Interesting Facts About Tabby Cats

You probably already know and have seen many tabby cats, but do you know what their distinguishing marks are? Or do you know where his name comes from? Keep reading and discover in this post some interesting facts about Tabby cats.

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Many people think that tabby cats are a particular breed, but Tabby is not a cat breed, it is a type of coat that can be present in many different cat breeds.

A tabby cat has a distinctive M-shaped marking on the forehead, stripes on the eyes and cheeks, along the back, and around the legs and tail.

The tabby pattern occurs naturally in many cat breeds. This pattern occurs with the mix of the domestic cat ancestor and its close relatives, the African wildcat, the European wildcat, and the Asian wildcat.

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Origin Of The Word Tabby


The word originally refers to a type of striped taffeta fabric, the Attabi. This silk fabric became popular in the Muslim world and spread to England. When introduced in Great Britain, people started to compare the silk pattern with the tiger cat coat, hence his name, Tabby cat. 

Different Tabby Cats Patterns

There are four distinct patterns in Tabby cats, the Mackerel Tabby, Classic Tabby, Ticked Tabby, and Spotted Tabby.

Mackerel Tabby Cats

Tabby Cats Interesting Facts

The mackerel tabby pattern is believed to be the origin for all tabby cats. The mackerel tabby has thin, gently curved vertical stripes on the sides of the body that run up and down the sides, similar to a fish skeleton. Three or five vertical M-shaped lines always appear on the forehead.

Classic Tabby

Tabby Cats Interesting Facts

The classic tabby cat is the most common of the tabby cats in the UK and the Middle East, but they rank second concerning tabby mackerel. The classic Tabby spotted has the M pattern on the forehead, but he has primarily thin stripes or spots.

Spotted Tabby Cats

Tabby Cats Interesting Facts

The spotted brindle is due to a gene that modifies the mackerel’s brindle pattern and causes the stripes to appear as spots. The spotted tabby cat shows its distinct round spots on a lighter fur background and may even have a faint collar line.

Naturally, the most common spotted Tabby looks more like the mackerel tabby, including the classic markings on the limbs, tail, and head, and the M on the forehead.

Ticked Tabby

A tabby cat with ticks has almost no stripes or spots. The marks on its fur are very thin and barely visible on the legs, face, and tail, as well as on the standard M.

There is also a fifth pattern made up of any of the four basic patterns. 

  • The Caliby. This is a calico cat with a tabby patched pattern.
  • The Torbie. The Torbie is a tortoiseshell cat with tabby fur with patches.

Caliby Tabby Cat

Torbie Tabby Cat 

Distinguishing Feature Of Tabby Cats

Tabby cats have a distinctive feature, their M mark on their foreheads. Different legends try to explain this particular mark.

One legend relates the M to the word mau, which in ancient Egypt meant cat. 

Another story tells that a tabby cat came to comfort baby Jesus, and in gratitude, the Virgin Mary stroked his head and left that mark on him. There is also an Islamic legend about Muzza, a cat who saved his master Mohammed from a poisonous snake. That is why all tabby cats were rewarded with that M on their foreheads.

What is the real explanation of the distinctive M mark?

Everything is explained by genetics. This tabby pattern is due to three types of genes found in all domestic cats. This means that all domestic cats are tabby, but it is more noticeable in those with patterned furs.

Examples of Tabby Cats in Popular Culture

  • The best-known tabby cats include Think Think, one of two cats owned by the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen.
  • Ithaca Kitty, the plush toy, is a gray tabby cat with seven toes on each front foot.
  •  Heathcliff and Garfield are Tabby cats.
  • Bill The Cat of Bloom County
  • Azrael from The Smurfs.
  • Thomasina, a red mackerel who appeared in the 1963 Disney live-action film.
  • The Adventures of Milo and Otis features an orange tabby cat.
  • Morris the Cat, another orange tabby cat, appeared as an advertising pet for 9 Lives cat food in 1969.
  • Cheshire in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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Image credit: Pixabay. Unsplash Pexels


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