Considering that the tabby pattern is the most common of all cat coat patterns, you might have a tabby cat, and you’ve definitely seen one. Cats with tabby-patterned coats are commonly referred to as “tabbies” or “tabby cats,” although that is not a breed. Tabbies come in five basic patterns — classic, mackerel, spotted, ticked and patched.
Tabby patterns are also excellent built-in camouflage, perhaps a leftover blessing from the domestic cat’s ancestors. Their colors and patterns break up the outlines of their bodies to help disguise them in the woods and tall grasses, making them harder for predators and prey alike to spot them. Camouflage is nature’s protection against predators and helps the cat sneak up undetected on prey. Wild cats, like the Bobcat, European Wildcat, Leopard Cat, and many more sport tabby coat patterns. When they are very still in the trees or fallen leaves, they can be very hard to spot.
If you have a tabby cat, you may have a piece of the beginning of cats. Some believe that the tabby pattern is the oldest cat coat pattern known to man, which makes perfect sense considering how well their coats blend with their surroundings (see above!).
Tabby cats also come with their own folklore. One tale involved a tabby cat who fell asleep on the prophet Mohammed’s sleeve. Rather than disturb the sleeping feline, he cut his sleeve off when he went to pray. The cat later warned him of danger, so it is said that the “M” marking on tabbies is from Mohammed’s blessing, and the dark lines down their back from where he stroked his cat. Egyptians believed the mark was symbolic of the sacred scarab beetle or a reference to their Egyptian name, Mau. Catholics believed the “M” was a blessing from the Virgin Mary, after the cat killed a venomous snake sent to bite baby Jesus. Non-Catholic Christians have a similar tale, with a mother tabby cat curling up in the manger with baby Jesus to keep him warm.
Medieval England (circa A.D. 906) believed witches used cats as familiars, and their tabby cats would transform themselves into black horses that the witches rode. Because of these beliefs, women who were not of the accepted religion or went against society in other ways, such as practicing medicine, were persecuted, along with their feline friends. This led to a decline in the population of tabby cats, as well as black cats, in England, and has perhaps contributed to some of the public’s feelings about them today. Fortunately for the tabby cat and black cats alike, most people don’t give credence to old wives’ tales and folk tales about cats.
Tell us: Do you have a tabby cat? What folktales have you heard about them? Tell us about your tabby cat in the comments!
Thumbnail: Photography by Murika/Thinkstock.
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About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.