Are Tortoiseshell Cats Mean?

Are Tortoiseshell Cats Mean

Tortoiseshell cats are notorious for their feisty and aloof personalities. Some people even believe that tortoiseshell cats are aggressive and bad-tempered – but is there any truth to these rumors? Are tortoiseshell cats mean? 

Well, after digging a little deeper into the cat world, we have found that torties may just have certain traits that make them seem more aggressive when they do not want to be bothered. It is important to remember that all cats are different, and there are a variety of feline temperaments across the board.

In this post, we will try to understand more about a tortoiseshell cat’s personality, and also why they might make the perfect furry companion, so read on!

Tortoiseshell cat personality

Tortoiseshell cats are among the most beautiful and distinctive felines due to their unique coat color. Also called “torties,” these beauties are popular for their distinctive patterns of orange-red and black that resemble the shell of a tortoise, hence their name. The tortoiseshell coloration is the result of two color patterns merging together to form a third one. While their orange fur can have tinges of gold or yellow, the black patches can also be mixed with other shades of gray, brown, or tabby.

One thing that stands out to many people about tortoiseshell cats is that they can be a little bit feisty. Some tortoiseshells are stubborn, too, and will not listen to you when you try to direct them. They are also described as being sassy, vocal, demanding of their human companions. No wonder a lot of cat owners affectionately call them cats with “tortitude.”

However, these temperamental cats can be misunderstood as being aggressive.

Veterinarians from the University of California, Davis attempted to find a correlation between a cat’s coat color and level of aggression. The study was conducted by asking more than 1,200 cat owners about their felines’ interactions with humans. Surprisingly, they found that most calicos and tortoiseshell cats are somewhat more likely to display challenging behaviors such as swatting, hissing, or biting than cats of other colors.

However, the study is obviously a bit biased and lacks sufficient data, since it was merely based on owner observations. Experts also do not intend these correlations to give tortoiseshell cats a bad name, and the study results should not cause anyone to avoid adopting these cats.

On the bright side, tortoiseshell cats can make great companions due to their fierce loyalty. These kitties love to be with their owners and enjoy being around other people. Torties, in general, are bold, curious, and playful, too, and can get into trouble when left alone too long. They are always ready for anything and some will follow their owners around like a shadow!

So, there is definitely no reason these fur-balls should not capture your heart. They will never cease to entertain you with their quirks, and having them “adopt” you will surely make your life more interesting!

Are tortoiseshell cats mean?

Tortoiseshell cats are gentle and not known for being inherently mean. However, they can be aggressive toward other animals, and sometimes this aggression is also directed toward their human owners. 

It might be an indication of aggression if your tortie hisses, growls, lashes out if you try to stroke her. This is especially true for a female tortie who is in heat. (In fact, since most tortoiseshell cats are female, this might be the reason these kitties have earned a reputation for being mean.)

Then again, the theories about a cat’s coat color being linked to aggression are not proven. Like any cat, torties can have a quick temper and lash out in anger if they feel threatened, but can also be as loving as any other color cat! Keep in mind that genetics and the cat’s level of socialization are, by far, the proven strongest factors that shape a cat’s personality, rather than the color of its fur.

Factors that influence a tortoiseshell cat’s personality

Tortoiseshell cats can varying personalities, which are greatly influenced by these factors:

1. Most tortoiseshell cats are female

Just like calico cats, tortoiseshell cats are almost always female! This is due to the two X chromosomes required to produce the black, orange, and yellow color combination. Females have two X chromosomes while most males have a single X combined with a Y chromosome. 

In rare cases, however, it is possible for a male cat to get an extra X chromosome, leading to an XXY combination. So, if you have a male tortoiseshell cat, you must be very lucky, as only one out of every 3,000 cats have this trait!

So, what does being a female tortoiseshell have to do with behavior? 

Male and female cats tend to have different personalities, no matter their color. Since most females are prone to being independent and aloof, this might be why female tortoiseshells are misunderstood as being mean.

2. Socialization process

Cats learn a lot about how to be cats during their first year of life. With socialization, kittens are exposed to new sights, sounds, smells, and experiences in a controlled environment. This lets them develop their natural curiosity and explore the world with confidence. Hence, a well-socialized kitty will likely become a friendlier adult cat than one that was never trained.

3. Inherited personality traits

Cats inherit some of their personality traits from their parents. In fact, a 2019 study, conducted by experts from Helsinki, revealed some interesting links between genes and heritable behavioral traits in cats. Although the study was only focused on purebred cats, it highlights why some breeds are predisposed to certain behavior, such as aggression, shyness, or docility.

However, a tortoiseshell cat is not a breed, so if your cat is a mixed-breed tortie, it can be challenging to predict her personality based on her color alone. But if your kitty is a purebred tortoiseshell, like the famous Maine coon or American shorthair, it is possible that your tortie’s personality is inherited, according to this study. 

4. Human behavior around cats

Cats are known to be quite independent in nature, but still their behavior is greatly influenced by the attitude of their owners. People who have a relaxed and happy disposition will usually find that their cat is visibly more relaxed and happy, too. If, on the other hand, the cat is constantly exposed to family feuds, yelling, and other forms of aggressive behavior, it will also likely absorb the negativity and become aggressive too. 

Fun facts and spiritual meaning of tortoiseshell cats

Not yet convinced that torties are great companions? We have added these fun facts about tortoiseshell cats that might help to change your mind:

  • Tortoiseshell is not a breed. If you happen to encounter a tortie, it could be a Maine coon, Persian, American shorthair, Cornish rex, or a mixed breed.
  • Some torties can have half of their face entirely black while the other half is ginger.
  • The fur color of a tortoiseshell cat does not influence the color of its eyes.
  • According to some folklore, tortoiseshell cats are considered lucky. In Southeast Asia, these kitties were believed to have emerged from a young goddess’s blood.
  • Japanese sailors believed that having tortoiseshell cats on board would protect their ship from storms and ghosts.
  • In Scotland and Ireland, tortoiseshell cats are thought to bring good luck to the home.
  • In the US, tortoiseshell cats are famously known as “money cats.”
  • Some legends say that dreaming of a tortie means you have luck in romantic relationships.


Tortoiseshell cats might have a reputation for being naughty kitties, but do not let this factor scare you off adopting one! Torties are actually no different from cats of other colors – they can sometimes be mean, but they can also be loving companions. Many tortie owners are enchanted by their spunky yet entertaining demeanor, which makes them a great source of joy in the family.

Remember that a cat’s personality is unique and is more likely to be influenced by the way they were raised than their coat color. So, if you do not find a tortie cat suitable for your home, it will quite possibly be the same case for a cat of any other color, too. 

Image: / molishka1988