Tabby cats are among the most popular felines. They’re known for their distinctive patterns capped by M-shaped stripes on their foreheads. The Tabby is not a breed of cat but a set of distinguishing characteristics that can appear in many breeds and colors. All Tabbies have the same forehead markings. They also have what are called agouti hairs—these hairs have alternating light and dark segments.
If you’ve ever pulled a shed Tabby hair from your shirt, you’ll likely have noticed that each individual hair has several colors on it. These are called agouti hairs, and they’re the second defining characteristic of a tabby.
Now that we understand what makes a Tabby, let’s look at the colors and patterns.
The 9 Tabby Cat Colors & Patterns
1. Classic Tabby
The Classic Tabby has stripes on their face and head, with swirls of darker color on a lighter base throughout the body. These swirls are usually quite random and resemble a marble cake.
2. Mackerel Tabby
Sometimes called a tiger cat, Mackerel Tabbies have one solid dark stripe along their spine, with more stripes branching off. This pattern resembles the skeleton of a fish, hence the name.
3. Spotted Tabby
A spotted Tabby has the striped face of a Classic Tabby but has oval or round spots along their bodies. Ocicats and American Bobtails are good examples of Spotted Tabbies.
4. Ticked Tabby
Often called Abyssinian or Agouti Tabbies, these cats look the least like stereotypical Tabbies. While they have the standard forehead markings and may have stripes on their faces, the rest of their coat looks solid at a distance. Up close, their agouti hairs have the standard light and dark banding standard to Tabbies.
Tortoiseshell cats have a splotchy mix of brown and red patches. Their Tabby markings are usually strongest on their legs and faces but can be obscured by their patchy coloring.
6. Brown Tabby
Brown Tabbies are what most people think of when they envision a Tabby. Their stripes vary from nearly black to tan over a cream or white body. They may have solid, dark brown fur on their ears and paws.
7. Red or Orange Tabby
The most well-known of orange cats, Garfield, is a classic example of a Red Tabby. All red or orange cats have Tabby markings because the gene that carries this color pattern is the same gene that carries orange coloration.
8. Silver Tabby
Silver Tabbies are generally a mix of shades of grey. Dark grey spots and stripes prevail over a lighter gray or white coat. Silver Tabbies can be nearly white or very dark in color.
9. Calico Tabby
The term Calico, much like Tabby, refers to a pattern of colors rather than a breed. If a cat has three colors and the distinctive Tabby forehead marking, they’re a Calico Tabby. Calico cats have three colors: white, orange, and black. Within their Calico spots, they may have Tabby stripes.
Tabby cats are some of the most common cats in the world. American Bobtails, Persians, Scottish Folds, Norwegian Forest Cats, and Munchkins are among the most likely breeds to have Tabby coloring. Domestic Shorthairs, the most common of non-pedigreed housecats, often have Tabby markings as well.
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