wrath. Of course they are not all like that, any more than every redhead is – but I always approach a tortie with a tad more circumspection than any other coat color.”
While Crist takes a cautious approach to her tortie patients, she adds “I’ve always thought that the price you pay in tortitude, you get back tenfold in love.”
So, is tortitude a real thing?
Jackson Galaxy has worked with his share of tortoiseshell cats in his decades of helping cats with behavioral challenges.
“In my experience, tortitude is a very real thing,” says Jackson. “And now that there is a a study correlating coat pattern with behavior, our characterizations have been validated. Of course, anyone who knows me, knows I try not to talk about cats in generalities.”
Jackson feels that torties and calicos are more energetically sensitive.
“I think that’s part of the reason why their personalities are always on full display,” he says. “I’ve always said that cats are energetic sponges. Torties, however, just seem to soak up more, which is why they’ve got so much to say.”
Tortieshell cats are special
Those of us who get to share our lives with our tortie friends, we love and embrace their unique personalities.
It is important to remember that every cat, regardless of coat and breed, is an individual! While many torties might not live up or exhibit these unique traits, the overwhelming majority seem to live up to their reputation.
Do you have a tortieshell cat? Do they have tortitude?
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