“Tortitude” – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats

tortitude tortoiseshell cat personality

Tortoiseshell cats are named for their distinctive coloring – a combination of patches of black, brown, amber, red, cinnamon and chocolate.  The size of the patches varies from a fine speckled pattern to large areas of color.  The term “tortoiseshell” is used for cats with brindled coats that have few or no white markings.  Cats of this coloring with larger areas of white fur are called calicos. Sometimes, these colors present in lighter versions such as lilac or cream.  Torties with this lighter coloring are called dilute torties.  Occasionally, the typical tortoiseshell colors are also seen in a tabby (striped) pattern, and these cats are sometimes referred to as “torbies.”

Tortoiseshell cats are almost exclusively female.  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.

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.  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.

As of the writing of this post, I share my life with Amber*, and those of you who’ve followed this blog for a while have gotten to know her in her Amber’s Mewsings posts.  You will soon be able to read all about Buckley in Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master TeacherThe photo above shows Buckley in the front, Amber behind her.

Prior to Amber and Buckley, there was another tortie in my life.  Virginia was the first office cat at the animal hospital I managed.  She was my introduction to torties, and my love affair with this particular type of cat began with her.  She, too, had the “tortitude” I so love about these particular cats.

Do you have a tortie or calico in your life?  Does she have “tortitude?”

*Sadly, Amber passed away on May 13, 2010, after a sudden, brief illness.  I now share my life with Allegra and Ruby, two tortoiseshell cats who have their own columns here on The Conscious Cat, titled Allegra’s World and Ruby’s Reflections.

Photo ©Ingrid King, all rights reserved

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14,272 Comments on “Tortitude” – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats

  1. Lynn G
    October 3, 2015 at 7:40 am (7 days ago)

    Gawd it’s been forever! Anyway, just wanted to check in and let everyone know the girls and I are doing well. Strangly enough, Shanks, who came along and stopped Monkey from bullying Peaches, had become Peaches’ bully. My “Metal Voice” doesn’t phase her either, she’s totally oblivious. So I’ve started, at the first sign of aggresion, calmly picking her up and shutting her in the back room for a little while. Her and Monkey and still besties, so by the time I let her out, she’s so glad to see Monkey, she’s forgotten all about bullying poor old elderly bitchy Peaches

    • Lynn G
      October 3, 2015 at 7:42 am (7 days ago)

      OMG the typos! LOL… Shanks HAS become Peaches’ bully, and she and Monkey ARE still besties!

      • Lynn G
        October 3, 2015 at 7:45 am (7 days ago)

        AND I misspelled Aggression. I’m batting 1000 today! LOL

    • Ingrid
      October 3, 2015 at 9:21 am (7 days ago)

      Good to hear from you, Lynn, and I’m so glad all is well with the girls. Sounds like you’re handling Shanks perfectly, um, I mean, purrfectly.

  2. Glen
    September 24, 2015 at 10:01 pm (2 weeks ago)

    On Wed., Sept. 23rd, I took a vacation day to get some things done outside, around home.

    Gigi would prefer that I stay inside with her.

    It seems to be OK if I leave the area, but if I am out in the yard, she knows it, and thinks she should be with me.

    For the first 3 or so hours I was out, she waited by the back door, something she only does if I am out in the yard or working in the garage.

    Kasey used to do this too but Gigi might just be even more prone to it. In some ways, I feel bad for her, waiting like that.

    • Ingrid
      September 25, 2015 at 6:00 am (2 weeks ago)

      It’s so sweet that she does this! You need to get her a webcam so she can see you even when you’re not within eyeshot… 😉

    • Jay
      September 25, 2015 at 10:16 am (2 weeks ago)

      Every night I come home from work I have 7 cats waiting for me. The 2 kittens/youngest ones – Tabasco and Onyx try to be 1st, Diver is always there and Frankie pushes his way thru as he loves scratches. Styx walks over slowly for a sniff to make sure it’s me and then a chin rub. Eclipse used to stay away but now will run to a nearby scratching post and claw like crazy. Then I can give him an ear scritch. Arianrhod is always last and will let me stroke her fluffy tail and give her head rubs. Being a Goddess she needs special attention. Bernies cats on the other hand will show up maybe when she comes home. And that is only to make sure she brought in treats.

  3. Glen b
    September 13, 2015 at 8:03 am (4 weeks ago)

    Kittens that don’t grow up?

    Does anyone else have one?

    Tim has just passed his 3rd birthday and shows no sign of slowing down.

    Pretty much has two speeds, sleep and run. He has the activity level of a 12 week old kitten. Everything is to play with and any stimuli results in joyous running through the house.

    He seems smart enough, just mentally immature.

    I don’t know if it is nature or nurture. He arrived three years ago, young enough to still require bottle feeding. He has basically only known this house and that people are here to feed, look after and entertain him, so I think that may be a contributing factor.


22Pingbacks & Trackbacks on “Tortitude” – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats

  1. […] intolerance. Those of us who love our torties for their unique personalities, also known as “tortitude,” may disagree with this assessment. Torties tend to be strong-willed, a bit hot-tempered, […]

  2. […] most of you know, I’m partial to tortoiseshell cats. People often think that torties are a breed, but they’re not. The name simply refers to […]

  3. […] most popular post is Tortitude: The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats. I wrote this post about torties’ distinct personalities in August of 2009. As of this writing, […]

  4. […] on The Conscious Cat which extolled the unique appearance and personality of tortoiseshell cats, ” ‘Tortitude’: The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats“. I had recently met the author Ingrid King at a Cat Writers’ Association conference […]

  5. […] all began on August 17, 2009, when I wrote a post titled Tortitude – the Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats. The post features one of my favorite photos of Amber and Buckley, and rapidly became one of the […]

  6. […] also know that they are very unique when it comes to their personalities, often known as “tortitude.” And now scientists are finding that tortoiseshell cats also show the limits of […]

  7. […] cats already know that they’re unique when it comes to their personalities, also known as tortitude. They also have unique genetics. The vast majority of tortoiseshell cats are female, because two X […]

  8. […] most amazing example of how a blog can connect people is a post I wrote in August of 2009 titled Tortitude – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats. The post has generated more than 9000 comments, and has turned into the online home of a community […]

  9. […] though I have no scientific evidence, in my experience, when it comes to being talkative, tortoiseshell cats have most other cats beat. Buckley was one of the most vocal cats I’ve ever come across. She […]

  10. […] by one of our favorite blog authors over at the Way of Cats. Another one of our fav bloggers, Conscious Cat, goes into incredible detail and depth about this magical coloring and personality combination. She […]

  11. […] Or at least all the torties are talking to each other. That in itself is unsettling—imagine a world run by “tortitude”! […]

  12. […] imagine my delight when I found this […]

  13. […] adult tortoiseshell cats to each other. If you know anything about torties, you know about “tortitude.” They’re known to have some pretty distinct personality traits, and they’re not […]

  14. […] me to this type of cat. And apparently I’m not alone. In August of 2009, I wrote a post titled Tortitude: The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats, which, as of this writing, has more than 5300 comments and has become so much  more than just a […]

  15. […] all began on August 17, 2009, when I wrote a post titled Tortitude – the Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats. It rapidly became one of the most popular posts on this blog. When you google “tortoiseshell […]

  16. […] Allegra, behind The Conscious Cat website and author of the blog post that brought us all together, “Tortitude”—the Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats. I had met Ingrid at a Cat Writer’s Association conference in 2009 and purchased her book the […]

  17. […] And you can also visit “Tortie Cats Anonymous” on The Conscious Cat, a community of people owned by tortoiseshell cats who correspond in comments on a blog post. […]

  18. […] Zen the cat is almost entirely herself again after a terribly close call, and I am overjoyed. She is eating and drinking without incident, and her usual playfulness has returned. Her throat seems a bit scratchy yet, but she is regaining some of her talkative tortitude. […]

  19. […] a kitten, I’m a tortie kitten!  It’s a good thing that Mom understands about “tortitude,” because she says I have it in spades! var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; […]

  20. […] was the poster child for “tortitude” – that unique personality of tortoiseshell cats.  She had definitely read the […]

  21. […] it—Buckley took to her new life with great enthusiasm (though not without some of the expected “tortitude”). “Buckley loved everyone,” writes King. “She checked out anyone who came into the office […]

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