With more than 400 cats around the Sanctuary, there’s an immense variety of types and colours. Tabbies of various kinds predominate, but there are many other coats to be seen. The majority of our orange cats are male, but we do have half a dozen orange females. The orange coat is a genetic trait that occurs through the male X chromosome, and a female cat with orange fur has to have been sired by a male orange, through the mother may be of any colour. This is also true for tortoiseshells and calicos, both of which are almost exclusively female. In both cases the gene for the orange colouring is modified by the gene for black or for white fur.
We probably have more than a dozen torties, a few of whom are shown above. Anyone who has ever been owned by a tortie will tell you that they have tons of personality – we call it “tortietude”. They tend to be assertive about their rights, possessive of their territory, feisty and somewhat unpredictable.
Nobody at the Sanctuary sums that up better than Treacle. A little stiff-legged girl (probably a little arthritic), Treacle has claimed the Hill House as her space, and once she’s found her bed, she does NOT want to be bothered by other cats! She loves humans – she’s one of the cats you can pick up and snuggle, and she adores it – but when there are front courtyard spats, it’s usually because Treacle is laying down the law.
She’s what’s known as a chocolate tortie, with a lot of black in her fur colouring. Treacle carries her “my space” bubble around with her, and woe betide the cat that ventures into it.
In a totally different vein is Nelly, a dilute tortie, found in the DoubleWide. She was the long-term girlfriend of our dearly loved Mario, and has never really recovered from his death – one gets the feeling she’s still looking for him. Nelly’s territory is the top of the cages, from which she stares down with the slightly horrified expression of the typical feral.
But progress is being made – though she still won’t allow herself to be touched, she will now accept treats, and occasionally comes down to join the crowd outside the med-cage.
As you leave the DoubleWide, you will encounter a tortie who exemplifies tortietude.
Emily takes territory to an extreme. For months she hung out on a cat-tree just outside the tea-room. Then she was slated for some dental work and caged while she recovered. Once the cage was open and Emily was free to go, she decided that this was her new territory, and refused to leave. It took months before she decided that there were too many cats encroaching on her territory, and she needed to claim something more her own. Now she’s moved to the shelf just outside the DoubleWide, where she demands attention as we come and go.
Now that the weather is warming a bit, Emily can once more be found outside the tea-room – especially if there’s chicken on offer – but she’s back on her shelf for the evening, and waiting to have her own special dinner delivered.
We can’t leave the torties without mentioning Daisy. She also has personality to an extreme degree – like, 180 degrees away from Treacle. Daisy has never met someone who isn’t her friend. She probably has a chromosomal disorder something like Down Syndrome (cats only have 38 chromosomes, so true Down Syndrome, which is a disorder of the 21st chromosomal pair, is not possible). We regularly have Sunday visitors who arrive asking, “Where’s Daisy?” and both cat and human enjoy snuggles; Daisy is one of the few Sanctuary cats who is relaxed when cradled like a baby. As a feral cat, Daisy’s chances would have been poor. We feel that she’s a poster girl for the Sanctuary.