Tabby cats are some of the most popular cats in the world. Contrary to popular belief, referring to a cat as a tabby does not reference the cat’s breed, but rather the pattern of markings on their coat. The tabby color pattern can be seen in almost all breeds of cat – even wild cats like tigers, cheetahs, and ocelots.
The ancient city of Attabyia in modern day Bagdad, Iraq is where the word “tabby” originated from. Attabiya was known for the beautiful patterned silks made there (moiré silks). Noticing the similarities of the patterns in the silk and the patterns on certain cats, the French began to call those cats “tabbis.” The word tabbis easily became tabby in English.
General Tabby Features
Tabby features are the result of a dominant gene trait. They are not distinct on every tabby cat, sometimes they are more blended or muted. Sometimes an all black cat will have black tabby markings that are only visible in certain lighting.
One of the most noticeable features of tabby cats is the “M” on their foreheads. There are a number of myths based upon this M. Some say it was placed on the cat’s forehead because in Ancient Egypt cats were called Mau (obviously a tale spun by an English speaking person). Others say that it was placed there by the Virgin Mary of the Christian faith or by Mohammed or the Muslim faith.
There are a few other things also common among tabby cats. They have stripes on their legs and tail. Immediately surrounding their eyes will be the darkest color in their pattern, just outside of that will be the lightest color in their pattern. Their whisker pads have spots or splotches of color. White or a light color may appear on the sides of their nose, upper lip, and chin.
Types of Tabbies
Tabbies come in a variety of colors and patterns! There are 4 main tabby patterns (Classic, Mackerel, Spotted, and Agouti), with a few less common patterns emerging.
The classic tabby pattern has circular whirls that often create a “bulls-eye” shape.
The mackerel tabby pattern is stripped like a tiger. There are many people who believe that this should have been called the “classic” tabby pattern.
The spotted tabby pattern has spots or dotted lines rather than solid stripes. A variation of this pattern, called the Rosetted pattern, occurs only in Bengals. Rosettes are dark circular markings that have a lighter color inside of them.
The agouti tabby pattern is a little more subtle than the others. In this pattern, each hair has bands of color. Most tabbies have at least some agouti hairs.
The patched tabby pattern is found on cats of other color patterns such as calico or tortishell. Rather than just one coloring of the tabby pattern, there are a few different sets of colorings.
The tabby point pattern is in the colored sections of the fur of pointed cats (Siamese, Himalayan, etc).
Tabby patterns come in a variety of color combinations. The most common are shown in the chart below. This chart is borrowed from www.tabby-cats.com .
- “Brown tabby”
- Blue tabby
- Chocolate tabby
- Cinnamon tabby
- Lilac tabby
- Red tabby
- Cream tabby
- Silver tabby
- Cameo tabby
I love my terrific tabby cats! As seen above, Cinco and Manna are both tabby cats. Do you have a terrific tabby cat in your life?