Life Lessons from Josie the Tortoiseshell Cat
If you have a tortoiseshell cat, you know that they’re not like any other cat. They have very distinct and diva-ish personalities. To fully appreciate them and understand their wisdom, you must live with a tortie.
Josie has taught me a lot in the three years that she’s lived with us, and it would be selfish of me to keep those lessons to myself.
First some basic information about tortoiseshell cats, and how we got Josie.
Tortoiseshell isn’t a breed of cat; it’s a descriptor of their multi-colored fur which is a mixture of brown, black, orange, and gold. Many people mix up tortoiseshell cats for calico cats, but the main difference is that calico cats have more white fur than the torties.
I’ve had cats my entire life, but I never had a tortoiseshell cat before Josie. If I’m being honest, I thought they were kind of funny looking — I know. Thank goodness Josie came into my life or I would have missed out on how fabulous they are.
My mother is the eccentric cat lady of her town and has two indoor cats, six feral cats that she takes care of, and one dog. Everyone knows if you find a stray animal, you can drop them off at my mother’s house.
Josie and another kitten found their way to my mother and she bottle-fed both of them, but only Josie survived.
It’s hard enough for my mother, who’s elderly to take care of the animals that she has, so my boyfriend and I made the drive up to my mother’s house to pick up Josie and bring her back to live with us.
We didn’t know that Josie would change our lives forever.
Since we already had two cats, we had to integrate Josie into the family with care, so my boyfriend turned a portion of our office into a pen and put her and, food and water, a box for shelter, and some toys into the makeshift pen.
The other cats were able to see, smell, and hear Josie, and she, them. Ideally, she would have been in the pen for a month or two, but Josie and the other cats got used to each other quickly, so after a few supervised visits, she was allowed to roam the house at will.
It didn’t take long for Josie to claim the house as hers.
Lesson #1: You do you
Torties are well known for their feisty attitude or tortitude as it’s commonly referred to and Josie has hers in buckets. She can be super bitey one minute and be so sweet that she’ll jump in your arms and want to be petted the next. She’s subservient to no one and does what she wants to do. Josie is a cat of many moods and can be unpredictable but she’s never boring.
Lesson #2: Make your own rules
While cats don’t generally have a moral code or set of values that they adhere to, tortoiseshell cats do. One of their rules is that they bond with one human and one human alone and they’re quite possessive of their person.
She loves me, she loves my boyfriend, and she loves our roommate. If the three of us are in the same room, she will go from one person to the next wanting some affection.
I’m glad that she’s our only tortoiseshell or she might get into trouble with the Council of Tortoiseshell Cats which I have no evidence exists but I’m guessing does.
Lesson #3: Challenge yourself daily
Another thing about Josie, I suspect she’s an Aries because she loves adventure, taking risks, and doing the unexpected. We have a linen closest in our hall and above that are some shelves. Josie was able to jump from a small bookcase in the hall to those cupboards, even when the doors to the cupboard were tied together with a rubber band and there was only a small space in which to get through.
Lesson #4: Think outside the box:
Although Josie may do her best thinking inside a box; she sees the world in her unique and creative way. She’s made the crown modeling in our dining room her catwalk, the unused chimney her place for quiet reflections, and she’s the arbitrator of what’s trendy and cool for the other cats in the house. If Josie decides that sleeping on top of the washing machine is the best, then the rest of the cats will try and snag it as their sleeping place when Josie has grown tired of it.
Lesson #5: Talk when you have something to say
Torties can be very talkative but I notice with Josie, she only meows when she’s trying to communicate something that she wants. Jimi, one of our other cats is constantly talking — mostly to himself, and there never seems to be any point to it. Josie on the other hand meows when she’s happy to see you, when she’s annoyed with you, or when she needs to kick some fur-ass.
Lesson #6: Have goals and go for them
We have a social hierarchy for the cats in our house. It used to be that the eldest cat was automatically considered top cat. Yoshi is currently top cat. If we were following tradition, that would make Allie next in line and she’d receive all the honors and privileges that go with it.
Unfortunately, Allie, for her safety, must be sequestered in the bedroom. Josie pointed out that Allie can’t lead if her domain is of just one room but that she’d be glad to assume the position of top cat when it becomes available.
Lesson #7: Know your power
Most tortoiseshell cats are female and they fully express their girl-power. Josie is tough and she won’t put up with any bullying. The only thing that she’s scared of is the vacuum cleaner, so if one of the boy cats pisses her off or tries to control her in any way, she’ll chase them or give them a good swat on the behind.
Lesson #8: Do a job you love
Josie is an amazing huntress but because she’s an indoor cat, her hunting is restricted to whatever bugs make their way into the house that we don’t have time to save like crickets. Josie is an exterminator by trade and if a cockroach makes its way up the pipes of the bathtub, Josie will be waiting to take care of it.
Lesson #9: Make your needs clear
As humans, we’re not always clear about what we need and when. We think that our loved ones should just know, but they’re not mind-readers. It’s much more honest and direct to just tell them what it is that you need. Josie lets you know when she wants an affection-session, when she wants to play, and when she wants to take a bath in peace! She doesn’t hold back and assume that we know what’s going on in her head — she’s too good of a communicator for that.
Lesson #10: Get all the sleep you need
Josie is the only cat I know that sleeps in. The other cats tend to get up early and demand their breakfast but not Josie. She knows that if she gets hungry, food will be provided. Sleeping is one of the most important parts of Josie’s day and she doesn’t let anyone or anything prevent her from getting her zzzs.