Calico vs Tortoiseshell Cat: Know the Difference

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

Calico Vs Tortoiseshell Cat

Calico and Tortoiseshell cats both exhibit white, black, and orange patterns, making them challenging to recognize at first glance.

So, keep on reading as we will provide an in-depth comparison of differences between Calico vs Tortoiseshell cats.

Calico Cats Tortoiseshell Cats
Weight 5 to 12 pounds 5 to 12 pounds
Height 8 to 10 inches 8 to 10 inches
Life Expectancy 12 to 16 years 12 to 16 years
Personality Sweet, friendly Affectionate yet short-tempered
Grooming Requirements Low to high Low to high

Compare in Detail: Calico Vs. Tortoiseshell Cat


1. Overview of Calico Cats

Calico is not a particular feline breed but refers to any domesticated cat with a tricolor pattern.

The most common coat colors for Calico cats are black, white, and orange, but variations with brown, cream, reddish-orange, and blue-black fur also exist.

Legend has it that Calico felines originated from Egypt, where they were brought aboard by Egyptian merchants to prevent mice infestation.

The merchant ships sailed from one port to another, causing Calico cats to travel and breed with other cats.

2. Overview of Tortoiseshell Cats

Similar to Calico cats, Tortoiseshells are not a specific breed. But unlike Calico cats that have white fur, Torties are never white.

Instead, their color pattern only involves two colors, usually shades of black and ginger-red.

It is believed that Tortoiseshell cats date back to ancient times. According to folklore from the Khmers of Southeast Asia, Torties came from a young goddess’s blood, making them a sign of good luck.

Similarities of Calico Cat and Tortie

1. Gender


The most common similarity between Calicos and Torties is the fact that they are always almost females. It would be very rare for you to find a male Calico or Tortie cat.

This occurrence is linked to the two X chromosomes present in these cats.

2. Lifespan


Both Calico and Tortoiseshell cats share an average lifespan of 12 to 16 years, which may vary depending on the specific either shorter or longer.

Read more: How Long Do Calico Cats Live?

3. Personality


These cats are popular for their independence. Much like any other cat, Calicos, and Torties do well on their own as long as their caretakers provide them with basic care like food and vet care.

Difference Between Tortie and Calico

1. Colors


Calico cats are known for their tricolor fur, which mostly consists of white. In fact, 25 to 75 percent of a Calico cat’s coat is white, while the remaining are usually orange and black.

The presence of white in this cat’s fur is brought by an additional gene that produces unpigmented fur.

Meanwhile, Tortoiseshell cats only have two fur colors, which, as mentioned, are ginger-orange and black. Most of the time, the black fur is more dominant than the orange spots.

They may also have lighter shades of black and orange coats, making them look gray or Tortoiseshell tabby.

Considering the fact that white is the only color difference between Calicos and Torties, you can say that a Calico cat is a Tortoiseshell with white fur.

2. Temperament


Calico cats can be temperamental despite their friendliness. In some cases, if you’re not their caretakers, they can be really feisty. Felines with Calico patterns also tend to be more aggressive and strong-willed.

Tortoiseshell cats are also no less than temperamental. They are named the divas of the cat world due to their attitude. Torties are so tempered that feline enthusiasts named their attitude “tortitude,” a name used to describe the fierceness of these cats.

In addition, Tortoiseshell cats are possessive of their human companions.

3. Breeds


The Calico color pattern is usually exhibited by British and American shorthairs, Maine Coons, Cornish Rex, and Persian cats, which may also exhibit the two-color pattern of Torties.

Meanwhile, more feline breeds feature the Tortoiseshell pattern, including Arabian Mau, Exotic Shorthair, Turkish Angora, Norwegian Forest Cat, Manx, and Japanese Bobtail.

4. Comparing the Costs of Calico and Tortoiseshell Cats


A Calico kitten can cost anywhere between $200 and $2000 from a reputable breeder. The exact price depends on the feline’s breed, sex, and pedigree.

On the other hand, getting a Tortie cat from a breeder can cost around $300 to $2000. Just like a Calico cat, the precise cost of Tortoiseshells may vary depending on the cat’s breed, age, and sex.

If you want to spend less on these cats, you can check out adoption centers. But there is no guarantee that you will find the exact feline you are looking for.

However, it is worth noting that these price ranges are merely initial costs. You also have to send a monthly budget for the feline’s vet care, food, exercise, and other necessities.

5. Which Cat Should You Choose?


Determining which is better between a Calico and a Tortoiseshell cat depends on personal preference.

If you’re considering adopting a cat, it’s recommended to focus on the individual cat’s personality, health, and compatibility with your lifestyle instead of basing your decision solely on coat color.

Interacting with the cat, observing its behavior, and considering factors such as activity level, friendliness, and adaptability can help you make a flawless choice.

However, one thing worth noting when choosing between Calico and Tortie is that the latter has a more intense personality. So, if you have children at home or live with other pets, a Calico cat may be a better choice.

Read next: Calico vs Tabby Cat: Key Different

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my cat is a Calico?

The best way to tell if a cat is a Calico is to look at their color pattern. Calico cats are tricolor, with fur that is usually a mix of black, orange, and white.

As mentioned, white is usually the dominant fur color in Calico cats.

What are the three types of Calico cats?

Dilute, Tortoiseshell, and Patched Tabby are three types of Calico felines. As the name suggests, Dilute Calico cats have less intense colors, while Tortoiseshells are bicolor felines.

Meanwhile, Patched Tabbies have Tabby markings and white, orange, and black colors.

What happens if a Tortoiseshell cat is mixed with Calico?

Mixing a Tortie and Calico will produce a cross of whatever breeds these cats have. The color will not be much different, as Torties and Calicos have the same colors except white.


Comparing a Calico vs. Tortoiseshell cat proves that their most obvious difference is the presence of white fur in the Calico cat. They pose various similarities, such as both felines are usually female. There are male Calicos and Torties, but they are very rare.

In terms of differences, Tortoiseshells have more intense personalities than Calicos. While the latter can be aggressive, their personalities are more mellow, thus making them friendlier.

Regardless of your choice, providing proper care and love to your cat is essential for a fulfilling relationship.

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