Describing the male tortoiseshell cat’s strange feminine behavior

Male tortoiseshell cats are very rare because the genes which create the coat colour and pattern are sex linked. There should be no tortoiseshell male cats. There are some because of a minor genetic error which allows the male to develop with the combination XXY chromosomes. The double X gives it the chance to be have red AND black fur while the Y gives him male characteristics.

Male tortoiseshell cats are rare and feminine
Male tortoiseshell cats are rare and feminine. Image: MikeB
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But the male tortoiseshell cat has some odd behavior characteristics. They are not very masculine and they are sterile. The male tortoiseshell behaves like a masculinised female and not a true male.

This list of characteristics might not be typical of all male tortoiseshell cats but one was observed to:

  • Ignore the usual status battles. This was probably because the cat was neither male and female and did not have the desire to compete in single sex pecking order disputes.
  • Not start to spray urine to mark territory at the age a cat would normally do so. When he did spray urine, he did so in an unenthusiastic manner.
  • Not mate with females in heat despite being anatomically equipped to do so.
  • Allow young tom cats to mount him and attempt to mate with him.
  • Show little interest in females when adult. He did mate with a few but demonstrated little interest.
  • Never behave like a full-blooded tom cat at any stage.
  • Mate with a highly-sexed female in a captive situation to encourage mating but the female failed to become pregnant. This confirmed that the tortoiseshell male was sterile.

All male tortoiseshell domestic cats are feminine.

It is believed that no male tortoiseshell has fathered a litter of kittens. I could not find anything on the internet which corrected that belief. Can you?

Despite all the apparent failings of the male tortoiseshell in terms of being masculine, it is not all bad news as their rarity has value to humans as it always does.

In times past they escaped the typical persecution which befell other domestic cats. In Celtic countries they considered the male tortoiseshell to be a good omen in they settled in the home.

During the Middle Ages in England, they believed that the tail of a male tortoiseshell when rubbed against a wart in the month of May would remove it. This was an era of great superstition in Europe regarding cats.

Male tortoiseshell cats protected sailors against storms and ghosts as ships’ cats in Japan which resulted in a high monetary value being placed on them.

Rosie a tortoiseshell cat is 32-years-of-age and has been to the vet twice. She beats the official Guinness record holder by five years!

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