Fur care

Types of Tabby Cats - Is there a Tabby Cat Breed?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. September 9, 2020
Types of Tabby Cats - Is there a Tabby Cat Breed?

See files for Cats

Although we may have an idea of what is a tabby cat, the term has become a loose definition. Many of us refer to a cat with no distinct breed, using it to make the distinction between a purebred and a mixed-breed cat. However, this terminology is not completely correct. To make it even more confusing, although some people know there are types of tabby cats, they are not sure to which breed they belong.

At AnimalWised, we clear up any confusion by providing a list of the different types of tabby cats and answering is there a tabby cat breed? We also provide photos to use as a reference.

You may also be interested in: Most Common Types of External Parasites on Cats
  1. What is a tabby cat?
  2. Why do some call mixed-breed cats tabby cats?
  3. Classic tabby cat
  4. Mackerel tabby cat
  5. Spotted tabby cat
  6. Ticked tabby cat (agouti)
  7. Other types of tabby cats

What is a tabby cat?

As stated in the introduction, many people refer to mixed-breed cats simply as tabby cats. While purebred cats have distinctive features and appearances, mixed-breed cats are more indeterminate. Their genetic inheritance comes from many different cat breeds. Since the appearance of a cat is determined by their genes, the more diverse the cat's genetic history the greater variation there will be in the cat's physical makeup.

All domestic cats stem from wildcats which lived in what is now Africa, Europe and parts of Asia. Rather than originating in one part of the world, domestic cats developed concurrently in different places. However, all of these types of wildcat have much in common, including the fact they have distinctive coat patterns. It is from these coat patterns the distinctive tabby pattern emerges.

While there are differences between the African wildcat, European wildcat and Asiatic wildcat in terms of coat patterns, they do share some similarities in terms of markings. This includes the tabby pattern.

The tabby pattern consists of striped markings on the face and legs, including an ‘M’ shape on the cat's forehead. if you look at the different types of wildcat, you will see they have variations of these markings. However, they all share the stripes on their face and legs. The body markings are the ones which differ the most and which lead to the different types of tabby cats we see now.

Why do some call mixed-breed cats tabby cats?

We can see mixed-breed cats with all types of coat markings. Some are completely one color, most often black or white. However, the most common coat type of mixed-breed domestic cats have some form of tabby coat pattern. This includes the different variations which make up the types of tabby cats.

However, tabby refers to the pattern on the cat's coat. Although some people think there are different types of tabby cat breeds, this is not correct. The majority of cat breeds can display the tabby coat pattern. The reason people often refer to mixed-breed cats as tabby cats is because they are the most common. However, it is possible to see mixed-breed cats with a single color coat, calico pattern or other patterns.

The tabby is not a breed of cat, but a coat pattern which appears on many cat breeds. Now that we have made the distinction, we can show you the different types of tabby cats thanks to the different tabby variations which exist.

1. Classic tabby cat

The classic tabby coat pattern isn't necessarily the most common, but it is perhaps the most distinctive. Some tabby types of cat have the face and leg markings, but don't have much of a pattern on their body. The classic tabby, also known as the marbled or blotched tabby, has very distinctive side markings. They have thick bands or stripes which appear in a swirl pattern, giving them a bullseye look.

Their thick bands are also present on their back, with butterfly shape on their shoulders and three thinner stripes along their spine. The bands are usually very thick on the tail. The classic tabby pattern is very distinctive, even on long-hair cats. This is why it can also be seen on different types of Persian cats. However, it is more common in short-hair felines.

Whatever type of cat you have, you will need to ensure their hygiene is maintained. Our article on how to keep your cat's coat shiny should be helpful.

Types of Tabby Cats - Is there a Tabby Cat Breed? - 1. Classic tabby cat

2. Mackerel tabby cat

Although the classic tabby pattern is one of the most common types of tabby cat in certain parts of the world, the mackerel tabby pattern is the most prolific overall. This pattern is named after the type of fish since the shape of the markings are reminiscent on those of the mackerel's scales.

Unlike the classic tabby pattern, mackerel tabby cats have straighter stripes which only curve a little along the back and sides of their body. There are more lines and stripes along the neck and shoulders which almost display a kind of mane (although not in terms of hair length). These cats have spotted markings on their belly which make them appear similar to buttons you would have on a coat.

Types of Tabby Cats - Is there a Tabby Cat Breed? - 2. Mackerel tabby cat

3. Spotted tabby cat

The Asiatic wildcat has more of a spotted tabby pattern, something which can also be seen in many domestic cats. Tabby cats with a spotted pattern often look more like wild cats than others, the reason why have have certain cat breeds that look like tigers or leopards. The spots are believes to be caused by the gene which creates the mackerel coat pattern, breaking them up into the spotted appearance.

The types and sizes of spots on a spotted tabby will depend on the individual. Certain tabby cat breeds will display smaller dotted spots, while others will have larger ones. Since the spotted tabby is closely related to the mackerel tabby pattern, the non-spotted patterns are quite similar, such as the ‘M’ shape on the forehead.

Types of Tabby Cats - Is there a Tabby Cat Breed? - 3. Spotted tabby cat

4. Ticked tabby cat (agouti)

Some refer to the ticked tabby as an unpatterned tabby cat. While this sounds like an oxymoron, the reason for it is that the markings of a ticked tabby cat are faint on the body. The hair of the ticked tabby is known as agouti. These are hairs which are banded along the length of each individual strand of hair. Unlike other tabby cats where darker and lighter hairs are mostly grouped together (although they can also vary in color), the coloring of agouti hairs makes the coat look sandy or more textured.

The ‘M’ shaped markings, along with other patterns on the tail, legs, etc., are more stark and similar to other types of tabby cats. Genetically, the gene which creates the agouti pattern is the most dominant of the tabby genes (although this does not mean it is the most common). If a cat has the agouti gene, it will be dominant over all others and result in the ticked pattern.

Types of Tabby Cats - Is there a Tabby Cat Breed? - 4. Ticked tabby cat (agouti)

Other types of tabby cats

The four main tabby coat patterns explained above are the most common. They can be present in many different breeds of cat, some of which contain both tabby and non-tabby specimens. Some breeds will present only one coat type due to genetic engineering and the dominance of certain alleles (gene variants). For example, the Abyssinian cat breed will always have a ticked tabby coat.

However, there are some other variants of the tabby coat pattern which are not necessarily official, but can be seen developing. Some are rarer than others:

  • Orange tabby cats: known also as a marmalade tabby or a ginger tom, these types of tabby cats are not to do with patterns. They are a common color associated with tabby cats because all orange cats are tabbies.
  • Calico tabby cat: calico cats are felines with a three-colored coat and almost always female. One of these colors will be red and, since all red cat coats are tabby, this means the sections of the coat with red patches will be tabby. If they are very small, you may not be able to see many tabby markings, but they are there if large enough. The other sections will not usually be tabby, if they are it is known as a caliby cat.
  • Rosette tabby cat: these are markings which resemble the rosette markings of certain wild big cats, such as the leopard. They are not found on many breeds, but are associated with Bengal cats. This is because the Bengal cat's origin involves breeding with wild cats to give their unique appearance.
  • Toyger tabby cat: there is a breed called the Toyger which has a very distinct type of tabby coat. Their stripes are in the mackerel pattern, but they have an added braided pattern known as the ‘candle-flame’ tabby.
  • Colorpoint tabby cat: the colorpoint is a type of coat pattern which has darker patches of fur around the face, tail and paws. However, since this type of pattern is highly valued, breeders have found ways to cross these breeds further. For this reason, common colorpoint cat breeds such as the Himalayan, Thai and Siamese breeds can display tabby markings on the darker sections. They will not appear on the lighter parts of their coat. These are often known as lynx point cats.

One of the ways we can identify types of a certain breed is due to their coat, whether or not they are a type of tabby cat. This applies to Persian cat breeds as you will see in the video below:

If you want to read similar articles to Types of Tabby Cats - Is there a Tabby Cat Breed?, we recommend you visit our Fur care category.

Write a comment
Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
1 of 5
Types of Tabby Cats - Is there a Tabby Cat Breed?