The name “tabby cat” brings many different things to mind for different people. The old phrase “stray cat” may come to mind with some people: the alleys and garbage dump stalkers with the flat fur, scarred nose, ragged ears. Others will think of their favorite cats.

Tabbies are so ubiquitous that many people regard them as a breed. The tabby is a colored pattern, most often stripes, but sometimes stripes and whorls, or even spots and stripes. The tabby cat pattern is so popular that it can be found in many pedigree cats today, and is accepted in many breeds by the most popular registries.

Although there are many variations of each, the brindle pattern is divided into four basic classes. A fifth includes tabby as part of another basic color pattern, for example, the “patched” tabby, which can be a calico or tortoiseshell cat with tabby patches (the latter is called a “torbie”).

It is no wonder the tabby is everywhere. The gene for the tabby pattern can be found in all domestic cats . Look at a “charcoal black” cat in the sun one day, and see if you can find the hidden tabby markings.

A tabby cat is not a breed; It is actually a coat pattern and there are five different types of tabby cats. Learn the differences between tabby cat patterns here.

Types of tabby cat


  • Classic:This pattern usually has whorls ending in a “target” on the cat’s side. Many American shorthair cats demonstrate this pattern. The cat shown in this table has a very high color contrast, showing its coils clearly.
  • Striped Tabby –This is by far the most common pattern, to the point that some people think it should have been given the title ‘Classic’. Mackerel tabbies have striped rings around their tails and legs, a striped “collar” on the front of their chests, and solid or broken striped bands running down the sides of their bodies. They will have a darker color at the points that run in two lines across their bellies (called “vest buttons”). The ginger kitten on the table shows an example of broken stripes. You can click on the image to see a larger version. The same cat is shown above as an adult.
  • Spotted: Ocicat and American Bobtail are good examples of spotted brindle patterns, although some Moggies will also demonstrate this color pattern. The American Bobtail in the table illustrates the spotted tabby pattern perfectly. (This cat also illustrates the American Bobtail section of my breed snapshots.)
  • Marked (Agouti):Most tabby cats will have marked hairs as part of their pattern. If you look closely, you will see different bands of color along the cat’s hairs. Cats with a ticking pattern almost glow in the sunlight, due to the color variation. The Abyssinian in the table is a classic example of a marked brindle or agouti pattern.

Tabby cat colors and patterns

Tabby cats can be many different colors, including brown, gray, and a variety of shades of red often called orange, ginger, or marmalade. Some have stripes and some have dots and many a combination of the two. You can tell what color a tabby is by looking at the color of its stripes and the tip of its tail.

The brindle pattern is determined by the agouti gene, which causes individual hairs to have bands of light and heavy pigmentation, and the tabby gene, which denotes the type of brindle patterns, namely streaks, spots, or spots of brindle hairs. solid color.

Research by feline geneticists Carlos Driscoll and Leslie Lyons earlier this millennium confirmed five genetic groups, or lineages, of wildcats from various parts of the world (including Africa, Europe, China, Central Asia, and the Middle East) and dating. about 10,000 years ago to be the ancestors of today’s ubiquitous household tabbies. And it is easy to understand how a striped and stained coat can be well camouflaged in a natural environment.

Tabby Cat: The Basics

Sometimes you can see those faint tabby markings on a solid-colored cat that is sitting in the bright sun. And have you ever seen a solid red or orange or cream cat without the familiar tabby markings? You won’t, because the gene that makes a cat red or cream also makes tabby marks visible.

All tabby have fine pencil lines on their faces, expressive markings around the eyes, and a distinct letter “M” on their foreheads. Some believe that the “M” is for Mau, the word for “cat” in ancient Egypt.

There are five types of tabby cat fur patterns, each with its own unique markings. We have listed them below along with photos of each tabby cat pattern.

Patterns in the fur of tabby cats

  1. The classic brindle coat, sometimes called “blotched,” has wide dark stripes that curve down the flanks and shoulders and three large stripes that extend from the shoulder blades to the base of the tail. It is often compared to a marble cake.
  2. The striped tabbyhas continuous or broken stripes that extend perpendicular to the spine, like a herringbone.
  3. The spotted tabbyhas distinct round spots against a lighter background of fur.
  4. The fourth tabby coat pattern is called marked or agouti. The cape on the body has almost no stripe. However, the legs, tail and face show very fine stripes.
  5. Patchy tabby cat

This is the term used to describe a turtle tabby cat (also called a tortoise). In typical form, there are separate patches of brown tabby and red tabby on the same animal.

A turtle that also carries the brindle gene is often called a torbie. Patchy tabby cats can display any of the four distinct tabby patterns above. The marks are usually most evident on the legs and head.

The pattern of the tabby cat in the breeds

As mentioned, many breeds today accept the brindle pattern in one variation or another. In fact, a 21-pound ‘English tabby’ was documented appearing in the world’s first cat show, held at the Crystal Palace in London in 1871. Here is a list of breeds that are allowed brindle pattern in CFA:

  • Abyssinian(marked)
  • American Bobtail
  • American Shorthair (the classic pattern)
  • Birman (brindle points)
  • Egyptian Mau (the original spotted tabby cat)
  • Exotics (Persian shorthair)
  • Javanese (Lynx Points)
  • Maine Coon(probably the most popular pedigree tabby cat)
  • Norwegian forest cat
  • Persian
  • Ragdoll (Lynx Points)
  • Rex (Devon, Selkirk, and Cornish)
  • Scottish fold
  • Siberian (another “natural” breed of tabby cats)
  • Singapura (marked)
  • Somali (long marked hair)
  • Turkish Angora(14 allowable brindle patterns / colors)

Probably the most distinctive feature seen in common in all tabby cats is the “M” on their foreheads. You will also see this M in many of the big jungle cats, such as tigers, cheetahs, and ocelots.

From the days of ancient Egypt came the first legend about this unique brand. The cats were called Mau, most likely a reflection of their conversational sound. The word mau is also translated to see or light. Since cats’ eyes look so luminous at night, it was just a couple more steps to associate these glorious animals with the moon, and their branding to reflect that relationship. The Egyptian Mau is a direct descendant of those ancient Egyptian cats; domesticated as a descendant of the African wild cat; carries the M to this day.

Tabby cat personality traits

When it comes to personality traits, tabbies are considered friendly, carefree, intelligent, daring, very loving and wonderful cats. Red tabbies, often called orange-ginger-marmalade tabbies, can be aggressive and bossy. But this trait is linked to coat color (as in fiery red) and not to the tabby cat pattern.

Facial features of the tabby cat (or tabby cat)

Another distinguishing feature common to tabbies are their facial markings which include a distinctive M on their foreheads and expressive pencil-thin striped markings around the eyes.
Affectionately known as ‘eyeliner’.

This is where the legend puts genetics aside with these intriguing notions of how these brands were produced.

The Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was a recognized cat lover. The M mark on the tabby’s forehead is said to have been created when he laid his hand on the forehead of his favorite cat.
Christians believe that when the newborn baby Jesus would not stop crying, a cat climbed into the manger and began to purr , sending him to sleep. In gratitude, the Virgin Mary marked the cat’s face with the first letter of her name.
A non-religious version suggests that the M is a set of expression lines, the result of a cat staring at a mouse in concentration, waiting for a mouse to emerge.

Origin of the tabby cat

If domestic cats are the most favored of all, tabby cats are the most popular among cat color patterns. Tabby cats come in stripes, whorls, swirls, dots, and stripes, and are also allowed in the breed standards of more than two dozen recognized cat breeds . Their colors range from red to cream, to black, blue, silver, brown, and tan.

Although there are many variations of each, the brindle pattern is divided into four basic classes. A fifth includes the tabby as part of another basic color pattern, for example, the ‘patched’ tabby, which can be a calico or tortoiseshell cat with tabby patches. Some pointy breeds also allow “tabby spots” within their color standards. Is it any wonder that the tabby cat is so? In fact, the gene for the abby pattern can be found in all domestic cats. Watch a “charcoal black” cat in the sun one day, and see if you can find the hidden tabby markings.

Tabby cat in the manger

Another wonderful legend about the origin of the “M” tells of Mary and the tabby cat in the manger. It seems that the baby Jesus was cold and worried, and Mary asked the animals in the manger to come over to warm him. The manger was simply too small to accomplish that, but a small tabby cat came in and snuggled up next to the baby, and hounded him with purr and warmth. Mary was so grateful that she placed her initial, “M,” on the cat’s forehead.

Mohammed and the tabby cat

The legend of Islam tells us that Mohammed loved cats. One story says that she once cut off the sleeve of a garment when she had to go out to attend prayer, rather than disturb her cat, Muezza, who was sleeping on the sleeve. It is said that the reason he loved cats so much is that he once saved his life when a snake crawled up his sleeve. (This may be a variation on the well-known Muezza story.) Legend also states that Mohammed granted cats the ability to always land on their feet. Mohammed’s writing tells of his vision of a woman punished in hell for starving her cat. All these stories have been reduced to the assumption that the ‘M’ symbolizes Mohammed’s enormous esteem for cats and that the sight of the ‘M’ on a cat’s forehead invokes memories of Mohammed. In any case, cats today are still generally protected and respected in the Islamic world and are even allowed inside mosques.



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