Tortitude is a term of endearment used to describe the unique behavior of tortoiseshell cats. It literally means tortie + attitude. So, you can imagine where this is going. The tortoiseshell cat looks much like a calico but with little or no white fur and usually very dark with yellow and russet coloring. It is not an actual breed but more of a mutation. Herein, lays a dilemma. Are these cats a product of nature or of the environment in which they are raised? My tortie story begins like this…
I have a six-year old tabby cat who is the sweetest soul you will meet…very loving. My daughter and I thought it might be nice for her to have a companion since we were away from home most of the day. We decided to look for a cat outside of a shelter in need of a home (I cannot possibly go to a shelter and be expected to choose!). We had two criteria 1) must be a female and 2) must be living with other cats. We thought this would work well for our female tabby and we were already imaging them cuddling and napping together all day.
My daughter was in charge of the search and quickly found a kitty fitting our needs. She was a tortoiseshell and was very affectionate. We brought her home and slowly introduced the cats to one another. There were many squabbles at night and lengthy ‘stare-downs’ in the hallway. I knew this was normal and figured it would pass. But, after about two weeks, I began to realize that this new cat was just different.
To start, let’s just say that I now know why her previous humans named her Salem and why they asked a neighbor to cat sit and never returned for her…sad and harsh, but true. To be blunt, she is haughty, naughty, temperamental, strong-willed and feisty. She is terribly antagonistic to my tabby; at first it seems she is playing but she is just baiting her so she can attack. To make things worse, the tabby can hardly come near me because the tortie is quite possessive of me.
I decided to research the issue with the tortie after the vet made a comment about her behavior, summing it up as “she’s a tortie alright.” It seems the traits I previously listed are indeed indicative of tortie personalities. Further, torties are almost always female and, in my opinion, happiest in a one-cat household because she snaps at other cats. Sometimes she even snaps at me…especially if I am not giving her my full attention or petting her correctly. It’s a little bizarre.
To finish, I must say that my tortie is one of the smartest cats I have met and I have grown to love her dearly. She is talkative and knows how to get her way; she is persistent. She understands punishment and is sensitive to it (if you can catch her); she appears to be astute at planning her escape before she misbehaves. She can be unpredictable; each day I come home wondering what I will find. But, at the end of the day when she sits on my lap and stares directly into my eyes, I feel like we are soul mates. Even my tabby seems to be benefiting; she is more alert and gets more exercise since the tortie moved in. I just can’t help but forgive kitty for her tortie-ness and daily trespasses. And, gone are the days I secretly planned to have her microchipped with someone else’s contact information.