A Guide About Tabby Cats and Their Patterns

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Sitting Tabby Cat

Are you wondering what tabby cats are like? Have you heard the name tabby cat being bounced around without really understanding which breed it refers to? Well, do not worry. We have gathered some information regarding tabby cats that will help you understand their breed, signature characteristics, and different breeds. The world of tabby cats is fascinating since you will find their genes in almost every cat there is!

Are tabby cats a separate breed?

When you think of tabby cats, you probably think of worn-out, world-weary street cats. That is because these are the most common kind of tabby cats that we encounter in our everyday lives.

Technically speaking, tabby cats are not a separate breed of felines. Sorry to let you down, but that is just how it is. Being a tabby cat means having a distinct pattern on your body, which usually ends up forming an “M” on the cat’s face. This pattern can consist of lines, spots, whorls, or be a combination of it all.

Closeup face of a tabby cat

Research tells us that every cat has the tabby cat gene. However, whether or not it is visible in a particular cat is a matter of the other genes in the cat as well. Usually, the genes that are responsible for giving a cat its red/cream color is the one that makes the tabby cats’ pattern visible.

This is why you will see that the most common color amongst tabby cats is reddish cream. However, if you look close enough, you can see these very faint markings and patterns in cats in one color only! This is because the gene is always there.

The Classic Pattern

This pattern is called “Classic” because it is found most commonly amongst tabby cats. This pattern consists of whorls all over the body of the tabby cats. These patterns keep on moving towards the end of the feline’s body, ending up in a target-like shape. You can see this pattern very clearly in tabby cats whose fur presents a high color contrast.

However, it is also visible on those tabby cats where the contrast is not as stark. You have to look a little more carefully to spot it. The American shorthair cats are one of the more popular breeds that display the classic tabby cats pattern.

The Mackerel Pattern

Have you ever seen orange tabby cats with lines running alongside their body?  These look oddly like little tigers roaming about. The Mackerel pattern tabby cats have long, unbroken stripes of a contrasting color that runs down all of the sides of their body. These stripes all originate from one big stripe located at the spine of the cat. When seen from above, this causes the tabby cats’ pattern to resemble a fish skeleton, which is why it is also called the “mackerel” pattern, i.e., after the fish.

Mackerel tabby cat

The Spotted Pattern

Yes, you guess it right. These tabby cats get their name for the spots that are dotted all over their fur. These spots are not exactly solid rounds of color. Rather they are in the shapes of ovals and rosettes. These tabby cats have spots spread all across their sides.

Interestingly, some researchers do not believe that these tabby cats have a separate gene. However, they believe that spotted tabby cats have the same genes as those with mackerel patterns, rather than having continuous stripes. These spotted cats have broken stripes that start to resemble spots.

The Agouti Pattern

The Agouti pattern is also referred to as the “ticked” pattern for tabby cats. These tabby cats are slightly different from others. Rather than having stripes of different colors running across their body, these cats have ticked, Agouti hairs.

On a close look, you will see that each hair has a pattern on it, and this gives a shaded color to the entire body of the tabby cat. If you ever see a grey tabby cat with the ticked pattern, you will see that some part of its fur appears to be in darker or lighter shades of grey compared to the rest of the body.

The Patched Tabby cat

Technically speaking, the patched tabby cats have not been considered a separate type of tabby cats themselves. These cats are called patched because tabby cat patterns on their bodies in patches of two different colors. For instance, you will see brown and red patches on the feline’s fur, each of which displays the tabby cats’ pattern. The patterns are more prominent on the legs and head. These unique tabby cats are also referred to as tortoiseshell tabbies and look extremely intriguing.

What is the story behind the “M”?

Relaxing tabby cat

Like we mentioned above, tabby cats are found to have an “M” over their forehead. This M has a lot of stories attached to it, and different groups of people have their explanations as to why tabby cats possess this. One of the ancient myths surrounding tabby cats is that they were present in ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egyptians called tabby cats “Mau.” You will have noticed that the word Mau resembles meow a lot, and this is the most probable cause for why this name is called cats. The Egyptian Mau is a separate cat breed itself.

However, coming back to the M on tabby cats. Many people believe that the word Mau in the Egyptian language also means light or moon since cats have eyes that light up at night. This light has caused the letter M to be emblazoned on the heads of tabby cats, which could be descended from their ancient Egyptian relatives.

We hope that our guide on tabby cats helps you understand these unique felines better. The world of tabby cats is truly interesting, and the more you know about them, the more information you will find. While tabby cats are not classified as a breed in their own right, they have gained a fine reputation for themselves, easily comparable to any other popular breed.

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