The Tortie & Torbie Cat Colors
(Tortoiseshell and Tortoiseshell Tabby)

Article by Beth Hicks
Photos by Helmi Flick

Spanish Translation / Traducción Español

Photos copyrighted by the individual photographers
Article copyright © All Rights Reserved.
Copying or redistribution of this article is strictly prohibited
without the express written permission of

Tortie is short for tortoiseshell. Yes, the name comes from the tortoiseshell turtle. Torties combine two solid colors - red and black.

Mostly Girls

The majority of torties are female. Why female? In cats the red and black colors are on the X chromosome. Since females are XX and males are XY, it is usually only females that have both red and black.

Mostly Black

The primary color on most torties is black. The amount of red can vary from just a few toes to lots of obvious red. It is rare but some torties have more red than black. They used to be called "reverse torties" or a "Hot" tortie.


Torbie is short for tortoiseshell-tabby. When you add tabby stripes to a tortie, it becomes a torbie. They are also called patched tabbies since they are a tabby with patches of red or cream. Adding stripes also tends to make the red harder to see. Most torbies will have some red on their feet, even if you don't see it anywhere else.

Many people find the difference between torties and torbies rather confusing. Even on a solid color cat, you can often see stripes on reds and creams. The only way to be sure if you have a tortie or torbie is to ignore any stripes showing in the red or cream areas - just look to see if the black color is solid or has stripes!

A Tortie Attitude

Torties and torbies are very interesting! They tend to have what the cat fancy calls "Tortie-tude". More than any other color, these girls have an "opinion" on everything. They will tell you exactly what that opinion is! At the same time, they can be one of the sweetest cats you will ever own.

Every tortie has its own unique color pattern.
Torties have been called Mother Nature's idea of abstract art.

The Torties

Black Tortie
Black Tortie
Black Tortie
Black Tortie
Black Tortie
Black Tortie
Black Tortie
Black Tortie

Blue Cream Tortie
Blue Tortie
Blue Tortie
Blue Tortie

The Torbies

Brown Mackerel Torbie
Brown Mackeral Torbie
Brown Mackerel Torbie

Brown Classic Torbie
Silver Classic Torbie
Silver Classic Torbie

Looking For A Different Color?
Click on the links below to see more examples of different colors of cats

  • Solids: Cats that are one color and do not have any stripes.
  • Tabbies: Cats with stripes - called tabby markings. The tabby markings have four different patterns.
  • Torties/Torbies: Usually females, these cats are a mixture of both black and red. They can be solids or tabbies.
  • Pointed: Color is only seen on the face, feet, and tail. Those points can be solid or tabby.
  • With Whites: Any of the above with white added. The term particolor means any cat with white.

Or return to the introduction to What Color Is Your Cat?

Photos courtesy of Helmi Flick Cat Photography
Copyright © 2005. All Rights Reserved.

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