Tabbies, or tabby cats, are domestic cats that carry a distinctive coat pattern. Tabbies can be found in many types of cat breeds from Maine Coons to Persians.
The tabby coat pattern in a cat can be found on the agouti gene. Agouti is a fur color in which each hair has two or more pigmented bands running through it. The Agouti gene is an important determinant in coat color selection.
The tabby pattern evolved for camouflage reasons. The stripped tabby pattern helps to hide the cat when it’s lying in wait for prey.
Tabby Cat Markings
The tabby cat markings have the following traits:
- M on the brow. (Visible in ticking tabby cats, but difficult to tell apart in shaded silver/golden and tipped cats.)
- Face with thin pencil strokes. (Visible in ticking tabby cats, but difficult to tell apart in shaded silver/golden and tipped cats.)
- The appearance of black “eyeliner” and white or light fur around the eyes.
- Lips and paws are pigmented.
- A pigmented nose with a darker outline.
- Banding on the torso, legs, and tail. (In the ticked tabby, the torso banding vanishes.)
Tabby Cat Coat Patterns
All tabbies have striped faces and markings on their bodies that fit into one of four tabby patterns.
The most common and original tabby coat pattern is called the mackerel pattern. This pattern takes its name from the fish skeleton-like pattern across the body of the cat. Cats that are referred to as “tiger cats” have this pattern.
The markings of the Classic Tabby are strong and swirling. In some areas, this cat is known as a “blotched tabby.” The darker pattern on a classic tabby cat is marbled.
The Spotted Tabby has both large and small spots, which often resemble broken stripes.
The Ticked Tabby, also known as the agouti tabby, has body markings that alternate between bright and dark, and its face will have tabby facial markings.
Tabby Coat Colors
Tabbies can come in a range of colors. Most tabbies have one dominant coat color.
For example, a blue classic tabby has gray stripes with gray roots. A silver classic tabby has black stripes with white roots.
More: Tabby Cat Coat Colors
Tabbies can even seem to be one solid color like black or white but the tabby markings will be visible especially when the cat is sitting in sunlight.
All orange cats are tabbies (learn more: Things to Know About Orange Tabbies). A red classic tabby has red stripes with red roots while a red silver classic tabby has red stripes with white roots.