Are Tortoiseshell Cats Rare? The Surprising Answer!

Tortoiseshell is not a breed but a coat pattern that cats of many different breeds can genetically develop. These cats get their name from the pattern of their coat which resembles that of a turtle shell. Tortoiseshell cats are sometimes confused with calico cats, but they don’t have white basic coats like calicos. Tortoiseshell cats can come in many colors, but they are usually black and ginger, which can appear in spots and streaks all over their bodies. So, are tortoiseshell cats rare? The short answer is: not really. However, some tortoiseshell cats are rare. Let’s explain here.

Male tortoiseshell cats are rare

While tortoiseshell cats in general are not uncommon, male tortoiseshell cats are. It’s estimated that only one in 3,000 tortoiseshell cats born will be a male. The reason for this is that two X chromosomes are needed to create the tortoiseshell coat pattern. Males usually have only one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. However, very few males have two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome. This means that male tortoiseshell cats are almost always sterile.

So, in short, it’s rare for a male cat to be tortoiseshell, and it’s even rarer for a male tortoiseshell cat to have reproductive abilities.

tortoiseshell cat
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Pixabay

Interesting facts about tortoiseshell cats

Tortoiseshell cats are well known around the world. Most live in homes of all shapes and sizes, while some live on the streets and others live in animal shelters. They are like any other cat, but they have a unique coat pattern. That said, here are some interesting facts about tortoiseshell cats that every feline lover should know.

Tortoiseshell cats are known to have ‘tortitude’

Anyone who has spent time with a tortoiseshell cat will tell you they have a bit of an attitude to other cats. A study was done this may support the claim that tortoiseshell (and calico) cats tend to be more aggressive and harder to handle than cats with less flashy coat colors and patterns. This attitude that tortoiseshell cats are known for is affectionately called “tortitude” by owners and admirers.

Tortoiseshell cats can belong to many different breeds

The tortoiseshell is not a breed. Tortoiseshell coats can occur in a variety of different breeds, including Persians, Maine Coons, American Shorthairs, and Ragamuffins. Both mixed breed and purebred cats can produce tortoiseshell cats. It all comes down to lineage and genetics. It is also important to note that tortoiseshell cats can have long or short coats.

There is a subcategory called Torbies

Tortoiseshell cats that have tabby stripes are sometimes called torbies by breeders and owners. It’s just a variation of the tortoiseshell colors and patterns. Torbies tend to have stripes on their foreheads and legs, but the stripes can be anywhere on the body. What tortoiseshell cats and torbies have in common is that their coats usually consist of black, red, and orange colors.

Final Thoughts

Tortoiseshell cats are colorful and intriguing. They stand out from the crowd. They are not necessarily rare as a whole, but males are extremely rare. If you happen to have a male Tortoiseshell cat, you shouldn’t expect him to breed with any unspayed cats that might be living in your home, as they are almost always sterile.

Featured photo courtesy: Shutterstock

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