Celebrating Tortoiseshell Cats….

Dear George,
As I continue to grow-up into a beautiful cat (as you can see in the photo attached)….my curiosity grows along with me as well! There are so many things I’d like to know; so many questions to ask! I don’t even know where to start. But, I will settle for one question now and will leave the rest for later. How and why do we come in so many colors and exquisite marks? What makes some of us so colorful and some of us …just unicolor? I’m being told I’m a tortoiseshell. Some humans called me a calico cat! I kind of like “tortoiseshell” much better than calico. What is the difference between the two? Is this a breed? Can any cat be a tortoise? Is there something special about tortoises? Please enlighten me as I’m also told that I have a cattitude specific to tortoiseshell cats. So, what’s that? I’m very playful and up to cute mischief! Just curious, Cara

Dear Cara,
I am powerfully attracted (only insofar as the snip allows) to tortoiseshell (or calico) cats. I love that mixture of black and ginger. I particularly love the little straight line down the face with ginger one side and black the other. Cutest of the cute.

“Naughty Torties” is what tortoiseshell cats are always called. Maybe there is some difference in behaviour between colours but it is possible the lighter shades of cat are more friendly, because they are picked up and cuddled more as kittens. Cat rescuers don’t mean to do this, but sometimes the unpopular colour kittens (black and brown) get less attention. So they grow up less cuddly. It would be very difficult to prove….

To be a tortie, you have to be female with a double X sex chromosome, XX, or a rare chimera male with an extra female chromosome X, ie an XXY. Males (XYs) with the dominant ginger allele are all over ginger because they only carry one X gene. Female have two XX genes and one is randomly inactivated in each cell in favour of the black or brown producing the tortoiseshell coat.Various other coat colour genes then add white or dilute the colours.
I shall post some photos of my favourtite torties with their two-sided faces

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