A coat color combination which calls for a celebration, each year fans of felines honor tortoiseshell cats with their own pet holiday: Tortoiseshell Cat Appreciation Day!
When is Tortoiseshell Cat Appreciation Day?
Observed annually on April 17, this pet holiday was established by cat expert and award-winning author Ingrid King, who literally wrote the book on all things tortoiseshell with her tome Tortitude: The Big Book of Cats with a Big Attitude.
The date of the event was chosen by King to commemorate the Gotcha Day of her tortoiseshell cat, Ruby.
To mark this pet holiday, we’ve gathered a few fun facts about tortoiseshell cats:
Tortoiseshell is not a breed of cat. Rather, it is a reference to a cat’s fur combination, which is often a melange of black and orange. However, tortie coats also come in yellow or cream, which substitutes for orange, and a dark chocolate or gray hue rather than black.
Many people confuse tortoiseshell cats with calicos. The main difference between the two is the color of their coats. The calico coat consists of patches of black, orange and white fur, while tortoiseshells sport only variations of black and orange.
Did you know that cats who also sport tabby stripes in their tortoiseshell coat are known as “torbies“?
Approximately 99.6 percent of all torties are female! Male tortoiseshells are practically the unicorns of the cat world, due to the fact that two X chromosomes are essential to create the typical tortie look. Male torties are also rarely able to sire kittens.
Torties: A Sign of Good Fortune
If you happen to be a pet parent of a tortie you already know how fortunate you are, but did you also know that the tortoiseshell cat is also considered a sign of good luck in some cultures?
In Japan, torties have been believed to ward off ghosts and safeguard ships from treacherous weather.
In Ireland the multi-color coated cats have been thought to bring good luck to those who welcome them into their family.
In North America, the tortoiseshell cat has also been referred to as the “money cat,” bringing financial good fortune to their human family.
It is believed by some that the tortoiseshell brings balance to a person’s life.
The elusive male tortoiseshell was considered good luck by the ancient Celts, who would share their home with the rare feline.
Famous Tortoiseshell Cats
In 2022 a Tortie from Orpington, south east London was proclaimed the World’s Oldest Living Cat! Flossie, who turned 27 at the end of that year, started out life as a stray kitten before she found a home with the person who found her. Twenty-four years later, when her pet parents passed away, Flossie was adopted from Cats Protection by a new pet parent.
Flossie was not the first tortoiseshell cat to hold the Guinness World Record title of World’s Oldest Living Cat. Tiffany Two from San Diego, California, who was named in honor of her pet parent’s previous tortie, crossed the Rainbow Bridge in 2015 after 27 happy years.
Venus The Two-Faced Cat is a tortoiseshell who gained fame on social media for her half black/half orange tabby visage.
Admirers of torties have long known that they possess “magical” qualities, and film fans had the opportunity to see a tortie’s talent in the 2005 movie Bewitched, in which a tortoiseshell portrayed the purring pal of actress Nicole Kidman’s character.
Famous Pet Parents of Torties
Over the years several well-known figures have chosen a tortoiseshell cat to be their feline family member, among them:
Lea Michele — The actress gave a tortie she dubbed Sheila a starring role in her life in 2009, when she found the kitten and her siblings on the lot at Paramount studios. (Sheila’s brothers and sisters were adopted by one of Lea Michele’s fellow Glee cast mates (Heather Morris) and one of the directors of the series.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan — Although their padded paws never promenaded through the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, torties Cleo and Sara’s pet parent was a President! The pair of purring pals lived at the Reagan’s Santa Barbara estate, Rancho del Cielo, which was also home to the President’s canine companions Millie (and Irish Setter/Labrador Retriever), Taca (a Husky), Victory (a Golden Retriever) and Lucky (a Bouvier des Flandres).
Debby Ryan — The actress, who took care of four kids as nanny Jessie Prescott in the Disney Channel series Jessie, cares for a tortie she named Velma.
I would be remiss to end this post without a mention of the tortoiseshell temperament.
Commonly referred to as “tortitude,” the term refers to a tortie’s supposed predisposition to be slightly more strong-willed, independent and cantankerous than other cats. (The word “diva” often appears in internet searches about the two-toned cats.)
In fact, a 2016 study by the University of California-Davis veterinary school came to the conclusion that a tortie’s character can be a challenge.
However, Kate — my own tortoiseshell cat — DEMANDS that I tell readers that every feline is a unique being who should be loved for their own one of a kind personality.
Adopting A Tortoiseshell Cat
If you are pondering the prospect of welcoming a tortoiseshell cat into your heart and home, check out the animal shelters and rescue organizations in your area!
To help in your search, visit:
More Cat Holidays You Might Enjoy
National Black Cat Appreciation Day
National Holistic Pet Day
Ginger Cat Appreciation Day