Difference between Torbie and Tabby

Torbie versus Tabby
Two photos from visitors. Tabby cat photo by Jenny and Torbie by Nancy. They are part of comments on the Torbie Cats page.
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It can be very difficult to distinguish between torbie and tabby cats. For me, it may be almost impossible to be sure, on occasions. Ideally, you have to be a member of the cat fancy with some real experience. The difficulty depends on what type of tabby and torbie is being compared. Both are types of cat coat and not cat breeds, as you probably know.

Perhaps, the only certain difference between torbie and tabby is that torbie has some orange fur while the tabby does not.

It could be said that a torbie is a type of tabby cat because the coat is partly tabby and partly tortoiseshell (orange and black fur). The torbie is a mixture of the two types of cat coat. A straight tabby cat has a spotted, striped or blotched tabby coat (classic tabby). The torbie coat is orange and black in various patterns with some tabby added. The tabby coat can be in various colors and densities such as brown tabby and grey or silver tabby. Here are some pictures, which show the similarities between these types of coat because the comparison is between brown torbies and brown tabbies.

Comparing torbie and tabby cats
Comparing torbie and tabby cats

As I see it and as mentioned, the difficulty in distinguishing between torbie and tabby is when the tabby cat is a brown tabby and the torbie is a brown torbie. This is because the color brown is close to the color orange if the orange is dispersed throughout the coat or diluted. But if we are comparing a grey tabby with a torbie cat you’ll see a clearer difference between the grey of the tabby and the orange and black of the torbie.

Comparing torbie and tabby
Comparing torbie and tabby. The difference is clearer because we can see the orange of the torbie fur compared to the grey tabby fur of the tabby cat.

Torbies are also called ‘patched tabbies’ because they are tabbies with patches of orange (red) or cream (diluted red, I believe).

There is a wide range of types of tabby and torbie cat coats. For example there are silver classic torbies or diluted versions of it. These variations make comparisons more complicated. Both cats have the M mark on the forehead.

Note: Despite it being a bit boring, I have consistently used the same photos by Helmi Flick to describe these cat coats. I do this to be sure that I illustrate the article correctly. It is tricky sometimes…Michael.

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22 thoughts on “Difference between Torbie and Tabby”

  1. I found my cat outside our apartment complex and can’t figure out if she’s tabby or torbie mixed with some Egyptian mau? She’s super loyal loves to follow us everywhere. Takes her toys n hides them..what do you guys think?

    1. I see a spotted grey tabby cat but there seems to be some blotches of orange fur. Is this the light or is this the fur? If it is the fur I say she’s a spotted torbie. If not a grey tabby.

      1. I know this is not related to her breed but I want to ask someone with your catpertise..my cat developed one small red balding spot right in between her eye and her ear in the last few hours. I’ve been reading other forums. Is this normal or should I be worried? She isnt acting sick and when I touch it it doesn’t seem to hurt her.

        1. Hi Phuboo. This is not normal but it is not a severe problem. But it is a health problem. It may be caused by the area being itchy and your cat has scratched it to alleviate the itch. If that is the case why is it itchy? Have you noticed her scratching the area?

          She may be having a minor allergic reaction to something such as food or something in the environment. I’d ask yourself what might be causing it. You might change her food. Is he eating high quality wet food? That’s the best. Minimise dry food.

          Has something changed in the home recently? Is she an outside cat and is there something outside that might cause this?

          This is my best guess at this time. Vets are not very good at diagnosing allergies. I think it will clear up but it needs to be monitored. Please keep me posted.

          1. Thank you for your quick reply Michael.You were right! We ended up taking her to the vet after a few days with little improvement. They said it could be from her scratching the area too hard or getting into an altercation with another cat. Since she’s an only kitty and pretty rambunctious we think she may have done this to herself. It has since healed but we are monitoring to see if it could be diet or environment related. Thank you again for help. =)

  2. So, what is the difference between a torbie and patch tabby? I see a lot purebreds described as patch tabby but not so much the torbie… I attached a picture of a Scottish Fold kitten that would be classified as a patch tabbie…

    1. A patch tabby is a torbie. That is my understanding. Yes, the kitten is a lovely patch tabby. I guess the description ‘patch tabby’ is used more in some quarters than the word ‘torbie’.

    1. Rudolph, thanks for taking the time to show me the pictures. I have uploaded one to this comment. This cat is a community tabby cat. He/she has a closer link, I believe, to the North African wildcat ancestor than we see in the West which is why the cat has that wild appearance. There is less domestication there. Perhaps the evolution of the domestic cat in this region is less than in the West reflecting closer links in appearance to the wildcat. The coat though is pure tabby and a beautiful example of it.

      That said the cat does not look that different to my Gabriel:


  3. Spotted these beautiful village stray cats on a recent tour to Aurangabad.This is the “Grishneshwar Temple” complex .These cats were prowling on the roof of the handicraft shops situated outside the temple complex.What type of cats are these. Bengal Cat ? They could be definitely passed off as “Bengal Cats”.

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