A questionnaire concerning the coat colour and sex of cats being vaccinated or neutered was sent to 2585 veterinary practices; 393 (15.2 per cent) were returned and information was obtained about 9816 cats. Of 4598 males, 20 were recorded as tortoiseshell (0.43 per cent). The frequency of the orange gene was 19.7 per cent, assuming that male tortoiseshell cats had two X chromosomes. The chromosome complement and/or gonadal histology of 14 male tortoiseshell cats is described. Cytogenetic analysis of 11 animals revealed six with a 38,XX/38,XY complement, two with 39,XXY, two with 38,XX, and one with a 38,XY complement.