Conscious Cat

August 17, 2009 13,913 Comments

“Tortitude” – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats

Posted by Ingrid

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



13,913 comments to ““Tortitude” – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats”

  1. Bernie says:

    Hi everyone. Well I some of you know that Jay commissioned Bernadette Kazmarski, artist and writer to do a portrait of Steeler. Jay told you all he had did this. I told you all you would have to wait to see this beautiful piece of art, until Bernadette did her story on the portrait and Steeler. Well today she has blown me out of the water with a beautiful article with the portrait of Steeler and even showing the portrait I commissioned for Jay a couple of years ago for father’s day. Please everyone go to her Creative and see her very fantastic works of art. I have waited for her to do her story before I would show the portrait. Bernadetter, you are one of the very beautiful and good people in this world. Thank you for being so special and bringing my Steeler to life with your words and portrait.

    • Ingrid says:

      What a wonderful portrait! Bernadette has a unique ability to capture a cat’s spirit in her art. I know you’ll treasure this, Bernie.

      • Bernie says:

        Ingrid Bernadette captured the soul of Steeler. You are so right, this portrait is my greatest treasure. Bernadette gave me more than a portrait. She gave me the eyes of Steeler looking at me again.

    • Glen says:

      Wow, that is quite impressive.

      It is a wonderful talent to be able to create something like that.

      • Bernie says:

        Glen, Bernadette can work magic with her hands and eyes. She sees the depth of the soul and puts her heart and soul in all her work. She is so truly talented. And to think, this fabulous woman is our friend. Wow, how lucky we all are.

    • Jay says:

      Bernie, I just posted something on CC not knowing that you had seen Bernadette’s article. Might be redundant but I was so happy to surprise you.
      And you being speechless is like meeting an honest lawyer. Rare – real rare. :)

  2. Jay says:

    As many of you know, Bernie had a portrait of my animals done a few years ago by Bernadette Kazmarski – a famous artist in Pittsburgh.
    She had me holding Steeler and another of me holding Stirfry in the same painting. As you all know this is the only way those 2 Torties would ever get together. There are some cats with Tortitude but only a few where Tortitude is ingrained in every cell. Steeler and Kasey are such cats. Brooke almost as bad. And I know that any book on Tortitude would have Stir’s picture on the cover.
    Well, I had a picture of Steeler commissioned by Bernadette as a present to Bernie.
    It took a while until we were able to stop by and pick it up. I don’t get to travel out that way too often and Bernadette is so busy with Rescue groups, art exhibits and such.
    Well, in Oct. it finally happened and Bernie and I were able to travel to Carnegie and see 5 famous black cats and 2 fosters. Bernie was surprised to see a painting of Steeler and was speechless.
    Bernadette did a write up of this along with links to my painting and a trip to Virginia for Friends on CC to get together and meet Ingrid at a book signing.
    I placed some pics and a video on my FB page but here is a link to Bernadette’s article.

    • Bernie says:

      I know many of you have seen that fabulous work of art by Bernadette by now. Now let me say to you it is art, to me it is a priceless treasure, bringing my beautiful and loving Steeler in such a wonderful loving way to me to be the first face I see every day when I awaken and the last face I see before I turn off the light. Bernadette words show the love she had in her heart for Steeler because it comes through in her words, which she so eloquently put to paper. This was a labor of love, I know that Bernadette. Every stroke on Steeler’s portrait is done with a tender stroke. I will forever treasure that.
      Now for those of you who were not here a few years ago, let me explain a little of how we all met. Bernadette, Jay, Ingrid, Harry, Julie, Rachel, a child who shall not be tagged, and myself went to Ingrid’s book signing in VA. What was a group of strangers (most of us) became a group of lifetime personal friends. Little did I know then that I was going to need each of you so very much. These wonderful people became my beloved extended family. They were right with me, during the worst period of my life. A phone call away. And when I called, they were ready to just listen or talk. I will forever love you all. I think those words need to be told to your loved ones while you can and not when their time is gone. So I have always told this extended family I love them.

      Now for Jay. Jay, yes you can savor the “moment in time” when I truly was speechless. That may not happen again for many years to come.

      I cried as I read Bernadette’s words and the tears were mixed with sadness and happiness. I shall forever be grateful to Jay and Bernadette for this everlasting loving surprise.

      • Harry says:

        Let me just say that I have no idea what she’s talking about and I have never met any of these people :P

        (The best part of the experience was when my teenage daughter said, “Dad, let me get this straight… you’re going to meet people that you only know from the internet? Is that a good idea?”)

        • Marg says:

          That’s brilliant, Harry … (“Dad, let me get this straight… you’re going to meet people that you only know from the internet? Is that a good idea?”) …

        • Bernie says:

          Harry and Rachel Oh yes, this was a brilliant idea. :)

        • Jay says:

          Typical Lawyer – deny everything. :)

          I remember that meeting. I was so looking forward to trying the cat named food at The Stray Cat Café and having a mixed drink. Feral Hiss and Neuter Shooter were the names. But I was sick with Bronchitis and could barely eat. The drink was awful. But the Company was fantastic.
          I was threatened with bodily harm by 2 women so I must have had fun. :)

          And meeting the Shubin Cats was a highlight. I never knew a Tortie could lay near another cat without wanting to tear it apart.

      • Bernadette says:

        And I nearly got carsick from Bernie’s driving ;) !

        • Bernie says:

          Hush!! My driving is not all that bad, but then we did make good time. :)

        • Jay says:

          I have driven with Bernie many a time and never had a problem.
          ( I have to say most times I have gone that fast I was at 40,000 feet in a jet though)

          And Bernie did say that the conversation of Bernadette and her Garmin was entertaining.

      • Bernadette says:

        Thanks everyone for your compliments on Steeler’s portrait. You know my work comes from my heart, my art and my writing both, and it’s not a commitment I take lightly. Knowing all that Steeler meant in Bernie’s life made the portrait an emotional experience, and then writing about it a delicate undertaking, not to focus n the extreme sadness of the story, but the good that came to everyone from this one cat, to remember her and how special she was, and all the people she touched. it’s an honor to be a part of it.

        • Jay says:

          Steeler brought us all together. She was a truly wonderful cat. And who knew that a Tortie would have people all over the US cheering on a football team at the Super Bowl. People who never watched football. Until then I just watched it for the Commercials. Now I am a Steelers fan and have a Terrible Towel that Stirfry lay on every weekend.

  3. Jay says:

    Going thru some old folders

    Something Ingrid wrote back in 2011
    Just as nice now as it was then.

    A Cat Poem

    From Ingrid King

    Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor

    peering apprehensively into the cages.

    I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her.

    I meowed, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn’t be afraid.

    As she read the sign on my cage I hoped that she

    wouldn’t feel sad about my past.

    I only have the future to look forward to

    and want to make a difference in someone’s life.

    She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me.

    I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up

    against the bars to comfort her.

    Gentle fingertips caressed my neck;

    she was desperate for companionship.

    A tear fell down her cheek and

    I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well.

    Soon my cage door opened and

    her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms.

    I would promise to keep her safe.

    I would promise to always be by her side.

    I would promise to do everything I could

    to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes.

    I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor.

    So many more are out there who haven’t walked the corridors.

    So many more to be saved. At least I could save one.

    I rescued a human today.

    • Marg says:

      This is so beautiful – it makes me cry every time I read it. AND, I think it’s so true – I thought I had rescued Gracie – but I’m pretty sure she has rescued me as well.

      • Bernie says:

        Marg, I know Steeler rescued me. So I do know how you feel about Gracie. This is truly a beautiful writing. If you close your eyes you can see those precious little ones in there enclosures coming to the front to feel your touch. I would take them all if I could. Each and every one is precious.

    • Ingrid says:

      I did not write this, as attributed in the original post on my site, this poem was originally written by Janine Allen CPDT, Rescue Me Dog’s professional dog trainer. Janine’s passion is working with people and their dogs. She provides demonstrations for those who have adopted shelter dogs, lends email support to adopted dog owners that need information beyond our Training Support Pages, and aids shelter staff and volunteers in understanding dog behavior to increase their adoptability. Copyright 2011 Rescue Me Dog; It is a beautiful poem. Please remember to share it with the proper attribution if you share it outside of this site as well.

    • Glen says:

      We rescued Gigi at the end of February 2013.

      She was already fully grown, approximately 5 years old. She had lived with a couple since she was about 8 months old. The wife had passed away and her husband was moving and could not keep her.

      He was desperate to have someone take her, otherwise he had no choice but to take her to a shelter.

      This 15 pound, quiet, long haired torti “gentle giant” would likely not have done well in a shelter environment.

      We met her and it was apparent she was a nice cat and would be a very compatible addition to the cat family.

      So, she was rescued and came home; her former owner was very thankful, we were please to give a nice cat a second chance.

      Her “people” were of French Canadian extraction, so they had named her Gigi, since that was her name for 4 plus years, there was no question that we would keep her name.

      At the time I was reluctantly aware of Kasey’s age and growing health issues. While I tried to be realistic about her condition, in March and April 2013, it seemed like some med.’s and special food had her coming around, gaining back weight and seeming to improve.

      Still I had no idea we would lose her within 2 1/2 months of adopting Gigi.

      It was very tough for me to lose my “soul cat”.

      However, having my big “fluffy” torti did did help somewhat through the whole, sad experience.

      So it would seem that, in a way, Gigi rescued me.

      • Jay says:

        True Glen.
        I think maybe our cats know when they will have to leave us and somehow send out the word that another cat or kitten should come to us. 2 Panthers had been to my house all summer and I had planned on trapping at least one. Never knew I would lose Tabby and Stirfry before Summer was over. And Onyx came to me the night of my heart attack.
        Justice and Liberty were sent by Steeler and Freedom had been around for a few years while Steeler was with Bernie.
        Never try to guess the Logic of a Tortie.

        • Glen says:

          Yeah, it is really sad to lose our soul gats, but it is funny how that seems to work out.

          Gigi and Kasey had about 2 1/2 months together. Kasey accepted her unlike she did with any other cat, like they were “sisters from different litters”. It was noticeable and very unusual.

          It is great that through the unfortunate losses that the Panthers came along. From your other post, it sounds like they are fitting in pretty well.

          • jay says:

            And the great this is that thru Ingrid’s blog that Kasey, Steeler and Stirfry will never be forgotten. They became Famous and known thru out the world as the peak of Tortitude. They also went from being a one family cat to Our family cats. I cried just as much when Steeler and Kasey passed as when Stirfry did. Now I know they are all together and waiting for us.

          • Bernie says:

            Glen and Jay, we all three have had the same, albeit slightly different, changes in our lives when our soul Torties left us. Each of us have seen somewhat of what happens when our soul kittens leave. They make sure in their own way, we find happiness but they will always be our only real soul Torties. I know Jay and I grieved the losses of these three very precious Torties, Stirfry, Kasey and Steeler. Even when I come to this site, I immediately remember our three. They gave so much to everyone without us realizing it until after they had to leave. We will forever remember these bigger than life, Torties.

  4. Glen says:

    It would seem that Tim is finally being put in his place.

    He is just over 2 years old but still very kitten-like; VERY active, plays like he is 12 weeks old and has no cat manners.

    He pesters the other cats constantly.

    They have allowed this, with a few exceptions.

    Taz was a former immature, hyperactive orange kitten, but he is now 16 years old with arthritis. The inner kitten in him still likes the idea of mixing it up with Tim, but at his age he tires of it. He is good with the little guy but when pushed far enough, he will use his 22 pound bulk to squash him once and a while, but not enough to curb his behavious.

    Gigi, the gentle giant would play with him, but would usually run away when things got rough, although there have been incidents like the recent one where she ran him over.

    It seems they have been reluctant to hurt the “kitten”.

    However, this week I have seen a change. Two days ago it seemed like Gigi started to channel a bit of Kasey.

    Tim was incessantly bothering Gigi but this time, she did not scoot away.

    She turned on him, adopted a glaring “torti stare”, went into a semi crouch and slowly started moving towards him in a menacing fashion.

    This puzzled and unnerved him, he did not seem to know what to do. He made a few ineffective swings at her but she just kept stalking him, he kept backing up. She wound up backing him up about 10 feet, then he ran out of the room.

    Yesterday morning, she assumed a Kasey tactic, “guarding”, she lay down in a “pinch point” in the house where everyone had to pass by to get from one place to another. When Tim would go by, she would swing at him. The latter she repeated the process of backing him up.

    She doesn’t pick on him all the time, it is just done occasionally when his is particularly annoying to her. He does desperately need to learn some cat manners and it appears she is finally teaching him some ;)

    • Ingrid says:

      Tortitude in action :-)

    • Jay says:

      You can only push a Tortie so far. Then look out !!!!!!!!!

      Diver and Frank are doing the same thing with Onyx. They play with him and use the weight advantage to keep him in control. Diver holds him down with one paw and will alternate between play biting on him or grooming kisses. He’ll run away but seconds later come back for more.
      Even my semi feral Eclipse has played with him.

      • Glen says:

        This morning, I noticed, she is still friendly and not hostile to him, but he has not been pestering her either; and pestering has been his normal routine up to last week.

        Moral of the story, awaken the “inner torti” at your peril ;)

        • Marg says:

          I have decided that I am part tortie … sometimes people awaken my “inner tortie” … and then they don’t know what’s hit them.

        • Bernie says:

          This statement is so true of even my life “awaken the “inner torti””. I know I have this along with my Torties. I think Steeler left me with the “Tortitude” of her spirit. Stirfy let me her Tortitude to defend t all costs attitude and Kasey let me with the “Tortitude” of never give up. Add all that together and “Yes I am definitely made of of “inter Tortie”.

      • Bernie says:

        Jay, Onyx is a baby. He is the all that is sweet and lovable. Diver, Frankie, Eclipse and yes even the Goddess, Arianrhod have taken to the little one. Now, Styx, is the opposite. She is acting out Tortitude at everyone equally. Although she is nothing like Stirfry, she shows she is a Torti. Every kitten in your house loves, plays, and gives kitty kisses to the little one, but not Styx. That Tortie is nothing to mess with. Not a Stirfry, Steeler or Kasey, but she has a jealous streak in her when it comes to you. She wants no one or no furry little ones around you.

  5. Glen says:

    Well, I am sidelined for a bit, I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee, yesterday.

    It was for some, old injury from years ago. The discomfort used to come and go, but last spring, it came and stayed.

    I am typing this at 4:45 in the morning because my schedule is out of whack, plus the Tylenol 3’s wore off. They tell me it will get better.

    When I left for the hospital yesterday, Taz looked worried and tried ti follow me into the garage; something he normally doesn’t do.

    Anyway, the cats like me being up at this time and I expect I will have “nurse cats” today.

    • Ingrid says:

      I bet your cats will be wonderful nurses, Glen! Wishing you a quick recovery.

      • Glen says:

        Thanks, right now, it is Tims turn, he actually can sit, quiet, like an adult cat………………………well, sometimes.

    • Bernie says:

      Glen, It is great to hear you have gotten your knee taken care of. There is not better nurses, especially in the very early wee hours of the morning than the little kittens nurses and purrs. They will stay by you side all night and keep you company. Even the younger ones know when we are not up to par. Get better soon.

    • Marg says:

      Glen, best wishes for a speedy recovery. The anaesthetic will no doubt have some impact on you for a few days to come – so, rest, rest, rest and then rest some more. Let the cat nursing comfort you!

      • Glen says:


        This was the first time I have had a general anaesthetic since 1970. It was an odd experience, they put a mask over my face, it seemed like it wasn’t working, the next thing I knew, I was awake and they told me it was done.

        Right now, Taz is on watch, sleeping in the cat bead beside my chair.

    • Jay says:

      Glad to hear that you being well taken car of by the purrmedics. Gigi is going to be a good nurse, Taz and Tim are probable worried that you won’t be well enuf to go out for food. Not sure how Kasey would have been but Stir would look at me as to say ” Get better and get me dinner or your on the menu next”. ( actually Stir was always worried if I was unwell. )
      I know cat purrs always make you feel better.

      PS – I love anesthetic
      For my broken leg they cave me catnip for humans – I was on Cloud 9
      Did not feel a thing for hours.

      • Glen says:

        “( actually Stir was always worried if I was unwell. )”

        Yes, that’s the way Kasey was, she would stay with me most of the time when I was not well.

  6. Glen says:

    Comment on the snow storm in Buffalo NY.

    You may have heard in the news about this.

    We are so close, I can drive to the bridge to Buffalo in 10 minutes, from my driveway.

    The storm has missed here in about as close a miss as possible. We can see the storm clouds which are only about 5 miles at the most, south west of here. I can see them from the front window anf it has been like that for days.

    Lake Erie is still comparatively warm, capable of giving off water vapor, the unseasonally cold west wind have picked this up and dropped it on the east end of the lake, as snow. This band of snow has been there since Tuesday. It is starting to collapse roofs there.

    I feel bad for the people over there, we can get the same thing here, and have. All it takes is for the wind to shift a few more degrees out of the south west and we would be dealing with it here, too. We have 6 to 8 inches here at the most, a short distance away, they are measuring it in feet.

    Next week we are supposed to get a thaw and all that snow will melt, the terrain in the Buffalo area is conducive to creek flooding. I hope they catch a break over there.

    • Bernadette says:


      I had no idea you were that close! I’m in Pittsburgh, about four hours south of you at the most! I’m glad it’s not snowing like this on you!

      I went to college in Edinboro, PA, just about 20 miles south of Erie, PA and, of course, Lake Erie, and walking about on that flat campus in the middle of that flat farmland after living in relatively warm and very hilly Pittsburgh all my life I learned about “lake effect snow” in October of my freshman year. Erie would get a dusting, but we got three feet in a day, and no one at home believed me! Those flat gray clouds would move in and start with little pellets that would slowly grow larger as the temperature dropped into big snow clusters and it would snow like that for three days. They never called classes! There was so much snow that on graduation day in May there was often still a pile of ice around the base of the light poles in the parking lots where it had been plowed. Of course, I was in my glory–Pittsburgh had had rainy or just cold winters with very little precipitation for a decade or more and I LOVE SNOW!!!

      If I ever take Giuseppe to visit Mlle. Daisy Emerald in Hamilton I’ll be sure to wave as we pass through the border!

      • Jay says:

        Has Giuseppe gotten his passport yet ?

        And unlike you – I HATE SNOW !!!!!!!!
        Bring on Spring with green grass for my critters and nip growing wild.

    • Jay says:

      Glad to hear it missed you. Did not know that was so close to you.
      If I lived in Buffalo ( or Erie, Cleveland or any city like that) after a year or 2 of that I would leave.
      Right now Texas, Florida, Arizona and New Mexico are looking really good.

      What city are you in ?

      • Glen says:


        Not exactly a city, Fort Erie, in some places here, you can hear the banjo’s playing ;)

        We can get some years without much snow but it is the big snows that everyone remembers, then the rest of the year is pretty nice, I think thats why most stay in the area.

        But days like those this week in Buffalo get old, real quick.

        I work at our company’s field office at our port facility at Port Maitland, on Lake Erie. It is a busy place in the navigation season but this time of year, there are 4 of us there. It is in the middle of nowhere but we are fully tied in multiple communications equipment.

        We monitor the weather very closely and are prepared to bail if it gets bad. Getting trapped there is not an option, oddly for a petroleum company, everything is electric at the office, if you are snowed in and loose power, i means no heat, water, lights or cooking. The rigs are demobilized for the winter so we couldn’t even start the generators for power.

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