How Big do Tortoiseshell Cats Get?

This is a common question often asked by owners of tortoiseshell cats. We know that 'torties' have plenty of tortitude, but how large can you expect your tortoiseshell cat to be when she is fully grown?

There are a few things that it is useful to understand when considering how big tortoiseshell cats will grow.

How big do tortoiseshell cats get?

The size depends partly on the breed

The first of these is that tortoiseshell cats are not a breed.

The name tortoiseshell comes from the cats’ resemblance to the partly coloured shell of the tortoise. Tortoiseshell cats have a combination of 2 colours other than white.

The most common combination is black and red but the “black” can be chocolate, grey or blue and the “red” can be orange, yellow or cream. This combination of 2 colours other than white can occur in a variety of breeds such as: American shorthair, Angora, British shorthair, Cornish Rex, Japanese Bobtail, Maine Coons, Persian, Ragamuffin.

So the size of the cat will depend partly on the breed.

Tortoiseshell Cats are ladies

Another important factor in how big tortoiseshell cats get is that torties are almost always female.

As in humans the sex of a cat is determined by its chromosomes. To be female it must have 2X chromosomes. To be male it must have an X and a Y.

In cats the colour gene is carried in the X chromosome. The different distinctive colours arise from genetic mutation within the two chromosomes. Male tortoiseshell cats are extremely rare because they can only carry the colour gene in their one X chromosome. Male torties that have been identified have XXY chromosomes and are normally sterile.

As in all mammals the male is usually larger than the female so as tortie cats are female they are on the smaller side of the domestic cat family.

On average domestic cats weigh 5.5-10 pounds or 2.5-4.5 kilos.

The average height of a domestic cat is 8-10inches or 20-25cms


Tortoiseshell cats are well known for their beautiful coats and for their famous attitude or tortitude. However, they are not well known for their size.

This is partly because most torties are female, and as with most species the females tend to be slightly smaller than the males. And as tortoiseshell cats are not a specific breed, the size is also determined by the breed of the cat.

Do you have a particularly large or small tortie? Let us know in the comments below.

21 thoughts on “How Big do Tortoiseshell Cats Get?”

  1. We got our Lola from Rescue centre. Never had a tortoise before in our 40 years of having cats. She drives us wild. We love her but always out no matter what I try. We’re both awake all night. In our 70s now. She’s hard work but absolutely beautiful darling cat

  2. I had a torti, at 12 years old she was 21 lbs. she developed diabetes at the age of 9, then at 12 she had pancreatitus 3 times, had to put her to sleep, she went down to 5 lbs. she wouldn’t eat always throwing up bile

  3. My tortie weighs 12 lbs her name is Callie. She follows me all over the house. She is a jumper. No other cats mess with her she keeps them. In their place.

  4. My tortie calico female is 11 years old and weighs 4.3 pounds which she weighed at 10 months. She is very affectionate. I am her.human mother which sh lavishes with love and attention. Her vet says Rita is the smallest cat she has ever dealt with.

  5. I have a small female tortoiseshell she is 31/2 years old her name is kattie she is very loving she head butts my chin when she is thanking me for holding her on my lap she follows me everywhere when I take walks no matter how far I walk kattie is tight there she loves to play with string kattie is also very perfecting while on walks if a dog comes out kattie Will stay between myself and the dog I believe she would give her life for me she was so easy to house and litter box train I found kattie in a dumpster I right away took her to the vets which at that time determine she was about 4weeks old I would have like to share a picture of kattie she is about 14in long about 71/2in tall weigh about 7_8lbs a tiny bundle of tnt and a basket of love and loyalty

    • When my little black cat did that it was fleas. Fleas can develop immunity to flea treatments. I had to get one from a vet.

  6. I have a 4 1/2 month old Male Tortie . He’s beautiful . He weighed 5.4 at his 4 months old check up. He’s a big boy and has another check up in February . He eats 3 cans of Fancy Feast cat food a day . I have the Purina dry kitten food for him but he favors the wet food . He has a water fountain to drink from and he loves cuddling up with his Mommy (me) . His name is Teaghan .

  7. I have a young male tortoiseshell cat. He’s been great on two-hour road trips in his carrier. He is extremely affectionate, albeit with some weird habits. He likes to sit on my feet and lick my toes. Since this is only my second cat and a male, I would like to know the best diet for him to avoid urinary tract infections, and of course, Diabetes. etc. Do you have a particular brand of food to recommend? At present, he gets a can of Fancy Feast in gravy and a cup of Purina One. However, it is now my understanding that dry food is not good for males. Hmm. He weighs about 13 pounds, but have been told by the vet he is overweight. So I am looking for the right meal balance. Any advice is appreciated.

  8. So, my cat is of the breed American short-haired cat, but her coloring, determined by her genetics, is tortoiseshell? Is that right? Is this type of thing a genetic mutation related to sexual characteristics? That would explain the rarity of males who are calico, or tortoiseshell colored and their being sterile with XXY chromosomes. I understand the X chromosome in cats determines color. It’s just, why does the color manifest itself this way, that I wonder about. Also, I spoke in the comments under a different topic about having a tortoiseshell mother, and her son, who is marmalade or tiger striped color. I happen to know, for sure, that his father was a big marmalade colored Tom. A brave one, to mate with my tortoiseshell female. She’s called Whimsy, btw. Her son is called, Nugget. He’s golden. Get it? Lol. Out of Nuggets birth litter of six, him of course being one of the 6, that was born to my tortoiseshell cat, he was the only one marmalade colored. The rest were pure black, or tortoiseshell. Whimsy has all of those colors, as part of her fur, so was it her that determined all of their coloring? Or, is it two recessive genes? My females Xx chromosomes, with the tiger striped males Xy, that caused their baby to be tiger striped, as well? And then how is it some are black, and others got the tortoiseshell thing? Also, if my male cat, who is marmalade, but had a tortoiseshell mother were bred with another calico, or tortoiseshell female, what would result? He wishes. He’s neutered, but if it were so, then what? Would al the kittens be tortoiseshell or calico, or what? It’s intriguing and I’d love to know how it all works. And the attitude thing, the odd way tortoiseshell’s and calico’s are known to behave. Does that come with the coloring? Or can a cat, born of this type mother, exhibit some of that. Because he’s odd. Not quite as odd, or different as she is, but different enough that I notice. I’ve had cats before. I’ve had 2 Siamese cats, one a Blue Point Siamese female, one a male with the dark brown markings. My sister had a Maine Coon Cat that only liked her, my nephew, and me, and would’ve died before it came in the house. Plus, a couple of American Short Hair cats. So, I’ve lived with, and observed, cats. All kinds. These type, the tortoiseshell, calico type, are….different. It’s my first experience with living with one. So, I’m unfamiliar with all of this and just learning. Does my male tiger, having had the tortoiseshell from his mother, carry that trait on his X chromosome? So, if he bred with a female, that didn’t exhibit any calico, tortoiseshell markings, but also had one of those types for a mother, one of their babies, or all of them could be calico, or tortoiseshell’s? Seemingly, spontaneously but really, by heredity? Gaaaa! Please, someone, if you know how it works, can you shine a beacon of light through my obvious haze?

  9. Her name is Tortuga. She was born in BajaSur, Mexico and weighs 17 pounds. She is 4 years old and while she is fat, she has no problem moving around quickly.


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