Torbie Cats

The word “torbie” is a shortened version of “tortoiseshell-tabby”. The word describes a coat that is an amalgam of tabby patterns/colors and tortoiseshell patterns/colors. Both pedigree cats and moggies have torbie coats.

To people unsure about cat coats, torbie looks like a spelling mistake. There is a “b” where there is usually a “t” as we are used to seeing “tortie” cats (short for tortoiseshell).

So what does a torbie cat look like? Here are some examples. The coat patterns and colors are quite subtle, I think you’ll agree. For example, tabby stripes on a tortoiseshell coat sounds fairly easy to visualize but when you see the coat it is not so straightforward.

Torbie Cats

Torbie Cats. Photos are copyright Helmi Flick

Other names for a torbie are:

  • Patched tabby. This describes a tabby cat with patches of cream and red fur.
  • Tortie tabby.

How do you identify a torbie? The silver classic torbie in the picture above is fairly easy to pick out because you can clearly see the classic tabby pattern of swirls etc. as well as the red fur which is what you see in the tortoiseshell cat.

I think the key is that you are looking for some red or orange within a tabby pattern of some sort, be it, spotted, stripped (mackerel) or swirls and blotches (classic). For example in the cat described as a brown mackerel torbie in the picture above (second from bottom on the left), you can clearly see the stripped tabby pattern and just about see the red in the coat.

It is easier to see the tabby pattern. If you have that and no red the cat is probably a straightforward tabby cat. Apparently torbie cats have spotted bellies (as do tabby cats) whereas a tortoiseshell does not.

You can get some complex color mixes with torbie cats. There are silvered, non-silvered, golden, and chinchilla or shaded silver/golden. You can add white to these patterns too.

Here is an interesting type of torbie cat. This cat has torbie pointing. Seal colored torbie pointing is standard colored solid pointing that has been “broken up” by making it tabby pointing and tortoiseshell pointing combined. When pointing is just tabby pointing it is called called “lynx pointing”. It’s a bit complicated isn’t it?

Seal Pointed Torbie Cat

Seal Pointed Torbie Cat. Her name is Yasmin. Photo by Simone Johnsson.

Because there are two coat types interacting there is a very wide range of color+pattern effects in torbie cats.

There is nothing about the genetics of torbie cats in the what is supposedly the best book on cat genetics: Robinson’s Genetics. Actually it is a poorly written and prepared book.

One final point; some people believe that calico and tortoiseshell cats have a certain personality or attitude. I am not sure. However, if they are correct then torbies also have an attitude and the attitude is that they have an opinion and are not afraid to voice it.


Comments

Torbie Cats — 19 Comments

  1. Well they says tortoiseshells have ‘tortitude’ so I guess torbies have ‘torbitude’ – perhaps its a little less assertive and opinionated than ‘tortitude’. Actually I think its not true. My tortie is positively skiddish. I am trying to understand why at the moment – maybe the dog in her young days with mama scared her or a human did but I am not satisfied that she is just randomly scared off so easily. Trouble is I can’t ask without sounding accusing, at the home where she was born.

  2. I don’t believe it. I never realized my Nicky was a Torbie! The body of the Brown Mackerel Torbie is a dead-ringer for Nicky. He had a bit more of the tortie markings than the beautiful specimen above, but his fore paws ruff are dead-ringers for Nicky. There is a Maine Coon named JB whose face is identical to Nicky’s. Since we have no photos of him, I could photoshop JB’s head onto the above Brown Mackerel Torbie’s body. :) I’m not that crazy. I can still see him in my memory. Thanks. I learn so much from this website!

    • Fantastic. I am pleased because I think torbies are quite rare, really. The mix of tabby and tortie is quite a special mix. It is almost like a artist’s palette. Torbies are very special looking cats. There seems to be that little bit of red/orange lurking there in the background on a tabby coat.

  3. i have two torties now who ate six weeks old that no one has even shown interest in…..my tortie had babies and she had two torties and three black kittens!

    • i meant to say who “are six weeks old…” also good to note is that all kittens will be spayed or neutered with their momma and ready at twelve weeks

  4. I am wondering if one of my cats is a Torbie. She has a distinct tuxedo cat and orange tabby markings. I had thought of as being a calico cat strictly. But her siblings were mostly tuxedo. And she resembles them except she has the orange tabby markings. Maybe you can help me figure out her markings? She also has a sister who is a more traditional calico who has longer hair.

    • Your description indicates Torbie because there are the three colors for tortie-and-white (black, orange and white – calico) plus the tabby pattern. If you have a picture please upload it using the button below the comment box. Thanks for visiting and asking.

      • I just posted a picture of Malia below because I had to resize the photo it did not work in the first posting. Here’s another with both of my cats. They are siblings. Malia is on the left. My sister Isabel looks a lot like her hair is longer. To me she looks more like a classic calico cat, but I wonder if she could be a Torbie be as well?

  5. This is my Malia. I’ve always thought of her as a calico cat. But since her siblings were tuxedo cats, I wonder if she might be a Torbie after all because She has the tuxedo pattern of her siblings with orange tabby and marking added. As you can see in the photo. What do you think?

  6. Here’s a picture of Malia’s face, sitting position. I’m also curious can a cat be both a calico and a Torbie? What is the difference? Is a Torbie pattern more rare? Thanks for answering… I had a hunch about my cats markings being special but I didn’t know how. I always thought of as calico cats.

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