Tortoiseshell cat breed

Cat Tortoiseshell Breed: Genetics, Lifespan, Facts and Temperament

Tortoiseshell is not a cat breed but cat coat coloration.

This coloration is rare than most cat coloration you know. It was named tortoiseshell because of its similarity to tortoiseshell material. The cats have a combination of two colors i.e. black and red.

There is a variation of the black and red colors. Black can be substituted with brown or grey while red can be substituted with cream or gold. These colors make your cat very pretty.

Male tortoiseshell cats are known as one of the most beautiful cats in spite of their age and breed. Just like calicos, most of the tortoiseshell cats are female. Male tortoiseshell is rare but if you get it is likely that it is sterile.

The cats combine two more colors other than white. The colors are either closely mixed or in large patches. Tortoiseshell cats that have tabby patterns as one of their colors, and are sometimes referred to as torbies.

The name Tortoiseshell Cat is reserved for cats with small or no white markings. Cats that are largely white with tortoiseshell patches are called tricolor. If white is present, they are known as piebald, which you probably know as calico cats.

Genetics of the Tortoiseshell Cats

Just like calico cats, tortoiseshell cats result from an interaction between genetic factors.

The genetic determination of the coat color in tortoiseshell cats is linked to the X chromosome. One color is linked to the maternal X chromosome and a second color to the paternal X chromosome. This explains why most tortoiseshell cats are female.

In most cases, the male kittens have only one color because they have one X chromosome. Females, on the other hand, have two X chromosomes hence have more than one color.

The only instance you find a male tortoiseshell cat is when a cat is having Klinefelter syndrome. Klinefelter syndrome is a rare genetic condition which gives the cat two X chromosome and one Y chromosome.


Most cultures believe that cats with tortoiseshell coloration bring good luck. Since Celtic times, the tortoiseshell cats have always been believed to bring good luck.

Up to date, the Irish and Scottish still believe that if a stray tortoiseshell cat comes to your home, it will bring good luck. Tortoiseshell cats are sometimes referred to as money cats in the United States.

The lifespan of Tortoiseshell Cats

There are no available statistics that show how long tortoiseshell lives.

Their lifespan is, however, estimated to be less than 15 years for a male cat but a female has a probability of living longer.

The reason why males live shorter is because of a condition called Klinefelter. This condition makes the cat vulnerable to other problems. The problems may include:

  • Increased body fat. This can cause diabetes and heart diseases among other diseases.
  • A decrease in mineral contents in the bone, which can lead to bone fracture.

This means your male cat may not live for long.

Distinct Temperament

A study conducted by UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital showed that there is a relationship between coat color and behavior of domestic cats.

Word spread after the study was published that the tortoiseshell cats have a somewhat sassy temperament. This was quickly coined tortitude a combination of attitude and the name tortoiseshell. Many tortoiseshell parents will agree that their cats have high energy and are slightly aggressive.

Jackson Galaxy says he has not found tortoiseshell cats being feistier than average cats but believes that they tend to be, more sensitive to stimuli around them.

An interesting fact about Tortoiseshell Cat

One thing that former United States president Ronald Reagan and famous actress Lea Michele have in common is that they both added a stray tortoiseshell cat in their family. Michele reportedly found her tortoiseshell cat named Sheila, on a paramount studio lot.


Due to their uniqueness and coloration, tortoiseshell cats are always sold at quite a high price. The male cats may cost an incredibly high price due to their scarcity. A male tortoiseshell cat may cost between $1000 and $2000.


Tortoiseshell cats are known mostly because of their beauty.

Their fur is beautiful with unique color patterns which they retain regardless of age, sex, or breed.

The challenge comes in searching for a tortoiseshell cat, especially a male one. This makes it to be one of the most hunted breeds in the world.

Tortoiseshell cats, especially male cats, may cost quite a fortune. This price is however fair considering this beautiful and friendly cat will give you more than 15 years of the company.

Here are a few other cat breeds you should look at:

Orange Cat

Calico Cat

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