Thriving Cat

What Is The Difference Between a Calico and A Tortie Cat?

What is the Difference Between a Calico and A Tortie Cat?

Tortie is a shortened form of the word “Tortoiseshell”. A basic distinction is that a Tortie has two colors but no white. These colors are often orange or some reddish shade and grey or black. A tortie may have any two colors such as red and black plus white. A tortie also has colors that are mixed together with the different colors of fur over lapping in the same area. A calico does not have this mix of different colored fur. If the fur of a “calico” is mixed together is actually referred to as a “Tortie with White”. That is the main difference between a Calico and a Tortie cat.

Here is a Calico cat.

A Calico Cat Draped Over a Chair

A Calico Cat Has Two Colors Plus White

Note how this cat has distinct color blocks. The black is pure black. The orange is all orange. In a Tortie the colors are mixed together with both colors of fur in the same patches as in the cat below.

Here is a Tortie cat.

A Tortie cat with black and orange markings

A Tortie Cat Has No White

This cat has no white and the dark and orange fur are mixed together in the same patches.

Here is a Tortie with White Cat.

Note that this particular cat has the tortie orange and black fur as well as white. This cat could also be called a “Torbie With White” since it has some tabby markings (stripes). The Torbie combines the words Tabby and Tortie. So a Torbie with White is all that plus white.

Tortoiseshell with white kitten looking at the camera

A Tortoiseshell with White Cat has Mixed Fur Colors and Pure White Patches.

Does It Matter Which Pattern A Cat Has?

No. Tortie, Calico and all the other marking names are only descriptions of fur colors. They don’t tell you anything about the breed or health of the cat. You can make some educated guesses about a cat’s gender based on some colors such as the fact that the majority (but not all) orange cats are male and most all calico cats and tortie cats are female.

There are short haired, medium haired and long haired versions of all of these markings.

How Do You Keep Your Tortie or Calico Cat Healthy?

You can keep your tortie or calico healthy the same way you keep any cat healthy.

  1. Make sure they always have unlimited, clean water to drink at all times. Kidney and urinary disease can be common and are devastating for cats. Making sure they get enough water is the first step to preventing this.
  2. Give your cats healthy food. Solid Gold Cat Food.
  3. Provide a clean litter box.
  4. Take your cats to the vet for regular check ups.
  5. Give your cat love and attention on a regular basis.
  6. Provide toys and places to play and get exercise for physical and mental health. Try an affordable, sturdy and practical cat tree like this one which is the best I have found. It has 10 built in scratching posts. Tall Cat Tree, Best Value!
  7. Give your cat natural supplements if they have special needs such as bad teeth, upper respiratory infections or digestion problems. Check with your vet. My vet approves of these and recommends them now. Pet Alive Supplements.

Are Calico Cats Lucky?

There are many legends about Calico cats. Their orange color comes from the domestic cats of Egypt. Calico cats are the official symbol of luck in Japan and they are the inspiration for the famous lucky waving cat figurines called “Maneki-neko“. These are traditionally made of porcelain and are considered good luck in the home. They are popular in China as well where they are sometimes gold colored. Japanese fisherman had calico cats on their boats for good luck and safety to protect from storms. In the U.S., Calico cats are sometimes called “money cats”.

My own “calico girl” turned out to be a tortoiseshell with white. We adopted her at 14 and she is not the sprightliest member of the family. She is amazing and in perfect health at almost 15 now. Maybe there is something to the calico luck after all! Meet her here!

Meet My Rare Breed Cats

If you are interested in more unique cats, check out my Norwegian Forest Cat and French Chartreux which were both rescues. Unlike calicos which are just a color pattern, these are actually unique breeds. They are amazing cats and adored as part of our family.


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Please leave any thoughts or questions in a comment below! I would love to hear from you.



  1. Oneal22

    I have learnt something valuable today, before now I did not really know much about cats, I didn’t even know that there was a classification known as the calico and Tortie, or Torbie in some other cases, but I am inquisitive and I want to know what type between the Tortie and Calico is more prevalent in Africa? Thanks a lot.

    1. Jessica (Post author)

      I am sure both calico and tortie cats are found in Africa but I have no idea which is more prevalent. If you find out please let me know.

  2. Aweda Olakunle

    I  have a cat, her name is freya and she is definately a calico cat. Thanks for the imformation. Which of the cats are more prevalent around the world and in africa? Does a cat being a calico or tortie have them possess diffeent characteristics or temdencies? Which of the cats are the best for pets?

    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Tortie cats are said to have extra attitude called “tortitude”. I don’t know if this true since I don’t have any tortie cats myself. Calicos are said to have this same attitude to a lesser degree than torties. My calico girl does seem to have that. She is very confident and can be a bit pushy. She has to defend herself however since she is the oldest and the smallest of the cats so that makes sense and she got a bit picked on when we first brought her home. She is very intelligent. I don’t know if that is true of all calico and tortie cats.

  3. David

    Hi Jessica, Wow, great article about Tortie and Calico cats and their differences. I think they are both very cool cats. Every male Orange/White Tortie cat I’ve known where totally cool. Smart, gentle yet strong, understanding and fantastic companions. The Calico cats have been sweet and gentle and can be petted for hours on end. Beautiful cats.

    Nice article defining these cat types and how to properly feed and take care of them.

    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello David,
      We have an orange tabby boy too.He was our first cat together and he is our baby. He is my husband’s best buddy and we adore him. He is the sweetest creature to us (he can be a brat to his “siblings”). He and his sister cuddle together every day and he only occasionally picks on her. He is the one that made my husband fall in love with cats.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Alexandra

    This is super interesting. I love anything that has to do with animals. It made me giggle about the Norwegian forest cat being rare. I am from Sweden and they are so common there 🙂 But I guess anywhere else they are not that common. I think the section about how to keep your cat healthy has some really important and good information. Playtime and toys is so important but something that a lot of people seem to take for granted. They can easily become under stimulated and will start acting out if they do not get the attention they need. Thank you for a great article.

    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello Alexandra,
      Yes, I know Norwegian Forest Cats are common there but here no one seems to have heard of them. The French Chartreux is more uncommon I think. Thank you for stopping by and for your thoughts!


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