Tortoiseshell cats have a very distinctive personality and have what many people describe as “tortitude”. The first time I ever heard the word tortitude was from a fellow blogger on Instagram, and apparently, based on my Google research it’s a widely used term to describe their attitudes. Tortoiseshell’s are almost always female (males are super rare and are most often sterile), fiercely independent, feisty, unpredictable, and in my experience so far, very talkative (meowing, hissing, etc). Life with a tortoiseshell cat is much different from that of other domestic cats.
When I decided to adopt a kitten Mr. Miller agreed on one condition – it had to be a tortoiseshell. Back in September 2016, my friend Amanda and I went to the big adoption event at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds in search of my new furry companion. After walking up and down the endless rows of homeless kitties, I found a beautiful, shy, and seemingly loving tortoiseshell kitten and wasted no time completing the paperwork to bring her home.
We kept her in the bathroom for the first few days in hopes of slowly integrating her into our home. I would bring her out every couple of hours to socialize, love on her and also give her exposure to Tini, our chihuahua/pug mix. What I didn’t realize at the time was those early days would be the last time she would allow me to make contact with her. About a week after we got her a hurricane was coming through our area and we went to stay with Mr. Miller’s parents to ride out the storm. Our home was already a strange environment for her, so having to uproot her and keep her somewhere new for 4 days disrupted the progress we had made.
Tortoiseshell’s are known for having feisty, standoffish attitudes, so it’s quite possible that she would have ended up the way she is even if I hadn’t switched up her environment. When it was safe to come back home, we let her loose in the house and I’ve not been able to hold or catch her since. For the first few days she wouldn’t even come out of hiding. She would only come out after we had gone to bed to eat and use the litter box. (I guess I should probably tell you her name, right? Her name is Boo Radley. Yeah, I know that’s a weird name for a female cat, but it really fits her. She’s a bit of a recluse, and early on she liked to hide in the shadows, fearing the world beyond. Boo Radley fits her perfectly.
Boo Radley has made a lot of progress since October, but she is still super skittish and untrusting. She no longer hides as much as in the beginning and hangs out in the living room often, but runs when we walk past her and is always on guard. She loves the laser pointer though. Mr. Miller likes to get her going with it and it’s quite entertaining for me too. The only time I can actually pet her is if I have food, and even then she’ll only allow it to go on for just a few minutes. Trying to pick her up is a big no-no. I still haven’t figured out how to gain her trust. Every now and then she’ll playfully swat my leg when I walk by or come up and boop my hand when I extend it to her. I’ve tried laying on the floor, sitting on the floor, leaving little food trails hoping she’ll follow, dangly toys, all to no avail. Mr. Miller says that around the time I’m supposed to be home she’ll wait at the door for me, so that’s something I guess.
Boo Radley may keep her distance from us, but she LOVES Tini to pieces. I should say that Tini’s interaction with Boo is reluctant at best and the love isn’t exactly reciprocated. Tini is old and set in her ways. She’s not mean, but Boo really gets on her nerves. Boo Radley likes to hide, wait for the perfect moment and jump out at Tini when she least expects it. Boo also likes to invade Tini’s personal space – A LOT. Although, one time I did catch them sleeping side by side in Tini’s bed and she didn’t seem to mind, so I think she secretly likes Boo too.
Even though Boo Radley isn’t the lazy lap cat I had hoped for I still love her dearly and will remain patient for as long as it takes for her to warm up to me. She is beautiful, quirky, unpredictable, entertaining, full of attitude and bat shit crazy. Always into something, bouncing off the walls, running, jumping, and pouncing. I can only imagine how much fun she’ll be if and when she allows me to interact with her.
Do any of you have a tortoiseshell kitty? Any advice on how to gain their trust? Or is it possible she’ll always be shy and standoffish? I’d love to hear what you think.
Thanks for reading and Happy Friday!