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. The black areas are replaced by dark tabby patterning. They are also known as a ‘patched tabby’.

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
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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 “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.

Gemma: Torbie Siberian Cat
Gemma: Torbie Siberian Cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

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.

This connection between tortoiseshell coats and ‘catitude’ is born out in the character of my friend’s cat. She is a little, independent-minded feline. She looks like an old opinionated granny!

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135 thoughts on “Torbie Cats”

  1. I had never heard of the term “torbie” until this year. I always thought my furbaby Foxie just had unique and beautiful markings. Then I discovered that she was a Torbie and her markings made sense. I wish I could post a picture but the file is too big. ?

    1. Hi Bethany, I agree that she is a torbie. There is another faint possibility, she may be a bimetallic cat but these are rare and I am just throwing that into the mix. She is almost certainly a torbie which are also pretty rare.

      Thanks by the way for uploading the picture – well done.

      As for her being a cat breed, I have to say she is not. She’ll be a beautiful random bred cat. That is praise not criticism. They are better than pedigree cats.

  2. This is my kitten “Little Girl”. I truly believe she’s a striped tabby but doing research she may be a Torbie. I would like some help on figuring out her breed.

    1. Bethany thanks for commenting. Your photo failed to upload. Please try again and make sure it is not too large if you can. The instructions are below the comment input box.

  3. This is my kitten. I truly believe she’s a striped tabby but doing research she may be a Torbie. I would like some help on figuring out her breed.

  4. I had never heard of a torbie until someone posted a pic on a bengal website asking if their cat might be part bengal. He looked a lot like my cat whom I had thought was part bengal, but someone suggested the cat was a torbie, and since my cat looks a lot like the one that had been pictured I went looking and found your sight. This is Malcolm. His personality seems to fit the description of a bengal, but I am wondering if I might have been mistaken all of this time. What do you think?

    1. Hi Jenny. In my opinion, Malcolm, is a very attractive classic (blotched) tabby cat.

      To be a torbie he’d have to have some orange fur in the coat and I don’t see it but if I am mistaken please tell me.

      A torbie is a tortoiseshell cat really with tabby fur as well. Thanks for showing me Malcolm and thanks for visiting and sharing.

  5. The vet called Katie a calico but she’s a strange mix. She actually looks like she has Tabby pants on. Then look at the face. She is a deva !

    1. Hi Nancy. Katie is a torbie-and-white and a rarer cat. She is a tortoiseshell tabby and white. Here is a slightly improved version of your pic:

      Torbie and white cat

      She is special. Unusual appearance. Some cats are different and she is one of them.

    1. They say torbies, calicos and torties have catitude. I have never seen hard evidence of that but a lot of cat caretakers say it. Really nice photo Tammy. Very good technically and she looks superb. Very attractive.

    2. Im confused, this same exact picture is posted earlier in this feed on August 5th, 2014 by Tammy Smith and said her cats name was Malia… Why is this same exact picture posted again but with the name Pixie??? Just curious…

      1. ‘Pixie’ is the cat’s nickname! Sometimes (me included) give their cats a number of names. Just one of those things ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Yes, Rocky is an amazing companion. My computer is as old as the hills.

    I’ll try the image as a tiff on Safari and hope for best.

    Denis & Kate

  7. This is “Rocky” or Roxanne. We rescued her from The Angell Memorial here in Boston

    We had no idea she was a Torbie until I looked at her adoption papers.

    She has orange and white tabby stripes on her rear legs and a creamy white belly.

    She’s bright, strong and willful.

    Rocky tolerates my wife but is absolutely crazy about me.

    D. & K.

      1. Awww, she really is a pretty cat, I love her to pieces! Her unique coat is what caught my eye at first! She’s got a great personality an loves to be cuddled! Never seen a kitty like her so thats why I wanted to know what she may be! Thanks for the help! Love the page you made! I will get more photos if you like

  8. This is Zoe my 7 and a half week old furbaby! I was wondering what you think she would be? She’s such a pretty kitty!

    1. Steph, thanks for visiting. Your picture was too large to upload to the site. Below the comment box is a link to a page which tells you how to make it smaller online for free. Then you can re-upload if you wish. I’d love to see your cat.

    1. Hi Tammy, I agree, I believe she is s torbie-and-white or torbie with white.

      You can see the tabby pattern on her forehead.

      A very attractive cat. Superb coat.

      Thanks for visiting and showing us.

  9. Hi, can you try to clarify the color of this kitten? She is definitely Torbie. Possibly a brown mackerel? Her fur looks like it is spotted cream underneath hair that is tipped in black. Very striking.Is the Torbie coloration more rare than other color patterns? Would you happen to know the rarest of cat colors?

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

    1. I would think-and I may be wrong about this-that with the clearly-delineated patches plus the white, she would be classified as a Caliby. Caliby, as you might expect, is like a Torbie but with calico markings instead of the more brindled tortoiseshell coat ๐Ÿ™‚ she is a beautiful cat, for sure!

      1. Thanks Sadie. Until your comment I had not heard of a “Caliby”. I’ll check it out asap ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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?

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

    1. 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

  14. 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m not that crazy. I can still see him in my memory. Thanks. I learn so much from this website!

    1. 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.

      1. I rescued a Torbie and she’s a handful! She’s got attitude, but she is so smart that I’ve been able to train her to fetch, shake and give kisses. She’s got to be one of the best cats I’ve rescued!

          1. I had a Torbie, sadly she passed away on Saturday at the age of 4. She was beautiful. We didn’t know the term torbie, we referred to her as our little Tabby-toice. Miss her so much already. If I get another cat in the future I hope I find a tabby-touch as beautiful as she was.

    2. I got my Nadya as a kitten from friends three years ago, and all this time I thought she was just a simple Tabby-until I looked into the Torbie and saw that picture! Nadya’s nose is less brachycephalic than the kitty in that picture, but her coat is very nearly identical! Visitors have always remarked that she has beautiful coloring, but I didn’t realize just how special she is until I found this page ๐Ÿ™‚ and if “torbitude” is a real thing, Nadya’s got it! She’s friendly with almost all people, but very opinionated and not shy about voicing it. She knows her place in the household (right on the chest of any of her three humans) and carries herself with dignity even after she’s been scolded for sneaking a bite out of my soup-a real princess, true to the classic Tortie personality, but with an irreverent Tabby twist! I’m very happy to know my lovely girl isn’t just an odd Tabby; she’s a beautiful, unusual Torbie!

  15. 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.

    1. I have had 5 litters producing about 22 kittens out of those I have had 2 kittens (separate litters and no relation) that were almost half feral from birth. It was like they wanted to be a pet but any movement from a human sent them running and being inside seemed upsetting. Maybe your kitty is just of that type. I never did find a way to calm the cats down so they just became outside pets and seemed happy that way. Good luck to you.

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