are calico and tortoiseshell cats feistier?

are calico and tortoiseshell cats feistier?
Posted by Dr. Ernie Ward on Feb 12 2016

If you’ve worked around animals as long as I have, you learn a few things – like give plenty of respect to tortie and tricolor cats. Turns out I’m not alone in these observations. Researchers from the University of California, Davis set out to determine once and for all if calicos and tortoiseshells are feistier than other cats. Of course, they are.

The why

To start, tortoiseshell cats are almost exclusively female. So there’s that. I’m not saying females are more difficult, but I have two teenaged daughters. The rare male torties, about 1 in 3,000, are usually sterile and may have other genetic defects. Most tortoiseshells have multicolored coats with patches of red, black, orange or gold. A calico is typically a tricolored cat with large patches of white punctuated by splashes of red, orange, yellow or black. My great grandmother called tortoiseshells “money cats” because they brought good luck. I’ve only had calicos and torties and I’ll say is I’m lucky to sleep in my own bed.

Closeup of calico cat

Get Exclusive Offers & More

Get Exclusive Offers & More

Be the first to hear about pet-specific news, health tips, exclusive offers and more! Unsubscribe at any time.

The research

The study involved online surveys of nearly 1,300 cat owners. Questions included their cat’s typical behaviors, attitudes, and habits and asked for written physical descriptions and color categories. Cat owners didn’t know the purpose of the study other than it asked a lot about kitty conduct.

When the results were tabulated, calicos and tortoiseshells scored higher on the “difficulty” scale than most other coat colors. To be fair, these differences were subtle and required a lot of statistical muscle to make any conclusions. The veterinarians further suggested that cats with gray and white or black and white coats were also feistier than other coat combos. Do what you will with that information.

The issues

I agree there seems to be a link between “fiercely independent” and cat coat color. I found many potential shortcomings of this study, especially since the researchers relied entirely on survey respondents rather than empirical observation. The veterinarians noted this and called for additional studies to verify their initial findings. It’s also impossible to scientifically define certain aggressive or belligerent behaviors. One cat’s “naughty” may actually be “sometimes I just want to be left alone, especially in a vet’s office or research center.” How can you tell the difference?

If you share your life with a calico or tortoiseshell cat, you don’t need a scientific study to know you have a special kitty. I admit I’m biased toward these tricolored beauties; I’ve found them to be some of the best pets and patients I’ve ever known. I’ve learned to respect and give them plenty of space during my examinations. I also sleep in a small corner of my bed.

Protect your pet today

Get the most comprehensive pet insurance in one simple plan