Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: May 4, 2023 by Crystal Uys
It’s no secret that I love torties. From my first office cat Virginia, to Amber, Buckley, Allegra, and Ruby, there’s just something about these cats’ particular coloring, and their unique personalities, that has always appealed to me.
Tortoiseshell cats are named for their coat color, which is a mottled or brindled combination of brown, black, tan, gold, orange, and sometimes cream and blue. Those of us who fancy torties know that they have unique personalities, often referred to as “tortitude.”
They 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. Male cats only have one X and one Y chromosome, so technically it’s genetically almost impossible for a male to inherit the tortoiseshell coloring. A male tortoiseshell has an extra X chromosome, making it an XXY. According to a study by the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri, only 1 in 3000 tortoiseshell cats is male.
Given all that, it’s no wonder that I was excited when I came across one of these rare male torties.
Doodlebug belongs to Sharon, one of our readers. He is 16 months old and is the son of Sharon’s other tortie, Callie. The fact that he was a he came as quite a surprise to Sharon. She actually called him Chloe for the first couple of months of his life, and she was caught rather off guard when she took him for his first vet visit. I asked what the vet’s reaction was when he realized that he had one of these rare male torties as a patient. “He was actually pretty matter of fact,” reports Sharon. “He told me that he would change the gender notation in the record, and that I might want to find another name.”
Male torties are believed to be sterile. Doodlebug is currently unneutered, but, says Sharon, “that will change the first time he sprays something.” He’s an indoor cat with limited access to an enclosed yard, and her other three cats are spayed. Doodlebug has shown no interest in roaming, spraying, or mounting the other cats. The vet has given him a clean bill of health.
As for tortitude, Doodlebug appears to be more laid back than the average tortie. He is very mellow, and likes to spend hours drowsing next to Sharon while she is on the computer or watching tv. He can be a bit possessive when one of the other cats takes over “his” side of the chair, but he’s very gentle about nudging them out of his territory. Eating is another favorite past time. In addition to his regular diet of dry cat food, he enjoys sampling the regional cuisine, including fried catfish and crawfish. He also loves chicken and sausage gumbo and will happily eat even the okra in it.
Because of their genetic rarity, some people mistakenly believe that male tortoiseshell cats are worth a lot of money. In reality, they’re only worth as much as any other cat who is loved and valued by their owners, and as we all know, there is no price tag on love.
Doodlebug is unaware of his newfound fame and remains unavailable for comment.
Photo of Doodlebug used with Sharon’s permission
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Tortitude: the unique personality of tortoiseshell cats
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.
Hello! Doodlebug is just striking!!! I have a 3 1/2 year old Tortie named Lona and in Oct. last year had to put her 19 1/2 year old “brother” Bogie on a journey across that rainbow bridge and she’s very lonely . I would LOVE to get a young (kitten to one year old) male Tortie as I love their fun, sweet nature. Any recommendations as to where I can put out feelers for any that become available for adoption. I understand that they are very rare and demand a higher price but feel it would be very well worth it and offer a wonderful forever home.
I just lost my male tortie, Ace, due to heart disease. We shared an incredible bond and even though I knew he didn’t have much time left, losing him was devastating. He’s actually the second male tortie I’ve had. My first, Face, was a maine coon and just gorgeous.
I’m just wondering how similar male torties are. The two I’ve had would like to be held and carried on my shoulder. They also were quite great talkers and had different meows and trill sounds that they made. I’m just wondering what the personalities are of other male torties…?
I’m so sorry about Ace, Kimber. Since male torties are so rare (and how unusual that you had two!), there’s little information about how their personalities compare to female torties.
He’s so cute! Holly is also cute. Does Doodleburg have tortitude? Holly does!
My boyfriend and I adopted a male torti, his name is Jay, a few months ago. We found out he was a male cat when we got his information from the shelter employee, before that we thought he was girl. We had no idea that male torti’s were rare until we got home and researched it, and then we finally understood why the shelter employees had all come out to say good bye and were acting like they didn’t want us to leave! He is now 7 months old and is such a character!
Hi, I also have a male tortie. He is 9 weeks old and called Paddy. I didn’t realise that they were so rare until I started to read about it online. I also had a male calico called Perkins, when I was a child, which I have heard are also rare. The cat I had before Paddy, Jack, had 7 pads on his paws instead of 4, which made them look like little boxing gloves. The condition is called ‘Polydactyl’. I must be prone to rare cats! xx
Wow, Harriet, you really are prone to rare cats!
my torti TRUBY is the best came to my door as a stray fell in love ever sence,i heard they can live 20plus yrs.is that true??my friend had to in arizona and they both lived to 20 or more.i love tortis and i’d love to set up a torti pet sanctuary..
Some cats can live as long as 20 years, but they’re still the exception rather than the rule. We can certainly help them live long lives by providing species-appropriate nutrition and regular health care throughout their lives. How wonderful that your friend had two that lived that long.
Aren’t torties wonderful? Feel free to post a photo of your Truby on our Facebook page!
I recently rescued a cat from a friend who was going to put him in the SPCA . Come to find out I also have a male tortiouse shell male. He is 5 months old. I don’t know much about cats, this is actually my first cat ever. So this is very interesting that I picked a rare cat…
You’re the third person who has commented on my blog who has a male tortie, Kimberly! Considering the odds of only 1 in 3000 torties being male, that’s pretty amazing!
Oh I knew male torties are extremely rare, but I had never met one “in person” before! Thank you Ingrid for introducing sweet Doodlebug!
By the way, from what I know (but YOU are the cat expert! Let me know if that’s correct!), calicos -like my Zoe- are genetically the same as torties, the only difference is that the orange (or brown), black (or grey), and sometimes cream and blue are not mottled or brindled but instead form dinstinct patches of color on white. They are all females too (apart from some rare male calicos, I guess). I have a little book on tortoiseshells! It’s actually translated into Italian, but the original title was “The Little Tortoiseshell Cat Book” by David Taylor and Elizabeth Martin. It shows both torties AND calicos :)!
So… can I add ZOE to the special “family”? 🙂
Anna, you are correct, calicos are in the same family as torties when it comes to genetics. There seems to be some discussion as to whether “tortitude” in calicos is more pronounced, or whether the white coloring mutes it a bit.
I’ll have to check that book out!
I’m 11 years late… but your Zoë sounds like a precious baby. I have a cow-cat named Chloë! Rhyming kitty names
Wow, a mancat tortie! I have a thing for large-nosed kitties. So distinguished. He;s a handsome and lucky boy to have a harem of three lady cats.
Isn’t his nose just too cute, Layla?
Doodlebug is adorable! His rarity doesn’t seem to have gone to his head, either. I just love the stripe on his nose!
Doodlebug seems pretty oblivious to how special he is, doesn’t he, Shannah? The stripe on his nose is too cute!
Doodlebug is gorgeous! What markings! I love him. Did the vet realize how rare a male tortie actually is? What a special guy (Doodlebug, not the vet – smile). Wishing Sharon and all her kitties many happy wonderful years together.
Isn’t he gorgeous, Nancy?
Doodlebug is really cute. Maybe he should have his own blog… That would be great.
Max, it sounds like he might be a little too laid back to want to blog :-)!