Everybody has heard of tabby cats, although some people refer to them as stripy cats, tiger cats, and other similar descriptive names. All tabby cats have distinctive stripes, spots, lines and other patterns of varying colours, though they can differ in many other respects. So let us take a look at some facts about tabby cats.
Tabby cats are not a specific breed, contrary to what some people think. Indeed, tabby cats occur in many different breeds, from huge Maine Coons to tiny Devon Rexes, from fluffy Persians to British Shorthairs. And many moggies have tabby markings too.
Tabby is thought to have been the original colour of domestic cats, with all the different colours of present day cats having developed from the original wild tabby cats. This could explain why tabby cats re quite common.
Tabby cats are extremely popular. Indeed, they are probably the most popular of all the cat colours. Most people love tabby cats, and cat rescue organisations and adoption centres find them far easier to find new homes for than the black and black & white cats, which wait significantly longer to be chosen.
The tabby pattern is carried in the individual cat's genes. The details are complicated, but there is a specific gene for the tabby pattern, although different forms of it can be responsible for the various types of tabby pattern which are seen.
Most people think of 'tabby' as meaning the brown and black patterns seen most commonly, with black stripes on a brown or greyish background – the brown tabby. However, there are a number of different colours of tabby cat. The colour usually called 'ginger' is a red tabby, with different patterns in different shades of red and orange. There are also blue tabbies, with grey strips on a grey or buff coloured background. A cream tabby has cream strips on a pale orange background, and is often referred to as a pale ginger cat, or an apricot coloured cat. A silver tabby has black stripes on a very pale background. Then there are tortoiseshell cats which also have tabby patterns in their fur, and these are called tortie tabbies. So many different coloured cats are really tabbies.
In addition to having different colours, there are different tabby patterns. The most common is the 'classic tabby', which has large swirling patterns all down its back. There is also the 'mackerel tabby' which has narrow stripes, a bit like those of a tiger. The 'spotted tabby' has spots, which may be large, small, or of different sizes. Sometimes they appear to be broken mackerel stripes, and it may be hard to tell if you have a real spotted tabby or a mackerel tabby. A 'ticked tabby' does not have stripes on its body, but only on its face, although the hairs on its body differ in colour like those of all tabby cats. These are sometimes called 'Abyssinian tabbies' as this colour is typical of Abysinnians, but it also appears in cats of other breeds, and sometimes in moggies too.
Generally, a cat's personality is not determined by its colour, but is totally separate. Nevertheless, many owners of tabby cats, and even a few experts, have noticed specific tabby cat personality traits. Tabby cats are known to be affectionate, intelligent, and very sociable. They generally tend to be great hunters if they are given the chance, and to love being outdoors. I once had a brown tabby Persian cat who exhibited all these traits, some of which are rather unusual for the laid back Persian, which on the whole is not a hunter or an outdoor cat. Perhaps these cats are closer to the wild than cats of other colours, but who knows....
Tabby cats vary quite dramatically They may have a cobby body like the British Shorthair, or be slim and elegant like the Orientals. They can be large like the Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest Cat, or Siberian. They may also be very small. Similarly, they may have long hair like the Persian, or short fur like many other breeds. They may even have curly fur, and most of the Rex cat breeds come in tabby patterns. So if you are looking for a particular breed, you are highly likely to be able to find a tabby patterned cat in that breed.
There are a few breeds in which all cats have tabby patterns. Thee include the Ocicat, Bengal, and Toyger. There are also a few other rather rare cats, usually hybrid breeds, which have been developed by crossing domestic cats with wild cats, which only come with tabby markings. This is not surprising, as a number of these have been deliberately developed to resemble various species of wild or jungle cats.
Whatever breed they are, and whatever their size, shape, and hair length, the tabby pattern provides the cat with incredibly good camouflage. It is easy to see why this was the original colour of the domestic cat, and why tabby patterns are so common in the wild. If you look for your tabby cat in hedges and under bushes, you can be quite close to her but unable to see her. And for a small predator, as cats were originally, that is very important.
If you like tabby cats, it should not be too difficult to find one, in almost any type of breed you fancy. Of course, if you have set your heart on a silver tabby or a cream tabby it may be a little more difficult, as these can be quite rare, as are some of the patterns such as spotted tabbies. But if you just want an 'ordinary' tabby cat, if will not be too difficult to find one. And of course, no cat is ordinary, particularly when she is yours!