What is a Tabby cat? “Tabby” is not a breed, but a coat pattern in cats. Its appearance can vary slightly from stripes to whorls, spots, and more.
These variations all have their own names, but often an “M” shaped marking appears on the head of Tabby cats, just above the eyes. The Tabby pattern can be seen across a wide range of purebred cats and in mixed breed cats.
History of Tabby Cats
It’s thought that the array of Tabby patterns seen today all started with the mackerel pattern, which is the natural coat pattern of the African wildcat. The distinct ‘M’ marking on a Tabby’s forehead is thought by some to stand for either ‘Mau’ which is the Egyptian word for ‘cat’, the Virgin Mary or also Mohammed, who is said to have loved Tabbies.
Other Tabby patterns came about from selective breeding and mutations of mackerel Tabby cats.
There are now five different Tabby coat patterns, making many unique-looking Tabby cats to choose as your companion!
The classic Tabby pattern is made up of whorls that create a shape resembling a target on the side of the cat. The classic Tabby is sometimes referred to as a “blotched Tabby”.
Mackerel Tabby cats have rings around their tails and legs and bands of solid or broken stripes around the rest of their body.
Instead of having bands of stripes, spotted Tabby cats have bands of spots. The spots vary in size and can resemble broken stripes, similar to those of a mackerel Tabby.
Patched Tabbies have patches (hence the name) of dark or grayish brown and patches of red or orange with the Tabby pattern throughout both colors. They are often referred to as Tortoiseshell (or Tortie) Tabbies because the brown and orange spots are like those seen on the shell of a tortoise.
You won’t see bands of stripes or spots on a ticked Tabby (otherwise known as Abyssinian Tabby or agouti Tabby cats), except possibly on their legs. But, if you look at their individual hairs closely, you’ll notice that each of them has bands of light and dark coloring.
Ticked Tabby cats also have the signature Tabby “M” on their head.
Tabby Cat Personality
Because Tabby cats exist across a variety of breeds, their personality traits are more distinct to their breed rather than the markings that distinguish them as Tabbies.
Here’s a look at the personality traits of some breeds with tabby cat markings:
Nicknamed “Aby” cats, these highly active and curious felines often sport ticked Tabby coats. Aby cats are always looking for something to climb, chase, or get into. They love heights and would probably appreciate having a ceiling-height cat tree in the home.
Aby cats also love attention and playtime. They’ll follow you around the house and try to win your attention if you seem preoccupied with something else. If you’re thinking of adding an Aby cat to your family, make sure to stock up on toys to keep them busy, or they might start playing with things around the house that aren’t toys.
If you and your human family members will be away at work or school during the day, you may also want to consider a playmate for your Aby (if you do not already have other furry family members) to keep this energetic feline entertained.
American Shorthairs have a middle-of-the-road personality type, meaning they enjoy playtime but are not overly active or demanding of attention. You’ll also find that most of them are classic Tabbies.
These felines are smart and sociable. They won’t run and hide under the bed when strangers come over. While they may not enjoy being carried around and coddled, they do like snuggling up next to their family on the couch and sleeping at the foot of the bed.
The Maine Coon, the most popular pedigreed Tabby cat, is known to be good-natured, adaptable, and easy going with kids. They like attention and being near their family, but if you’re busy, they’re content just supervising you while you’re completing tasks.
They really enjoy chasing mice and other rodents, and if there aren’t any around to chase, they’re happy chasing after toys.
Oriental Tabby cats come in over a hundred combinations!
These diverse-looking Tabbies are vocal and, well, high-maintenance. If you’re looking for a cat that’ll constantly be on your lap and wants to follow your every move, this could be the breed for you.
If an Oriental is going to be home alone during the day, a playmate is a good idea. Otherwise, these attention-craving cats could get into trouble.
This breed comes in a spotted Tabby pattern that makes it look like a wild cat, most notably an ocelot, which is why it was given the name “Ocicat.” Ironically, the Ocicat has no wild cat DNA in its gene pool whatsoever. It came to look the way it does through careful breeding.
Ocicats are commonly social and enjoy the company of both their family and new acquaintances. Most don’t mind being picked up and carried around. They like to play games and will even gladly walk on a leash if you train them.
The American Curl, named for its ears that curl backward, comes in a variety of Tabby patterns.
This newer breed is known to have a gentle, friendly disposition. They usually love people, including children. American Curls are moderately active and like being in tow, but they won’t make a fuss or be vocal for attention if they see you’re busy. They are adaptable and suited for most any loving home.
This giant group of mixed breed cats comes in all sorts of Tabby patterns and colorings. And, their personalities may vary as much as their looks!
As the most common type of cat, you’re sure to find one whose personality suits you well. They can be a great companion in any home.
Tabby Cat Health
The health of Tabby cats can vary depending on its breed, but most cats can live upward of 15 years. The most common health conditions reported by ASPCA Pet Health Insurance pet parents with Tabby cats are hyperthyroidism, vomiting, urinary trouble, upset stomach, and weight loss.
You can get coverage your cat’s veterinary care with ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. Plans can cover your cat for injuries, illnesses, wellness and more! Start your quote today.