What Is A Tortoiseshell Cat?

Tortoiseshell CatLike calico cats or tabby cats, a tortoiseshell cat is not a particular type or breed of cat – it is simply a term used to describe the type of pattern found on its coat. Tortoiseshell coloring can be found in many cat breeds, both pure bred and and domestic long and shorthaired cats.

A tortoise shell cat’s coat is mottled or brindled, with patches of orange, brown, black, cream or tan. These patches of color vary in size, running from large patches to fine specks.

Tortoiseshell Cats

Tortoiseshells and calicoes are often confused. They share the same color scheme, but not the pattern. Torties have small patches and flecks of color all over, while calico cats have larger patches of black and orange on what is usually a predominantly white coat. To put it more simply – tortoiseshell cats have black and orange fur, sometimes with an occasional patch of white, and calicoes have white fur, with patches of orange and black.

Like calico cats, almost all tortoiseshells are female. The coat colors of orange and black can only be carried on the X chromosome, and only one color can be carried per chromosome – orange OR black. As females have two X chromosomes, torties should always be female. The exceptions to this are male cats with a very rare chromosome disorder, causing them to have two Xs and one Y, instead of the usual XY.