As you know, tabby cats are among the most popular of all domestic cats. But did you know that tabby is not a breed but a color pattern? The most common of all coats, the tabby pattern can actually be hidden under whatever patterns or markings you may see. Even if hidden, it is still there since the tabby gene is common to all felines. This makes all cats some form of tabby, whether the pattern is apparent—or hidden.
We will explore the 5 different types of tabby markings and learn how to differentiate between them. But first, let’s talk about the basics. Did you know that all orange cats are tabby cats and all tabby cats are orange? If you look at a solid colored orange or cream cat in the bright sun, you will be able to see their tabby markings. These markings always include a distinctive shaped “M” that is visible on their foreheads. Now, let’s look at the different tabbys, so you can determine which one you own cat most resembles.
1.Classic Tabby: Note the swirling bold patterns along the sides of this cat. These circular patterns almost resemble a bullseye in this classic, or “blotched” tabby pattern.
2.Mackerel Tabby: This tabby is the one commonly referred to as the “tiger cat,” with her narrow stripes that run down her sides in a vertical configuration. The stripes branch out from one stripe that runs down her back down along the spine. This presents as a fish skeleton type of look. This is where the Mackerel tabby got her name.
3.Spotted Tabby: This cat’s spots can be large or small. Sometimes, they will even look like broken mackerel stripes. It is not known if this is a variation of the mackerel gene or if it is from a separate gene altogether. Spots can appear as round, oval, or rosette in shape and produce that jungle cat look, characteristic of certain wild mountain cats.
4.Ticked Tabby: Instead of striping, this cat has a “ticked” color pattern, foregoing the traditional stripes and spots. You can still see the markings on the face that make her a tabby. To produce the ticked markings, her fur is made up of what is called “agouti hairs.” This means that individual hairs are striped with light and dark bands. This is what produces the ticked appearance. See it displayed prominently in the Abyssinian breed.
5.Patched Tabby: For this pattern, you will notice separate patches of brown and red. These form what is popularly known as the tortoiseshell, or tortie cat. A tortie showing the tabby markings is known as a torbie. These markings can take the form of any of the other four tabby patterns and are most easily seen on the cat’s legs and head.
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