20 Awesome Tabby Cat Facts

Do you happen to have a tabby cat at home?

Most ailurophiles have probably heard of tabby cats or seen them around but haven’t realized it yet. Some also associate the name with female cats because Tabby is a popular female cat name.

There are probably thousands of tabby cats in shelters alone. If you’re one of those planning to own one, read on and be amazed!

Tabby cat

Fact #1 – Tabby Cats are Alley Cats — NOT!

Some people associate tabby cats with mixed breeds, alley cats, or even to a certain breed alone. Tabby cats are, hold on to your breath — not a breed at all. Surprised?

“Tabby” refers to a coat pattern that is found in domestic, mixed breed, and pedigree cats. The pattern may appear in different colors and with different sizes of markings. This is the most common cat coat pattern in the world.


Fact #2 – There are Even Types?

There are 4 types of tabby cats:

  • Classic – Also known as blotched, cats that have this coat usually have swirls of darker fur against lighter. The whorls are continuous on the back of the cat then turn into swirls on the sides. Their tails and legs have ring outlines. This may be the reason why they also call this type marbled. Most Domestic Shorthairs (non-pedigree) tabby cats  have this type of pattern.
  • Mackerel – This pattern has a distinct horizontal stripe across its back. From there, vertical stripes that are either broken or solid run down their body. This results in a form that is similar to a fish bone, hence the term mackerel. Pretty smart! This is the most common tabby pattern; bet you’ve seen at least one in your neighborhood. An example of a cat breed with a mackerel tabby pattern is a Toyger, one of the most expensive cat breeds. But then, you might ask, why is the classic called the classic if the mackerel is the most common? Some people have argued that this type should’ve gotten the name classic, just like you did. Or did not. Moving on.
  • Spotted – As the name suggests, this pattern has dark spots over a lighter background coat. These spots can either be small or large. Some of the famously spotted tabbies are the Ocicat and the Egyptian Mau.
  • Ticked or Agouti – This appears to be a solid coat color from afar. But if you look closely, you will see that the individual hairs have different band colors of black, brown, and yellow. This is called agouti hair or a “ticked” coat. Cats that have this pattern usually shine under bright light. Try to find the patterns if you see solid-colored cats that are shining under the sun. Why is it called agouti hair, though? Simply because the pattern is caused by the agouti gene which can also be found in other animals such as rabbits, horses, and rodents. A classic example of this pattern is the Abyssinian cat breed.
alert tabby cat

Fact #3 – Where did the Name Tabby Come From?

It is said that it may have originated from the Arabic word Al-‘Attabiya, a city in Baghdad where a special silk taffeta with stripes was manufactured. The silk was eventually named after the city and was known as attabi.

In France, it was known as tabis until the 1600s when the English renamed it tabby.

Then the word migrated to the cat world in the 1700s and never turned back. From fabric to cats? Go figure.

Fact #4 – Mysterious “M” Mark

A very distinct feature of tabby cats is that they all have an “M” marking on their head. This makes them easy to distinguish from other cat patterns.

There are myths surrounding this “M” pattern on tabby cats.

  • Some say the “M” stands for Mau, the Egyptian word for cat. During the ancient times, cats were associated with gods. The Egyptian gods, Bast, Bastet, Pasht and Sekhmet were usually depicted as cats or with cat heads. The Sun God, Ra was depicted as a lion during ancient times. The Sphinx at Giza is one depiction of Ra.
  • Others believer that the Prophet Muhammad was the one who bestowed the “M” on the cat’s forehead. There was a story that his favourite cat, named Muezza, saved him from a snake bite. He gave it the ability to land on its feet when falling as a reward.
  • Another version is the granting of the “M” sign by Jesus’ mother. The cat which snuggled up and helped keep the then-baby Jesus warm was given gratitude by the Virgin Mary through the “M” mark.

Fact #5 – Colorful Tabby

Some of the common color markings in tabby cats are orange, gray, ginger, brown, black, silver, red, blue, and cream.

Probably the most common among the colors is brown or a combination of brown-gray coloring. Tabby cats that have a brown color usually have the blotched pattern, while a silver tabby cat is a result of white roots against a black-and-gray pattern in individual hair strands. It appears more silver than gray, giving it a shiny appearance, especially under a bright light.

Fact #6 – Cat Jams!

Orange, red, yellow, or combination-coated tabby cats are also known as marmalade cats or ginger tabbies.

Most orange and dark orange tabbies are of the male population. The ratio of male to female is 80:20 according to genetic studies. The reason for this is that the code gene responsible for the orange color is on the X chromosome.

Male cats only need one pair of the orange gene since they have the XY chromosome, unlike females.

They also develop freckles along their faces which stand out because of the contrast with their fur color. Isn’t that cute?

Fact #7 – Patched Tabby Type?

The basic categories are mentioned above but there is also a pattern that is called a patched tabby. These are typically female cats that have any of the four patterns but also have a red streak. This is a result of the red gene that is common in female cats.

The patches are also known as tortoiseshell or, if concurrent with a tabby pattern, torbie. This marking is usually seen on the legs and the head.

Fact #8 – More Interested in the Classic Tabby Pattern? You Might Have to Take a Vacation

The blotched tabby pattern is more common in European cats than American ones. This is probably because the evolution of domesticated cats that started in the Middle Eastern countries propagated in Europe.

A DNA study showed that there were two waves of cat dispersal in the world. The second wave was that of Egyptian cats spreading throughout Europe. It was mainly through Mediterranean ships that cats traveled because they were used as rodent terminators.

beautiful ginger tabby cat

Fact #9 – Tabby Gene

In biology, the gene is responsible for the building of different characteristics from one living thing to another. The tabby gene is the one that controls the pattern changes in a tabby cat. It is scientifically named Transmembrane Aminopeptidase Q, or Taqpep for short.

It is believed that Taqpep is possibly connected to the immune function in cats.

Just remember the phrase “tabby gene”, instead. It’s much cuter, just like tabby cats!

Fact #10 – Tabby Cats aren’t That Old

New research has found out that the distinctive coat patterns only surfaced during the Middle Ages. Scientists found that the blotched mutation came out only during the 16th century.

The ancestor of all domesticated cats is the Near Eastern Wildcat, also called the African wildcat. The two waves of dispersal mentioned above started from the Near East then later from Egypt.

DNA tests have revealed that the mutation began during the Ottoman Empire. The pattern then became quite common during the 18th century in Europe, southwest Asia, and Africa, according to researchers.

Fact #11 – King Cheetah and Tabby Cat Relationship Revealed

The same tabby gene found in our domesticated cats can also be found in wild king cheetahs. If you’re not that familiar, king cheetahs are a rare variation on the species which are not spotted. They have dark stripes running along their backs instead.

While in domesticated cats the genes made the stripes into blotches, it’s the opposite for the cheetahs. The gene turns the spots into stripes. Interesting, huh?

Fact #12 – Tabby Cat Brain Map

In one study, it was revealed that domestic tabby cats had a lighter brain weight compared to their wild cat ancestors. They also have thicker skulls that are twice as thick as those of a wildcat. During the fetus stage, both have the same number of brain cells but this significantly changes just before birth. It means that each of the species’ brain adapts to its environment.

One specific difference is that the wild cats still have the brain cells responsible for their exceptional color vision. This is in contrast to the domestic cats which don’t have this anymore. They instead have cells that are more attuned to dim light and more sensitive to motion.

But it doesn’t mean that the tabby cats we have now are not smart. They simply had to evolve in response to their ever-changing environment, just like humans.

Fact #13 – Heaviest Living Tabby Cat Recorded

Meow the tabby set the world record for the heaviest tabby cat at 39.1 lbs. for a 2-year-old cat at that time. It was an orange-and-white tabby which was turned over to a shelter because its owner couldn’t take care of it anymore.

The shelter planned on giving it a special diet for it to be ready for adoption.

The Guinness Book of World Records has already removed the heaviest cat category because of animal health concerns.

tabby cat fun running on green meadow

Fact #14 – Cat Fertility

Dusty the tabby cat, who was born in 1935 in Texas, produced 420 kittens over its lifetime. Its last kitten was born in June 1952 and its last litter age was 18.

She was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most prolific cat.

Fact #15 – Most Famous Tabby Cat Cartoon Character

You guessed it right! Garfield!

Garfield depicts an orange male tabby cat that has a lazy and passive personality. These traits are often associated with marmalade cats.

We’re not sure if the lasagna obsession is part of it.

Fact #16 – Smoothest Tabby Cat Cartoon Character

Another orange tabby cat, Puss in Boots, is probably one of the smoothest and coolest cat characters ever made. It has green eyes and a Spanish accent. Its breed is supposed to be inspired by the British Shorthair.

It first appeared as an Italian fairy tale in the 1500s and was later popularized in the movie Shrek. It had its own self-titled movie released in 2011.

Fact #17 – Real Life Puss in Boots?

This tabby cat circulated on the internet as a real-life Puss in Boots because it loves to stand up and look around. Its name is Beibei and it’s a cream tabby which has the same innocent look as Puss in Boots.

It has a brother named Baobao, a Scottish Fold of the mackerel type. It is equally famous because of its signature flat poses in photos.

Fact #18 – Longest Cat Whiskers

The longest cat whiskers ever recorded belonged to Missi which lives in Finland. In 2005 they measured at 19cm or 7.5 inches in length. Missi is a Maine Coon tabby cat which, as you might know, is one of the more popular breeds in the US.

Fact #19 – Most Tricks Performed by a Tabby Cat in One Minute

The Guinness Book of World Records entered one mega-talented tabby cat into their list as having the most tricks performed in one minute. Didga–short for Didgeridoo, performed 20 tricks in 2015 that gave it a place in the 2017 Guinness Book edition.

Some of its tricks included the usual roll over, high five, and even skateboarding. Talk about extreme tricks!

The proud owner of Didga, Robert Dollwet, hails from New South Wales, Australia. His tabby cat was a rescue from a shelter.

In 2016, Didga outperformed itself again and had 24 individual tricks finished in one minute.

Fact #20 – Tabby Cat Personality

It has been said that tabby cats have a personality that is unique from other cat breeds. Some have mentioned that they are more social and affectionate. They like to interact with their family and play.

Scientists have specified, though, that the patterns don’t affect the behavior of this type of cat. A cat’s attitude comes from  its upbringing and the type of environment its in.

It would be quite difficult to identify the personality of tabby cats as they can be found in many cat breeds. Some tabbies are known to be aggressive while some are gentle. Every cat is a individual and personalities vary widely even among cats of the same coat color, pattern or breed.

It shouldn’t really matter anyway. What matters is that all cats need some lovin’ which will be rewarded by their loyalty to you and your family. They are one of the cutest and most therapeutic pets one could ever have!

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