What Makes A Cat A Tabby?

Do you consider yourself a cat aficionado? If so, then you’re likely familiar with the beloved tabby cat. These feline friends are undeniably charming and have captured the hearts of many. But what exactly makes a cat a tabby? Is it solely their striped fur, or is there more to it?

In this blog post, we’ll take a deep dive into the captivating world of tabby cats. We’ll explore their unique characteristics that set them apart from other feline breeds. From their playful personalities to their distinct coat patterns, it’s no wonder why tabbies are among the most popular cats in the world.

So what is it that makes a cat a tabby? The answer lies within their genetic makeup. Tabbies possess a specific gene that gives them their iconic markings. While most people associate tabbies with stripes, they can also sport spots, swirls, or even a combination of these patterns.

As you continue reading, we’ll delve into the different types of tabby cats and what makes each one special. Whether you’re an experienced cat owner or considering adopting your first furry friend, this post will provide all the information you need about what makes a cat a tabby and why they hold such a special place in our hearts.

So sit back and prepare to learn about these delightful and charming felines – because once you understand what makes them tick, you’ll be even more enamored with these lovable creatures.

What is a Tabby Cat?

These domestic cats are characterized by their unique coat patterns, which can range from stripes and spots to swirls and even a ticked pattern. What’s interesting is that tabby cats are not a specific breed, but rather a type of cat that can be found in many different breeds, including the American Shorthair, Siamese, Persian, and Maine Coon.

One of the most defining characteristics of tabby cats is their coat markings. All tabbies have an “M” shaped marking on their forehead, which is believed to be a tribute to the ancient Egyptian goddess Bastet. This goddess was often depicted with the head of a cat and was highly revered in ancient Egypt. Additionally, tabbies have a striped pattern on their coat, with vertical stripes on their legs and a circular pattern on their body. The color of their coat can vary widely, from brown to gray to orange or even white.

The four main types of tabby patterns are classic (also known as blotched), mackerel, spotted, and ticked. Classic tabbies have bold, swirling patterns on their fur that resemble bullseyes or butterflies. Mackerel tabbies have narrow stripes that run vertically down their body. Spotted tabbies have distinct spots on their fur. Ticked tabbies have an even distribution of color on their fur with no distinct pattern.

Interestingly enough, all domestic cats are believed to be descendants of African wildcats. These wildcats had a similar striped pattern on their fur, which helped them blend in with tall grasses and avoid predators in the wild. Over time, these markings became more pronounced and developed into the distinctive patterns seen in tabby cats today.

In addition to their unique coat patterns, tabby cats are also known for their friendly personalities and muscular build. They tend to be social and outgoing, making them great companions for families and individuals alike. If you’re considering adding a tabby cat to your family, there are many breeds to choose from, each with their own unique characteristics.

The Four Types of Tabby Patterns

Tabby cats are among the most popular feline breeds in the world, and for good reason. Their unique coat patterns make them easily recognizable and beloved by many. But did you know that there are four different types of tabby patterns? Let’s explore them in more detail.

Classic Tabby Pattern

The classic tabby pattern is the most common type of tabby pattern, and it’s easy to see why. These cats have bold, swirling patterns on their fur that create a distinctive target or bullseye shape on their backs. The pattern looks like a work of art and can be compared to a beautiful marble cake. On their legs and tail, they have stripes that add to their alluring appearance. This pattern is also commonly referred to as the “blotched” tabby pattern.

Mackerel Tabby Pattern

The mackerel tabby pattern gets its name from its resemblance to the markings on a fish skeleton. These cats have narrow, vertical stripes that run parallel to each other down their backs, creating a sleek and uniform appearance. The stripes on their legs and tail are also evenly spaced, making them look like a perfectly designed work of art.

Spotted Tabby Pattern

If you’re looking for a cat with a unique and eye-catching coat pattern, then the spotted tabby pattern is for you. These cats have spots or blotches on their coat instead of stripes. The spots can be large or small and are randomly distributed across the cat’s fur. This creates an unpredictable yet beautiful pattern that is sure to turn heads and make them stand out in a crowd.

Ticked Tabby Pattern

Finally, we have the ticked tabby pattern. This pattern is characterized by individual hairs that are banded with different colors, creating a subtle salt-and-pepper appearance on the cat’s coat. This gives the cat an almost shimmering effect when they move around. The ticked pattern is most commonly found in breeds like the Abyssinian and Somali cats, and it has an exotic allure that is hard to resist.

The “M” Marking on the Forehead

This feature is one of the most distinctive characteristics of this beloved feline breed, and it has captivated people’s attention for thousands of years.

The “M” marking is made up of dark fur that forms the shape of an “M” just above the cat’s eyes and between the ears. It’s caused by a genetic mutation that affects the production of pigment in a cat’s fur, resulting in the classic tabby pattern. However, not all tabby cats have this marking, as the gene responsible for producing it isn’t always present in every tabby cat.

Now, let’s dive into the fascinating theories behind the “M” marking’s origins and meaning. One popular theory suggests that it symbolizes the cat’s connection to the ancient Egyptian goddess Bastet. In Egyptian mythology, Bastet was often depicted with a cat’s head and was associated with fertility, motherhood, and protection. Some believe that the “M” marking on tabby cats is a nod to this revered goddess.

Another theory suggests that the “M” represents the word “mau,” which means cat in ancient Egyptian. Cats were highly valued in ancient Egypt and were even worshipped as sacred animals. Therefore, this theory reinforces that cats have been an important part of human history for thousands of years.

It’s fascinating to note that even though there are various theories surrounding the “M” marking’s origin and meaning, they all point to how highly regarded cats were in ancient times. The “M” marking may be more than just a genetic mutation; it could symbolize humans’ deep admiration for cats throughout history.

Variations in Color and Pattern

Tabby cats are truly a work of art when it comes to their coat patterns. From bold stripes to delicate swirls, these feline beauties come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, making each cat unique in their own way.

One of the most fascinating things about tabby cats is that there are four different types of tabby patterns, each with its own distinctive characteristics. Classic tabbies have striking swirling patterns on their sides, often resembling the letter “M” on their forehead. Mackerel tabbies have vertical stripes that run down their body, while spotted tabbies sport large, round spots. Finally, ticked tabbies have a more subtle pattern with individual hairs banded with different colors.

But it’s not just the pattern that makes tabby cats so special – they also come in a range of colors too. Brown, grey (also known as blue), red (also known as orange or ginger), and cream are just some of the color variations you might see in these felines. And some tabby cats even have white markings on their chest or paws, adding even more diversity to their appearance.

It’s important to note that not all cats with stripes or spots are considered tabby cats. For instance, cats with a coat that has both white and another color are not considered true tabbies. Additionally, cats with a solid coat color may still have tabby markings on their skin, which can only be seen under a microscope.

Tabby cats aren’t just defined by their appearance though – they’re renowned for their unique personality traits and behaviors too. From their playful nature to their affectionate demeanor, these feline friends have captured the hearts of humans for centuries and continue to do so today.

African Wildcat Origins

These beautiful felines have a fascinating history that dates back thousands of years.

The African wildcat is believed to be the ancestor of all domestic cats, including tabbies. They have been living in close proximity to humans for centuries and were first domesticated over 10,000 years ago. It’s incredible to think that our beloved pets have been around for so long.

The most striking feature of the African wildcat is its striped coat pattern, which is similar to that of tabby cats. This pattern is believed to have developed as a form of camouflage in the wild, allowing the cat to blend into its environment and avoid predators. Over time, this pattern was passed down through generations of domestic cats through breeding.

While all tabbies share the same basic stripe pattern, there are four main types of tabby patterns: classic, mackerel, spotted, and ticked. Each pattern has its own unique characteristics and markings that make it stand out from the others.

It’s important to note that not all domestic cats are tabbies, but the ones that are can thank their ancestors for their beautiful coat patterns. The African wildcat has left an indelible mark on the world of felines, and we’re grateful for their contribution to our lives.

Genetics and Coat Markings

Let’s explore the fascinating world of tabby cats and their unique markings.

The agouti gene is the key player in determining whether a cat will have a tabby coat or not. This gene controls the distribution of pigment in each hair strand, resulting in the stunning tabby pattern. Cats with the dominant form of this gene will have a tabby coat, while those with the recessive form will have a solid-colored coat.

But did you know that there are four types of tabby patterns? Classic tabbies have bold swirling patterns on their fur, while mackerel tabbies have thin stripes that run vertically along their bodies. Spotted tabbies have spots instead of stripes, and ticked tabbies have a speckled appearance. Each of these patterns is equally mesmerizing and unique.

Interestingly, female cats are more likely to be tabby than males. This is because the agouti gene is located on the X chromosome, and females have two X chromosomes while males only have one. This means that if a female cat inherits one dominant agouti gene from one parent and a recessive agouti gene from the other parent, she will still display the tabby pattern. In contrast, a male cat would need to inherit two dominant agouti genes to display the same pattern.

Beyond tabby cats, there are many other coat markings that genetics play a role in determining. Some cats may have pointed markings, such as Siamese cats, while others may have solid-colored coats with white patches or no markings at all. The variation in coat markings is a testament to the diversity within the feline species.

Appreciating the Unique Beauty of Tabbies

These beloved domestic cats are known for their distinctive markings, which can include stripes, spots, and swirling patterns. However, it’s not just their physical appearance that makes them special; tabbies also have distinct personalities that set them apart from other cats.

One of the reasons why tabby cats are so popular is because they come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. From classic stripes to intricate swirls and spots, each tabby is like a work of art with its own individual charm. What’s more, female tabbies are more likely to have this stunning pattern due to genetics. This diversity in appearance means that there is a tabby cat for everyone.

Apart from their mesmerizing looks, tabbies are also known for their friendly and affectionate personalities. They are playful and energetic, making them great companions for families with children or active individuals. They love to cuddle and show affection towards their owners, making them ideal for people who crave constant companionship. Moreover, their intelligence and curiosity make them easy to train and teach new behaviors.

Sadly, despite their popularity, tabby cats are often overlooked in animal shelters and rescue organizations. This is because many people assume that they are too common or too plain-looking compared to other breeds of cats. However, this is a misconception; each tabby cat is unique and has its own individual personality and charm that makes them stand out.

Common Health Issues for Tabbies

First up, let’s talk about obesity. Tabbies love to eat and have a hearty appetite, which can lead to overeating if not monitored closely. Obesity in cats can lead to other health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. To prevent these issues, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on your tabby’s weight and provide them with plenty of exercise.

Another common health issue for tabbies is dental problems. These cats are prone to developing plaque and tartar buildup on their teeth, which can lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Regularly brushing your tabby’s teeth and taking them for annual dental cleanings can help prevent these issues.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are also common in tabbies, especially in male cats due to their narrower urethra. Symptoms of a UTI include urinating outside the litter box, frequent urination, and blood in the urine. If you suspect your tabby has a UTI, it’s important to seek veterinary care immediately.

Lastly, skin allergies are another common health issue for tabbies. These allergies can be caused by factors such as food, fleas, or environmental allergens. Symptoms of skin allergies in tabbies include excessive scratching, licking, and hair loss. Treatment for skin allergies may include medication or dietary changes.


In conclusion, tabby cats are a beloved and fascinating feline breed that has captured the hearts of many. While not a specific breed, tabbies can be found in numerous breeds, each with their own distinct characteristics. What sets them apart is their striking coat markings, which range from stripes and spots to swirls and even a ticked pattern. All tabbies share a common “M” shaped marking on their forehead, thanks to a specific gene.

There are four main types of tabby patterns: classic (blotched), mackerel, spotted, and ticked. Each pattern boasts its own unique markings that make it stand out from the others. But beyond their physical appearance, tabbies are known for their friendly personalities that make them fantastic companions for families and individuals alike.

Sadly, despite their popularity, tabbies often get overlooked in animal shelters and rescue organizations. It’s important to remember that each tabby cat is one-of-a-kind with its own individual personality and charm that makes them special. However, like any other breed of cat, they are prone to certain health issues such as obesity, dental problems, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and skin allergies.