Difference between a tortoiseshell cat and a calico

This is a common question among tortoiseshell cat owners. A classic tortoiseshell cat will have a mainly black coat, with patches and flecks of orange and white mixed in a brindled type pattern. This pattern creates a lovely coat that really makes tortoiseshell cats stand out and look very beautiful!

The brindled pattern tends to develop over time, so your fluffy tortoiseshell kitten will probably be quite dark and mainly black when you bring her into the house. It is really fun to see the colours come out as she grows up, and the pattern will probably be all over her body, legs and head. Sometimes you can really see how torties are related to their big cat cousins when the orange and white stripes develop close together!

The main difference of a calico or a 'tortoiseshell and white cat' is that calicos will have a white coat with patches of orange and black. The patches are usually separate, and quite distinctive.

This is the very general difference between a tortoiseshell cat and a calico. However, there are very many variations of both cats, including a blue tortoiseshell cat. Some cats end up being a bit of a mixture with some tortie coloured body parts and some calico. There are also variations on a calico such as a 'dilute calico', which will have grey and pale orange patches on a white coat (so a similar pattern, but the colours are diluted)

A tortoiseshell cat makes a great pet, whether it is a brindled tortie or a calico and they will all some some signs of tortitude! Check out our image gallery for some great pictures of tortoiseshell cats!

16 thoughts on “Difference between a tortoiseshell cat and a calico”

  1. I had a calico adopt me! She jumped into my window to say hi and started to visit every week until it was daily, then I woke one morning to find her in bed with me!

    I named her Jumper and she’d respond to her name.

    After a hard day at work she’d run the length of the street to greet me. Then would play it cool in public. Lol

    Sometimes I think she thought she was my mum and would tell me off if I started being silly with daft singing – give me that look. Could have whole conversations with her.. . and one day when I had like a PTSD crying episode. She jumped off the window sill, where she was sat keeping watch, and stayed snuggled by my leg. Looking up at me every few seconds

    I miss her dearly – didnt see her after the day I was evicted through a ‘no fault’ eviction and was made street homeless.

    I’m in a homeless hostel for military veterans surviving stress (I’m ex Royal Navy) … Not allowed pets here.

    As soon as I get my own place – no iffs no buts – I’m getting a tortilla/calico!

  2. I am an owner of loveable and adorable Tortoiseshell whose name is Jack. When I come back from my office and feeling the pain she reduces my pain and anxiety with love. Always, I love to groom her and give the best food for good health.

  3. My tortoise shell named Maura is tbe most loving cat I have ever had. She has very powerful maternal instincts and will usuallly sit on my couch’s arm rest when I’m seated watching TV and try to bath me while trying to snuggle up. She’s a real darling.

    • Very very true and any part that hurts or belly ache she lays on them til healed..only funny is she sleeps on my head mostly but cuddles up on or near my face..she says momma..plus which is tmi..lol Gla I found you all I never heard of her breed before..I saved her from a week 1/2 old..and vet said she won’t make it I said “yes she will and her name is TaLooLa” no idea I just spit her name out..lol and she is 9 now..how do you get pics up?

      • Btw is a tortie a full breed and if so how do I find a breeder..my baby is just that so won’t be anytime soon..thank you Linda

        • Tortie is not a breed… Torti refers to color. torti’s can come in many breeds. Torties are two shades of color, essentially any color from black to cream, but no white. They are instantly recognizable for their dark swirls and interesting patterns. Many torties have a “chimera-like” face, meaning two colors split nearly perfectly down the middle.

          Torties are usually only female. Males are incredibly rare—and almost always sterile. That means you couldn’t use a male tortie in hopes of breeding them. And you may be able to strike a small fortune since male torties are considered a hot commodity—like a four-leaf clover.

  4. My tortoise shell named Maura is tbe most loving cat I have ever had. She has very powerful moternal instincts and will usuallly siton my couches arm test when I’ m seated watching TV and try to bath me while trying to snuggle up. She’s a real darling.

  5. My little calico/ tortiehas been missing since 6/26/18. She is so sweet and loving. I have had her since her birth on 2/14/06. I helped deliver her as her mom was having problems. She would walk me to my car to go to work each morning on meet me at my car each evening when I came home. She would look both ways before crossing the road and frolic in certain neighbors yards that enjoyed seeing her. Since I have been canvassing the neighborhoods, have put up posters and checked with the humane society multiple times per day nothin person and on line, I am aftaid either some kid has decided that she is theirs now and she had not been able to escape or that she had passed over the rainbow bridge. Either way, she is horribly missed and I don’t know what I will do without her. She is so tiny and energetic that no one would guess she is over 12 yrs old. She is a beautiful soul and very loyal so if she way catnapped then I am sure she is trying to get away. She doesn’t allow anyone but me to even pick her up.

  6. Many people confuse torties and calicos. I usually refer to my girl Furlips as a calico but she is actually a tortoiseshell. She has white feet and unlike a calico her basic fur color is not white. A calico is just a coat coloring and like a dog and are easily trainable by their owner. My girl comes when called sits gives her paw and will “heel” on command.


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