What is a brindle cat?

I believe that the proper terminology is “brindled cat” but people search for, “what is a brindle cat?”. A brindle cat is a tabby cat. Although the word “brindled” is used as a prefix to describe certain types of domestic cat coat such as the tortoiseshell. So for example, Sarah Hartwell, on her website messybeast.com writes about “brindled torties”.

A brindled cat - a tabby cat
A brindled cat – a tabby cat. This is a ‘toyger’ – a toy tiger and a rare cat breed. Photo copyright Helmi Flick.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Early alternative name for mackerel tabby

The “brindled cat” is an early alternative name for a tabby cat. Frances Simpson, the godmother of the cat fancy, and a great lady during the infancy of the cat fancy, writing in 1903, comments:

“[The tabby] was also called the brindled cat, or the tiger cat, and with some the grey cat – “graymalkin”. We are told also… that tabby cats in Norfolk and Suffolk were called cyprus cats, cyprus being a reddish-yellow colour, so that the term may be applied to orange as well as brown tabbies. The term “tiger cat” is, I believe, often used in America, and it well describes the true type of a brown tabby.”

‘Brindle’ used in describing coats of horse and dogs for example

I believe that you will find the word ‘brindled’ being used quite extensively to describe the coat of many other animals, mainly domestic animals such as horses and dogs. It describes a certain pattern much like the mackerel tabby (striped) pattern. I’ve included a photograph of a horse with a rare brindle coat on this page to provide an indication of what I’m referring to.

What is a brindle cat?
Photo published under creative commons license.

The word was then used to describe the mackerel tabby but as you can see it has fallen out of favor in describing the tabby but it is used by specialists and experts such as Sarah Hartwell in describing cat coat types in fine detail.

Wikipedia use the word in describing the tortoiseshell coat: “producing the characteristic brindled appearance consisting of an intimate mixture of orange and black cells…”

Dictionary definition

The dictionary definition’s reference to ‘streaks’ echos the tabby cat stripes:

“(especially of a domestic animal) brownish or tawny with streaks of other colour.”


It originally comes from an old Scandinavian word and was originally “brinded”. In a comment below this article you will see the words of the opening of Act Four, Scene One of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth which refers to “the brinded cat”. Apparently the word “brinded” in this context means “branded”. It is not actually a reference to the coat of a cat. The Elizabeth word for brindled is “streaked”.

P.S. Quora has it wrong. The authors describe the brindle cat as a tortoiseshell. I feel confident that my interpretation is correct as the terminology is based on cat history.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

3 thoughts on “What is a brindle cat?”

  1. I always took brindled to refer to a sporadically streaked tricolor rather than a more cohesive pattern like the Mackerel Tabby or the Toyger you show. For instance, in all of the brindled dogs I have seen (Danes, various Terriers, Boxers) it looks as though the colors and any stripes have been dry-brushed in one direction so there are no coherent stripes — but just haphazard appearances of one color or another

  2. In Shakespeare:

    1st Witch:

    Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.

    2nd Witch:

    Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.

    3rd Witch

    Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!

    1st Witch:

    Round about the cauldron go:
    In the poisoned entrails throw.
    Toad, that under cold stone
    Days and nights has thirty-one
    Sweated venom sleeping got,
    Boil thou first in the charmed pot.


    Double,double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

    2nd Witch:

    Fillet of a fenny snake,
    In the cauldron boil and bake;
    Eye of newt and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
    Adder’s fork and blindworm’s sting,
    Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing.
    For charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

    Double,double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and couldron bubble.

    3rd Witch:

    Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
    Witch’s mummy, maw and gulf
    Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
    Root of hemlock digg’d in the dark,
    Liver of blaspheming Jew;
    Gall of goat; and slips of yew

    Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse;
    Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips;
    Finger of birth-strangled babe
    Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,-
    Make the gruel thick and slab:
    Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
    For ingredients of our cauldron.

    Double,double toil and trouble,
    Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

    2nd Witch:

    Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

    Then the charm is firm and good.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

follow it link and logo

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

I welcome and value comments. Please share your thoughts. All comments are currently unmoderated.

This blog is seen in 199 of the world's country's according to Google Analytics which is pretty much the entire world.

Scroll to Top