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Tabby Cats

The tabby coat pattern is the most common coat pattern in the wild. The tiger is a striped tabby, the leopard is a spotted tabby, and the lion is a tabby agouti. It is also very common among domestic cats, particularly those of mixed breeds. We see tabby cats all around us, it's easy to forget just how special and fascinating this pattern really is. There's so much to say about it, we need an entire article!

Tabby cats: Everything you ever wanted to know about tabby cats. Tabby is not a breed but a coat pattern. Some breeds can have tabby coat patterns and others can't. Find out what the variants of this pattern are and how they came to be.

This pattern appears especially useful as camouflage for the different feline predators. Hiding behind the grass blades of the African savannah, or in the branches of a leafed tree, spots and stripes can make a cat virtually invisible to its prey.


This evolutionary success story makes the tabby pattern very popular. In fact most cats have a tabby pattern, although it is sometimes very vague and hides in the background of seemingly solid colors. If you look closely at a solid colored cat under good light, you will often note indistinct tabby patterns in the background. White is the only color that is truly solid and has no tabby nuances.


What Is A Tabby Pattern?

The tabby pattern is created by two types of hair color:


The first type is composed of the hairs that make the lighter background color. These are called agouti hair and are unique in their coloring. If you look closely at one of the agouti hairs, you will see that it has several bands of different colors along its length. This creates the ticked base color in any tabby pattern.


The second type is made of the darker hairs that create the unique tabby pattern on the agouti background.


All tabby cats and kittens share similar marks on their face. These marks include dark lines that go from the eyes toward the back of the head and special marks on the cat's forehead that resemble the letter "M". These marks are visible in all tabby pattern variations and colors. They are called the "tabby mask".


Pattern Variations


The tabby can exhibit one of four sub-patterns:


Striped Tabby, where the cat has vertical stripes along its body. This is sometimes called a "Mackerel" pattern, because of the resemblance to a fishbone. In a show- quality striped tabby, the stripes should be whole and evenly spaced.



Blotched Tabby, where the two shades create a blotched pattern of rounded stripes and circles. This is also called a "marble" pattern.



Spotted Tabby, where the dark color appears in spots all over the agouti body. In a show-quality spotted tabby, the spots should be round and evenly spread.



Ticked Tabby, where there is only ticked agouti hair all over the body. There are no clear markings other than the tabby facemask. This pattern is typical in several breeds, such as the Abyssinian and the Singapura, but is otherwise rare.



Color Variations


The tabby pattern shows itself in various colors. You can have tabbies in black, red, blue, chocolate, cream, and many other colors. Ticked tabbies usually come in red, ruddy, blue, and fawn shades.


The tabby pattern can also be found in combination with other color patterns. For instance, a cat can be a bi-color with a combination of red tabby and white. Calico cats can have patches of white, black, and tabby red. The tabby markings will show on the coloured patches. Tortoiseshell cats can have a special pattern in which the overall Tortoiseshell pattern is intermingled with tabby markings all over the body - this is sometimes referred to as a "torbie".


Colorpointed cats can also have tabby markings. These will show only on the darker parts of the cat's body - the face, legs, and tail. These tabby colorpoints are sometimes called "lynx" cats.


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Comments (17)

Beautiful tabby cat pictures my favourite is of course the Mau.
I have an orange spotted tabby in my feral cat colony.  He's gorgeous!
Hmmm... I have a also have a lynx! She has a hostile personality! 
My all white girl Emma, the baby (now 5 years old) in my avatar, shows tabby "texture" in certain light! She's ALL WHITE, but it's like her hair GROWS in a tabby pattern. Specifically, she has rings on her tail, and the tabby M. Again, it's a white on white pattern. It's really cool.

When she was a baby, she had 3 single red hairs that grew on the top of her head, between her ears. It's how I told her apart most easily from her twin sister. Lol. She has since lost these three hairs though.
Sounds like she might be a cream colorpoint. If the pattern is showing mostly on the head, tails and legs, then she could be that. It's like a flamepoint colorpoint, only diluted. Very pretty! 
That 2nd picture, grey orange/yellow eye cat, is there really such colored cat? Even inside of ears are grey, as is background, so I think it is mostly photoshop, but such grey cat with orange eyes, black and white whiskers, black nose, quite striking appearance, but I'm not sure if such really is or if those too are edited features in photoshop? With those tabby stripes that makes one really beautiful cat.
Oh, I'm sure it's photoshopped. It was made to be a black&white image, only leaving the eyes in color, for a more dramatic effect. I used it mostly to show the M markings, which I thought were clearly displayed there (and I also just found the picture pretty ;) ).
It is very nice picture indeed, quite stoppingly pretty pic, that made me think if there really is so beautiful tabby cats some place. Golden color eyes and gray coat is almost hypnotic

I find many of these article pics really interesting of their own

Oh and I like this article too, now I know I have striped and blotched/marble tabby cats
The blotched tabby, with its bulls eye on the side of the tummy,  this pattern is often called for "classical tabby".
To StefanZ-It;s amazing that you should say that.  I took in Tortoise, feral male cat, to be neutered and I was told the same thing.  Good thing he's not a deer, otherwise they'd be calling the pattern Bulls Eye!!
My two are a male striped tabby and a female marble tabby. 
Great article, like so many on this site!
Interesting about the "classical tabby" markings, my cat has a G on one side and a 6 on the other! I'm quite fond of the marbling, so pretty, she just had kittens and all but one look like they will have marbling.
The "classic" tabby, is an mutation, upcoming sometimes in Medieval age in England. So why classic while its a newcomer among the tabby variations? The bulls-eye classic tabby become fairly soon common in England, and the early leading cat fancy assocations were british. For THEM it was the typical british tabby....  :)
Interesting enough, the Sokoke from Africa are blotched tabbies them too.  If they are descendants from cats "reimported" from Britain, or if they got the same mutation on their own, I dont know. But an "reimport" from England is fully possible and is my guess.
I love my lynx point siameses, they're talkative & playful & loyal. My favorite sort of cats. They can also be a lot of trouble & moody as hell, yet they'll always growl when a stranger's @the door & I have no doubt that if someone ever broke into my home they'd have Siamese cats clawing their eyes out in 2 seconds flat:)
My cat is a torbie. She's salt and pepper grey agouti hairs with marbled tabby markings made up of two shades of orange as well as brown. :)
The Blotched pattern is also called 'Classic' ^^ › Cat Snips Articles › Tabby Cats