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About Tortoiseshell Cats

In brief:

  • Not a true breed, tortoiseshell is the name of the beautiful colourings on this type of Domestic Short Haired cat.
  • Can occasionally fancy themselves as alpha cats.
  • Love to be held in small doses, very affectionate.
  • Great for older people or families.

  • Origins

    The history of the Tortoiseshell is rich in myth. A Khmer legend from South East Asia tells how the first Tortoiseshell was created from the blood of a young goddess. While its true origins are somewhat less exotic (the result of an interaction between genetic and developmental factors) many cultures believed them to be good luck charms. Japanese fishermen carried male Tortoiseshells on board their ships to protect them from ghosts and storms. And Ancient Celts welcomed Tortoiseshell tomcats into their homes as a good omen.

    Personality, characteristics and temperament

    Tortoiseshell cats (or Torties for short) are well known for their colourful woven coats, resembling fallen autumn leaves. At first glance they look like a mixture of two colours, red and black, along with variations of these in lighter shades and creams. Occasionally, patches on a Tortoiseshell may be of the tabby nature, resulting in what is sometimes called a Torbie. Add white patches to the mix and the cat becomes a Calico. Tortoiseshell cats are usually very active, sassy and playful and are extremely loveable, making them great pets for everyone, from older people through to young families.

    Health and Care

    Tortoiseshells live 10-12 years on average and are healthy in general, although an annual health check from the age of 8 is recommended. Care must be taken not to overfeed this pet, as obesity can be a problem in some, especially in older years when they become less active around the house and garden.


    Torties often fancy themselves as alpha cats, which can occasionally cause problems if you have more than one cat. This is truer of the Calico type than the regular Tortoiseshell. They are however, some of the most affectionate cats around, and this is a cat that loves to play. A friendly Tortie will make a great all-round addition to a loving family home.


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