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Tabby Cats

Come in All Kinds

Picture of a tabby cat

A tabby cat

When listing breeds of house cat, you might want to include tabby cats, but really tabby refers just to a coloring. All domestic cats, regardless of breed, are thought to have the gene for tabby stripes. There are several different types of tabby striping, and the coloring varies widely.


The classic tabby pattern is called a “blotched tabby”. In this common pattern, the stripes are widened into long blotches. The first tabby cats are thought to be those in the pattern known as the “mackerel tabby”, in which the stripes are narrow and crooked. The name is derived from the stripes being arranged like rib bones on a fish.


Tabby cats can also be either “ticked” with small dots in stripes, or “spotted” with larger spots aligned in stripes. Any of these tabby patterns can be seen in a wide array of colors. In fact, even a cat with calico or tortoise shell coloring can also be a tabby. These are often called “patched tabby” cats. A tortoise shell tabby cat is sometimes called a “torbie”.


If you look at the face of a tabby cat, you will see two upside-down V-shapes between between and above the eyes. They resemble the letter “M.”


There is a legend that the “M” is a sign of a blessing from the Virgin Mary. The legend says that on the night the Christ child was born, a stray cat climbed into the manger and cuddled with the baby, calming him and helping him go to sleep. Mary blessed the cat, and all future tabby cats for this cat's helpful deed.

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