Tortoise Cat – Characteristics, Breeds and Trivia

Tortoise Cat – Characteristics, Breeds and Trivia

A tortoiseshell cat, or rather, a cat whose coat combines the three main colours of cats, that is, white, black and orange. It is a unique, different and unrepeatable cat. This colouration can appear in any breed and in short, semi-long or long hair. A tortoiseshell or tricolour cat is not a cheetah, also three-coloured, but forming perfectly separate patches and white predominating. Tortoise cats, by contrast, have a more sparse, mixed and diverse pattern, tending to be darker due to the predominance of black and orange over white. Another peculiarity is that almost all hawksbill cats are female. Want to know more about these cats? In this article, we present the wonderful tortoise cats, their characteristics, breeds and curiosities.


What is a tortoise cat?

The name comb refers to one of the manifestations of the colour of the cat’s skin. Specifically, it involves the combination of three colours, which are white, orange and black. It is, therefore, a tricolour pattern that can appear in many feline breeds and responds to purely genetic and sex chromosomal criteria.

Tortoise cats are also called “turtles” due to the similarity of the tones of their fur with the colours of the shells of the hawksbill turtles, which have coloured scales with orange, brown, red and gold stripes. These turtles live in tropical areas and are unfortunately in danger of extinction.

You will not see two tortoiseshell cats alike. Each one is unique and unrepeatable. Even using cloning, you won’t get two identical turtle shells. It is known why in 2001 an attempt was made to clone Rainbow, a hawksbill, but its clone, called CC, turned out to be tabby and white, despite having been created from its genetic material.

Turtle Cat Characteristics

In tortoise or comb cats, the background colour is black with orange and white combinations distributed throughout the coat, very streaky but harmoniously distributed. Many of these cats have an orange spot or flame on their heads. The coat of tortoise cats must present, together, the three basic cat colours and their combinations, that is, white, orange and black with shades of cinnamon, red, cream, blue, grey, dark brown, etc.

Therefore, even if a cat has different shades of black or orange in the same coat, it cannot be considered a tortoiseshell, as these are only variations of two essential colours and not three. Continuing with the colouration, the eyes are copper or dark orange and the pads and muzzle can be pink, mottled or black, depending on the distribution and predominance of each colour in the cat as a whole.

turtle cats character

As it is just a colouration, being a tortoiseshell does not determine the cat’s temperament. Thus, hawksbill cats can have very different personalities, depending on the breed to which they belong and their own characteristics. However, we can say that, as a rule, they are active, strong, independent, affectionate and somewhat unpredictable, which makes them fun and great life companions.

Are hawksbills always female?

No, all hawksbills are not females, but the vast majority are, the tricolour males being cheetah or tortoise always infertile. Now the question is: why is this happening? Well, the answer lies in the genetics of the colour of cats, in their transmission with the sex chromosomes and in Klinefelter syndrome.

While the white colour is independent of the sex chromosomes, given by the S gene, the black and orange colours and their derivations are linked to the X chromosome, each with an X chromosome, hence the vast majority of women, who are XX, can be tricolours, as they have orange on one X chromosome and black on the other X chromosome. In contrast, males are genetically XY, so it is impossible for them to show the colours black and orange together, having only one X chromosome.

The exception is Klinefelter syndrome, which causes XXY cats to have two X chromosomes, one with orange and one with black, matching white and therefore can be tortoise or tricolour. However, due to this genetic abnormality or aberration, these cats are infertile and cannot have offspring. It is estimated that there is only one male hawksbill for every 3,000 female hawksbills.

tortoise cat breeds

Hawksbill cats can be found in virtually every feline breed we know, as they are not a breed per se, but a combination of key colours essential for genetic and non-racial reasons. Consequently, hawksbill cats can be crossbred as well as breed: European, Persian, Maine Coon, British Shorthair, American Shorthair, Cornish Rex, etc.

In addition, there are hawksbill cats with short, semi-long or long fur. All of them will have life expectancy and predisposition to diseases similar to each breed in question, requiring the same care and attention as any other cat, regardless of the external appearance of its coat.

hawksbill legend

For many, hawksbills attract good luck, a fortune at home and even in the United States are considered to attract money. Furthermore, a legend circulates that adds even more charm to these different, enigmatic and even magical cats. Legend has it that centuries ago the Sun was tired of observing what was happening on planet Earth without participating. To do this, he asked the Moon for help. She wanted her to cover for her absence so that Earth’s inhabitants would not notice her. On a hot June day, the Moon covered the Sun in its entirety, giving you the possibility to go and fulfil your wish. The Sun decided to become the most perfect, discreet and agile being on Earth, in other words, a black cat. However, the Moon got tired and withdrew from the scene, forcing the Sun to run out of the cat’s body before its absence was discovered. As the flight was so fast, it left behind some rays, which made touches of gold appear in the black fur of the cat. When she had children, the thousands of shades of gold and orange that the Sun gave her were passed on to her children. These kittens were called comb and were assigned magical and attractive properties of positive energies, luck and money.

Get your animal information from YourAnimalInfo