How to tell if your cat is a tabby

A tabby cat isn't a breed but a fur pattern of stripes, dots, lines, or swirls.

Tabby cats carry the agouti gene which makes them look very similar to their ancestor, the African wildcat

Wild cat pattern

Face markings

The face is the easiest place to see tabby markings: darker "M" shaped markings on the forehead, dark "eyeliner" around the eyes that extend out to the cheek, and light fur around the eyes.

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"M" markings on forehead

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Light ring around eyes

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Dark lines extending out from eyes

Body markings

Tabby cats wll also have dark bands around their legs and tails.

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Dark bands circle the legs and tail

Four different patterns

Tabby cats wll have one of four different coat patterns: mackerel, classic, spotted, or ticked

Mackerel Pattern

This pattern features narrow stripes that run parallel to each other down the cat's side, resembling the bones of a fish, hence the name "mackerel."

Classic Pattern

Also known as "blotched" or "marbled," this pattern has bold, swirling designs with a distinctive bullseye on the side of the cat's body.

Spotted Pattern

The spotted tabby has round or oval-shaped spots scattered across its sides, which can look like broken mackerel stripes.

Ticked Pattern

This unique pattern lacks the typical stripes, swirls, or spots, and instead features individual hairs that are striped with alternating light and dark bands, giving a flecked appearance.

Hidden tabbies

Some cats that appear to be one solid color can be hiding tabby patterns in their coats.  In the right lighting, it's possible to see the faint tabby markings on these otherwise solidly colored cats.

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Tabby "M" marking on face