Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Decade of Tortitude: The Magic & Mystique Of My Heart Cats

Throughout the spring of 2007 I found myself visiting the PetSmart adoption center whenever I drove by. It seems unfathomable to me now, but at that point I'd been a little over a year without a cat and I was feeling the urge to bring a new fur baby into my life. My tuxedo beauty Sashi had gone through a long illness prior to her passing and I needed the time to heal.

I had my heart set on either a Siamese or a tortoiseshell. My mom was urging me towards a tortie, and while I wouldn't have turned my back on any cat that I felt a connection to, I found that I was leaning more and more in that direction.

On May 15th I walked into PetSmart and saw a cat named Kelly (who would soon become Tara). I audibly gasped at the sight of her. My mom was waiting for me in the car so I ran out to get her. She told me later that the look on my face told her that I'd found "the one". Mom went into the store with me and was also instantly smitten.

I filled out her adoption application the next day, was approved the day after that, and brought her home on May 20th. I remember standing in line at PetSmart that afternoon picking up a few last minute items for her, and while waiting I noticed a couple young men standing at the cages admiring her. I was so excited I just wanted to shout out, "Be careful around my cat!!!"

I didn't know it at the time, but life changed for me that day. I've known people through the years who've adopted the same breed of dog over and over and always wondered in the back of my mind why they didn't want a little variety in their life. Now I'm that girl when it comes to torties.

Typically when I embark on a new adventure in my life my research-oriented mind kicks in and I read everything I can get my hands on about the topic. After 30 years of living with cats prior to Tara I didn't think a tortie was any different than any other cat. Boy, was I ever wrong! Their uniqueness extends far beyond their color, and most people don't understand how special a tortie is until they bring one into their lives. Tara's feistiness caught me completely off guard and before long I was scouring the web for anything I could find about the cat I had given my heart to. These are some of the fun facts that I learned:

1) Due to genetics, approximately only 1 in 3,000 torties is male. When a male tortie is produced it's the result of a genetic mutation. These males are typically sterile.

2) The distinctive colors that make up a tortie's brindled coat include black, brown, red, chocolate, cinnamon, and amber. Dilute torties have lighter colors like lilac and cream, while one with a lot of black is referred to as a chocolate tortie. (Which is how Truffles and Mudpie earned their names.) A torbie has tortie colors intertwined with a tabby pattern. A calico has tortie coat colors with added white sections. They are white, but with solid red and brown patches. In the United Kingdom, what we refer to as a calico is called a tortoiseshell and white cat.

3) A tortoiseshell is not a breed, it is a coat pattern. Persians, Cornish Rex, and the Japanese Bobtail are just a few of the many breeds that can produce a tortoiseshell coat, both long and short-haired.

4) Torties are often mentioned in folklore. In the United States they're referred to as "money cats".  In Scotland and Ireland it's seen as good luck when a tortie comes into your home, but that goes without saying! An old English wives tale says you can cure warts by rubbing them with a male tortie's tail, and Japanese fisherman believe bringing a tortie onto their boat protects them from storms and ghosts. The Khmers of Southeast Asia even developed an explanation as to the origins of a tortie: they came from "the menstrual blood of a young goddess born of a lotus flower during a magical ritual".

With the exception of the 6 weeks after Tara passed away before I adopted Truffles, and the month after I lost Truffles so unexpectedly before finding Mudpie, I've lived with a tortie for ten years now, and in that time they've become the cats of my heart. Even my father, who more or less "put up with" my mom's (and subsequently my) cat obsession, became a cat lover thanks to my "girls". A few days after bringing Tara home he told my mom in private that she was "a really nice looking cat". He stayed by my side in the emergency room the night I had to let Truffles go and my heart was shattered into a million pieces. The day I told him I'd chosen Mudpie his first question was if she was a tortie, and she has stolen his heart like no other cat before her. That's a testament to their magic.

On more than one occasion I've heard shelter workers say that torties tend to be overlooked by prospective pet parents. They're victims of that silly black cat stigma, and so much is said about "tortitude" that leads people to believe they're difficult. It breaks my heart that people don't know what they're missing out on.

What makes a tortoiseshell cat pure purr-fection (in my eyes)? Everything from their exquisite beauty to their fun and playful personalities. Tortitude is real...but that's what makes them so unique and special! They are also the most loving cats I've ever had the pleasure of living with. Tara, Truffles and Mudpie have all become exceptionally attached to me in ways I haven't experienced with other cats. They've all been very vocal cats too...and there is nothing more fun than chatting with a tortie! They just have so much to say, and they're not afraid to say it either! One of my greatest regrets is never having had the opportunity to get Truffles' adorable little voice on video. We just didn't have enough time, but I've already made sure not to make the same mistake with Mudpie.

Over the past 10 years I've discovered that torties spark a great deal of passion among their devotees. We can't imagine life without these magnificent little creatures and can barely remember a time before they ran our lives. I can say from personal experience that once you "go tortie" there's no going back. Tortitude has made my days brighter and filled my heart and home with love and laughter.


Summer at said...

Binga gives your blog post her paw of approval! My human's heart cat was actually a calico with a sweet face and the fieriest temper ever! She does not understand why other humans wouldn't want a cat with lots of personality.

Mickey's Musings said...

I totally agree with everything you said!
Torties rock!!!
Purrs Georgia

Julie said...

I have learnt so much about Torties, thank you for a brilliant and informative post
Loves and licky kisses
Princess Leah xxx
PeeS Did I mention I finks Torties are really really pretty Kitties?????

Ingrid King said...

Tara was stunning! My tortie journey began with my office cat Virginia in 1998. Like you, I used to wonder about people who would adopt the same dog breed again and again - and here I am, with Allegra and Ruby being torties #4 and #5!

The Menagerie Mom said...

This post is purrfect, and just so beautifully written. Somehow, I have never been owned by a tortie, but through kitties like Mudpie I have come to realize just how truly special they are.

The Island Cats said...

Torties are such beauties! We don't know if you saw it or not, but recently there was a male tortie kitten found in a shelter and now they have over 1000 applications to adopt him. We hope it's because they love torties and not because of the novelty of being a male tortie.

The Swiss Cats said...

Pixie totally agrees with you ! Purrs, Zorro

Anonymous said...

I totally agree, Melissa!

pilch92 said...

I love torties now too ever since Penny showed up at our door 5 years ago. Angels Tara and Truffles were beautiful and so is Miss Mudpie.

Priscilla King said...

Heather's certainly easy to love. Shellie was even more so. Violet was adorable. Mogwai was an odd, ugly-faced, awkward kitten but very sweet and very brave, and she did eventually grow into her legs and become a strong, graceful, clever cat.

Heather also had a kitten I called Gwai, who looked like Mogwai and was as un-lovable as she looked. I don't know what was wrong with her. The tortoiseshell gene did not override whatever gene caused her totally not to bond with other cats or with humans.

However...four out of five!

da tabbies o trout towne said...

mudpie; tortiez R total lee awesum N while therz never been a tortie in de land oh trout; ther'z been one in de naybor hood who we called turtle....she waz a loud ta free roam but we all keeped an eye out for her...we all hada sadnezz when her N her peepulz mooved a way...her used ta lay in R back yard all de time in de sun N everee now N then we wood see her on de hunt ~~~~~ ☺☺♥♥♥

Kathy Zabliski said...

I had a tortie for 18 years. She used to run through the house and jump against the wall with all 4 feet and bounce off into another direction. And she talked. Incessantly. And chased dogs out of our yard. But, she was so sweet and loving. When I first became sick and nearly died, she would lie on the head of my bed and put her paw on my head. She never left my side.

Bernadette said...

Torties rock! Mudpie is a real pickle! I've been owned by two regulars, one dilute, one torbie and two calicos: Cookie, Kelly, Nikka, Fawn, Peaches and Cream. Each of them kind of broke the tortie/tri-color mold for me and I will never forget any of them.

jandthecats said...

Wishing you and your wondrous Torties a lovely long weekend ! =^..^=

Three Chatty Cats said...

I love torties, too, thanks to Miss Olive. I'd never heard of chocolate tortie before. I wonder if Olive would fall into that category?

Unknown said...

Beautiful post! I did not know about the "chocolate" torties, or that torties can have a hard time getting adopted. I mean, they're so awesome, who wouldn't want one???

Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat said...

Hmmm ... I'm starting to think Bear's a tortie in disguise. Maybe that's why I love them so much? They truly are purr-fection in every way. For the longest time, I had no idea about torties. Kitty was mostly tabby - but she had this one huge brown patch on her back (with no other brown anywhere else on her body) ... and she had one white paw (with no other white anywhere else on her body). I suspect she was a mix of tabby and tortie - but since I had no idea that torties existed - I didn't realize it until I started blogging. I cut off a swatch of that gorgeous brown spot on her back - what made her so unique - and it's in a tiny bag with her picture ... my little temple of remembrance.