Tortoiseshell, or “tortie,” cats are named for their striking orange and black coats, which are relatively rare among felines.
But torties, which account for just 1 out of every 3,000 cats, have another unique feature. Their exceptional colors are carried through the X chromosome, meaning these beautiful cats almost always female.
That’s why rescuers were so surprised when a stray tortie kitten, Mateo, arrived at the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA in California. As rescuers processed the skinny 2-month-old stray, they were shocked to discover the tiny tortie kitten was also a boy.
“Tortoiseshell Tabby cats, known for their black and orange coloring are almost always exclusively female, so we were quite shocked when a Tortoiseshell Tabby kitten who was found as a stray in Redwood City, CA was male,” the shelter’s communication manager, Buffy Martin Tarbox, told Patch.
Article continues below
Our Featured Programs
See how we’re making a difference for People, Pets, and the Planet and how you can get involved!
In fact, it’s so rare to find a male tortoiseshell cat that disbelieving vets examined little Mateo several times. “At first we couldn’t believe the kitten was indeed male, but after several thorough examinations, much to his dismay, our Veterinarian services staff confirmed he is indeed a male,” Tarbox told the outlet.
This led shelter workers to conclude the kitten must be a “genetic anomaly,” which is the only way they could explain Mateo’s unique color + gender pairing.
“To be a male Tortoiseshell cat, he must have three sex chromosomes: two XXs and one Y,” the shelter worker said. “We cannot ever recall a male Tortoiseshell Tabby come through our shelter.”
This makes it all the more strange that a second male tortoiseshell kitten was recently found in the area, according to Patch. The second male tortie kitten, Francisco, is currently living in foster care.
“In 2019, a shelter in England announced they had a male Tortoiseshell Tabby available for adoption and the kitten received international attention,” Tarbox said. “Maybe our local Mateo will become an international superstar too!”
Please contact the shelter at 650-340-7022 if you’d like to give this sweet, playful, and extremely rare rescued kitten his own home!
Help Rescue Animals
Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free! →