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Friday, April 28, 2017

Feel the Tortitude

Written by  Dr. Tony Calo
Tortoiseshell traits run deep Tortoiseshell traits run deep

Violet has noticed that Liza (our new cat) has become quite a presence in our house. Liza follows the dogs around as though she’s part of the canine pack rather than a feline member of the family. She’s captivating to Connor and I. She is very much a bright light to us. Liza is also very young, very playful, very animated, and very cute. She brings joy to our house and to our family.

Violet has also noticed that she is not so sure that she really likes Liza. All of Liza’s attributes amount to competition for Miss Violet in terms of our attention. Violet loves a lot of things but one of the things that she loves most is being the center of attention. She also loves being blonde. This is coloration is in stark contrast to Liza’s coat color. Liza is a perfect example of tortoiseshell. Technically speaking, tortoiseshell is a combination of two colors other than white. In most cases, one color is black and the other is a shade of red or orange. In Liza’s case, the colors are black and a rich caramel orange. She is quite striking in appearance. Even Violet cannot deny this. Liza is beautiful.

The beauty of Liza’s coloration made me start thinking about what exactly it means to be a tortoiseshell cat. In my field, these beautiful cats have a reputation of being mean, aggressive, and very difficult to deal with. Liza, by contrast, is bright, happy, playful, and loving. So, I started doing some research to see if there was any evidence to support that this coloration resulted in any reliable character traits. I discovered some very interesting information about our dear Liza.

First, the cause of this coloration is very complex and interesting interplay of genetics and environment. It is almost entirely seen in female cats because it requires two X chromosomes to produce the black and gold coloring. The degree of speckling depends on the expression – or the shutting off – of pigment-containing cells as they migrate to the skin. The “split face” appearance with black on one side of the face and gold on the other with a sharp dividing line running down the midline that Liza sports is not uncommon. It was this striking and beautiful physical trait that led me to want to name her Two-face. Connor was adamantly opposed to this, but I still feel it fits her.

The folklore of these cats is equally interesting. In Southeast Asia, it’s believed that the very first tortoiseshell cat was created from the blood of a young goddess. In many cultures, tortoiseshell cats are believed to bring good luck. Celts hold that bringing a tortoiseshell feline into your house implies good fortune awaits. In Japan, fisherman would bring a tortoiseshell cat on their boats to provide protection against ghosts. In the U.S., they’ve been referred to “money cats” for the supposed power to bring wealth to their owners.

Finally, the attitude of tortoiseshell is a well-known aspect of these beautiful cats. A tortoiseshell cat is generally thought of as having high energy, strong personalities, and a very demanding nature. They are also believed to be sensitive, headstrong, and adventurous. These attributes, whether they are real or perceived, has led to the term “tortitude.” Of course, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest a correlation between coat color and personality. Despite this, almost any animal health professional will attest to the reality of tortitude. I myself, will attest to tortitude being a state of mind, body, and soul leading to the strong will of these cats. I can honestly say this embodies all that Liza is. I can also say that Violet is very unsettled by Miss Liza’s own tortitude. It makes things very interesting around here and Connor and I love it!

Please feel free to write Violet’s Vet with any pet questions– This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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