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!

135 thoughts on “Torbie Cats”

  1. I think my 7 week old kitten is a torby! Can someone confirm? Because that’s what we have been calling her, so probably need to change her name ASAP if she isn’t. 🙂

    Apologies for the action shot; hard to get the lighting and angle right with a very active little girl!

  2. I learned about Tordies today from your article. Interesting! My son’s girlfriend adopted this little girl from our barn and I believe she fits your description. I love her white lipstick face! Not sure if you are still following but will post anyway.


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