The Glorious Tabby Cat

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That Fabulous Tabby Cat Personality

Some say that tabby cat personalities are distinct from other cats Tabby close-upin the sense that they are more like the personalities of dogs. Tabby cats love to play and explore. They’ll follow you around like a puppy and some will even teach their humans to play fetch. Tabby cats are also considered to be more intelligent than those of other types by many. If you do a simple search online, you’ll see that tabby cats are often rated as being of higher intelligence than other types by both breeders and cat enthusiasts. They are amusing, clever, warmly affectionate and make wonderful companions.

What is a Tabby?

African Wild Cat

Tabby cats are often mistakenly thought of as being a particular breed of cat, but it is the coat pattern that is known as “tabby.” Today’s house cats originated from the African wild cat which has similar markings to those we see on tabby cats, an effective form of camouflage. The tabby gene is more dominate than any other coat color gene. This is one of the reasons most second or third generation feral cats are tabbies. Natural selection made the tabby gene more dominant because the tabby coat is better camouflage than solid or bicolor coats, and thus an individual with a tabby coat would have better chances of survival because it could hunt and avoid predators more easily.

The gene for the tabby pattern can be found in all domestic cats. Stripes-on-black-tabbyLook at a “solid” black cat in the sun some day and see if you can find the hidden tabby markings. And have you ever seen a solid red or orange or cream cat without the familiar tabby markings? You won’t, because the gene that makes a cat red or cream also makes the tabby markings visible. The tabby pattern is so popular that it can be found in many pedigreed cats today, and is accepted in a number of breeds by the most popular registries.

orange-and-whiteThere are many variations of the tabby pattern and tabby cats can be found with stripes, spots, ticks and swirls, and in various colors – brown tabbies, silver tabbies, ginger or orange tabbies, gray or blue tabbies and red tabbies Although there are many variations of each, the tabby pattern falls into four basic classes. A fifth includes tabby as part of another basic color pattern, e.g. the “patched” tabby, which may be a calico or tortoiseshell cat with tabby patches (the latter is called a “torbie”).

Tabby Coat Patterns

Classic

Classic-tabbyIt is this pattern that appears most often on tabbies. The classic has large swirls or blotches that end in a circular pattern or “target” at the sides. Three broad lines run from the neck to the tail, and around the neck there are wide bands of color known as a necklace. Classic tabby cats’ tails have broad bands, as do their legs, and the belly will have a row of vest button blotches. On the shoulders are patterns that are very similar to butterfly wings.

Mackerel

Mackarel-tabbyMackerel tabby markings closely correspond to the patterns seen on African wild cats. Some people suggest that mackerel tabbies should have been called classic, because their coat pattern was the original, and more reminiscent of the domestic cats origins. Mackerel tabbies have narrow striped rings around their tail and legs, solid or broken stripes down their sides and one or more ‘necklaces’ on the front of their chests. Along the belly of the mackerel tabby you will find a double row of ‘vest buttons.’

Spotted

Spotted-tabbyThe dark blotches of the coat pattern of some tabbies are formed into oval or round spots. Sometimes the spots run in lines, this is often known as the interrupted mackerel pattern, however whether these spots developed from mackerel tabbies, or are a completely separate mutation remains unknown. Spotted tabbies usually show a faint trace of a necklace and have a line of spots, or sometimes blotches, running from the neck to the very tip of their tail. The Ocicat, Bengal and American Bobtail are good examples of the spotted tabby pattern.

Ticked

Ticked-tabbyCats with ticked coat markings do not display the usual stripes, blotches or swirls of the tabby pattern and do not at first glance seem to be tabby cats at all. A closer look will show that the hairs are in fact striped with light and dark colored bands, these are known as agouti hairs, most tabbies will have some agouti hairs that make up part of their coat pattern. The faces of ticked (or agouti) tabbies will show the traditional ‘M’ marking, and ticked tabbies may show a faint necklace. The Abyssinian cat is a very good example of a ticked tabby and their coats often appear to shimmer in the sunlight due to the agouti hairs.

Patched

TorbieCats that have random patches of different colors are known as tortoiseshell (tortie), if the markings are tabby, the cats are called patched tabbies (torbie). Mackerel, spotted, ticked or classic markings can show in the patches, and the tabby pattern usually shows more distinctly on the head and legs. Brown patched tabbies have patches of deep brown tabby markings and patches of red (orange or ginger) tabby markings. Blue patched tabbies have patches of soft blue (gray) tabby markings and patches of cream tabby markings.

How did Tabby Cats get their ‘M’?

All tabbies have an “M” marking on their forehead, and on some this mark is very distinct. The ‘M’ is often referred to as “the mark of the true tabby.” There are several amusing legends about how tabby cats got their “M.”

Tabby-MThe most popular of these legends tells us that when the baby Jesus was lying in the manger he started to shiver with the cold. Mary covered the baby with blankets but still he kept shivering. Mary then asked all the animals to move closer to the manger so that their body heat would warm Jesus. The animals stood as close to the manger as they could but the baby Jesus remained cold and shivering. After a time a small cat with tabby markings jumped into the manger and snuggled next to Jesus. Before long the baby had stopped shivering and was sound asleep, contented and warm. In her gratitude to the tabby Mary made the mark of her own initial, upon the cat’s forehead so that tabby cats will forever remind the world of how they saved Jesus from the cold.

A legend from the Islamic world recounts that Mohammed had a tabby called Muezza who once saved his masters life by slaying a snake that had crawled up Mohammed’s sleeve. Later, when it was time to attend prayers the cat had fallen asleep upon the sleeve, so to avoid disturbing Muezza, Mohammed cut the sleeve from his garment. From that day on all tabbies were born with the ‘M’ marking on their forehead to remind all that see them that Mohammed loved cats, and that cats should always be respected.

Why are they called Tabby?

The name tabby is believed to have come from the word atabi a type of silk spun in the Attabiah region of Baghdad. This silk was exported in large quantities to the British Isles where it was noticed how similar the stripped pattern was to the coat of the tiger cat. These tiger cats soon started to be called tabbi cats and later tabby cats.


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57 comments

  1. Alicia Potter says:

    I have a sweet mackerel tabby named Maggie that I rescued from a local shelter a few years ago when she was only 12 weeks old. I have struggled with severe depression and anxiety my entire life and shortly after moving into my first apartment with my boyfriend who is now my husband, I began to start getting worse. My husband suggested that maybe a pet would help me and took me to go look at the shelter, they set me up in a room with nothing but a table and a chair and brought me this tiny brown striped kitten that immediately climbed into my lap and demanded to be pet. Ever since that day Maggie has never left my side, even as I type this she is curled up next to me under the blankets on my bed purring away. She follows me wherever I go, comforts me when I don’t feel well, and drags toys into my lap to tell me she wants to play. My sweet little Maggie is one of my greatest loves, she taught me pure unconditional love and has helped me get healthy. I don’t know if it’s because she is a tabby or if she is special but this cat changed my life for the better and I will never be able to repay her for all she has done for me.

    • Ava says:

      Awesome story! Thanks for sharing. I truly believe that animals actually save us when we adopt them.

    • mick wright says:

      So sorry to hear about your depression Alicia,
      my wife Jacky went into depression when our home was flooded Xmas morning in 2012, things were pretty grim, she went to stay with Sam our daughter while our house was refurbished, Sam has three cats.
      We decided to adopt a cat from the local animal sanctuary,
      We have had Tia now for three years and she has changed our lives.
      Albeit we can never go on holiday together we love our little Tabby,
      and Jacky is no longer on medication and certainly is not depressed.
      I would say to people who have a problem ” get your life back get a tabby cat”
      Mick

  2. Kourtney Lynn Sawyer says:

    I have two tabby’s when we first moved in we took in a stray kitten that lost his mom and siblings. I didn’t really know what type of cat she was until I read this and now I know she’s a tabby she is really protective of her family specially the baby of our family here recently we added another tabby so she could have a friend. He is a little younger than her but they are so different. He is more of my cuddler. They make my day when I come home from a long day.

  3. Nancy says:

    A gray tabby had 4 kittens at our lake house. We couldn’t get near the mother or three of the kittens, but one gray one began to follow me around after I put food out for them the night before. I was able to pick her up easily. I already have six parrots that were mostly rescues, and my boyfriend has said often, “NO MORE ANIMALS!” But he took one look at the purring tabby nuzzling under my chin, and said, “Well, we better get to the store for food and a litter box.” We named her Gray Girl, and she is so attached to me…a total love sponge. I was not prepared for how expensive shots and spaying would be, but I went to the local animal shelter to get advice. In North Carolina where we live there are traveling vets who discount the prices substantially. Unfortunately, our cat was diagnosed with giardia parasites and lung worms. Slugs carry the lung worms, mice or birds eat them, and the cat eats a bird or mouse. Giardia can be in dirt or water. Neither was surprising in a feral cat. And thank goodness, people cannot get these lung worms from cats. I am treating her with medicine for them now. Thankfully, she did not have feline leukemia. We went back to the lake about a month ago and found the mother cat dead and half eaten. (We have seen a fox around there several times.) The only sign of the other three kittens was seeing the back legs of what could have been one of the other gray tabbies jumping over a wall in the semi darkness. If they are alive, I’m sure they have lots of parasites too. I still put food out when we are there. Something is eating it, but we have not seen the kittens. Our Gray Girl is so loving and tame. Took right to the litter box. People say she chose me, and that feels true to me. I hope we spend many years together in close companionship.

  4. Cindy Cee says:

    Our mackerel tabby is about 4 months old and crazy! We’ve had her for 2 months already. Nobody can hold her or pet her, she will scratch and bite.
    She’s a true scardy cat, she runs through the house like she’s in a race.
    When will she calm down??

    • Katie says:

      Hey Cindy-
      I’m not a “cat expert”, but in my experience it takes a while for young cats of all types to settle down. I’ve seen one year old cats that bite, squirm and scratch, that later become calmer. I’d say just be patient with your kitty.
      If you want to “train her” to accept being held go slowly. Start with simply putting a hand on her back. When she’s comfortable with that, try two hands. Try holding her in place on the ground. Then try picking her up. At each step, wait until she squirms and then let go- if you force her she’ll see holding as an act of dominance instead of love. It takes a long time but will build up trust and hopefully calm her down in general.
      Best of luck for you and your kitty!

      • Ava says:

        Hi Cindy. I agree with Katie except for when she says let her go when she squirms. You want to try to anticipate the “squirm” and let her go before she does.

  5. Mary michael says:

    My gentleman tabby “buddy” is the smartest, lovingest, sweetest, biggest cat I have ever had. If his dish is only
    A little full he will wake you up and let you know…only drinks from the sink and always by me.

  6. Mick says:

    We have got a stray male Tabby cat that we been feeding for two months.
    During the night he comes through the Flap and helps himself to biscuits
    When we first saw him he was a tatty scruffy cat. and was always fighting with another cat.
    Now he is quite smart and a friend of Tia our Tabby cat.

  7. Sue says:

    Very informative article. Now I know why my tabby Spot acts like a dog. I’ve described him as a “cat-dog” to others. He’s such a smart boy & brings home “gifts” regularly. I love his fun personality; he pounces in front of me when I least expect it & then runs away. He makes me laugh! He’s constantly rolling on his back with belly up. That surprised me how often he did that in the beginning but had read that it was a sign of vulnerability. Loves his belly rubbed. He’s my buddy.

  8. Yusuf Umar says:

    Very nice information on the wonderful tabby cats nice story on how the tabby cats got the M on there forhead. Much love

    • Mick says:

      We have a Mackerel Tabby called Tia we adopted her from a cat sanctuary.recently she has made friends with a feral cat another Tabby.during the night it comes through the cat flap and helps himself to some food.over the last few days he has smartened up and looks a different cat.

  9. Tammy says:

    My husband just brought home a baby he found under a dumpster at a job site. I would say it’s maybe five or six weeks old. Thanks to this I now know I have become the mom of a beautiful little tabby.

  10. […] has long fur so it is a little harder to see his stripes but he has the markings of the original, mackerel pattern. He has stripes on his sides that look like the bones in a fish. His are pretty broken and not […]

  11. […] first ever National Tabby Day, I knew I had to participate. A few years ago, I wrote a post called The Glorious Tabby Cat. That post continues to be my most popular post of all time so I know there are lots of people out […]

  12. Vas says:

    Hi
    My tabby is stray and scared of strangers and sudden jump sound. How do I get her to be a lap cat. I just to want hug her but she doesn’t like it….

    • Ava says:

      Gaining trust of a scared animal takes a long time. Go slow and be patient. Some cats never become lap cats but if you are kind and patient with her, she will most likely eventually reward you.

  13. liam says:

    yes they do have good presenality and are freandly with kids

  14. Mary B Mc Guigan says:

    I adopted a tabby cat about 6 months ago. She is sooo friendly & affectionate. And yes, she has may canine traits! She follows me everywhere and licks my hands. I live alone & she has brightened my life no end. She loves to cuddle up on my knee. Her name is Daisy. She was already named when she came to me, so I saw no point in changing it.

    • Lauren says:

      Aloha to you and Daisy! My tabby cat is named Rajah. I named him after Jasmine’s tiger in Aladdin! Rajah definitely follows me around. He’s not a lap cat though. He’s still young. He will sit or lie next to me and let me pet him for a while. I adopted him when he was almost six-months-old. I renamed him. His former name was cheesewhiz. Rajah has definitely brightened my life too! Smile!

      • Katie says:

        Lauren-
        I named my now 7-year-old tabby Raja too – after the tiger in Aladdin! Mine’s a total cuddle magnet. Anyway, Raja and I say hi to you and your Rajah! 🙂
        P.S. Did you know Rajah means “prince”? You have a little bit of royalty living with you!

    • Chris says:

      My mackerel tabby is called Lily
      She follows me everywhere and loves to sit on my knee and on me when I’m in bed…better than a hot water bottle.ive ne ear known a more friendly cat like this…

  15. Jeff McNulty says:

    I’m thinking about getting a Tabby kitten for myself and I was wondering if they are friendly cats and have good personalities? Any feedback would be appreciated?

    • eva says:

      Tabbies are healthiest cats owing to their dominant genes. Low neuroticism, easy going, great companions. Have much fun with your tabby!

    • Ava says:

      Tabby cats are very friendly and they have lovely personalities. As in playful, truly quiet, and like to explore. I got a tabby her name is cleo and she’s only 12 weeks old. I’m not sure about you guys but she likes to sneak up behind me and bit me a till I get off “her” chair.

    • Melody says:

      I just got a grey tabby today. He showed up on a friend’s front porch and I decided to take him. He walked in, sniffed around and made himself at home. I have now had him for about 3 hours and he rubs up against my leg, sets in my lap and already has used the litter box. What a gentleman! I named him Avery. He is truly a delight.

  16. Mickjack says:

    We adopted a little Mackerel tabby cat that had been abandoned by her owners when they had lost their home in the recession, she was kept in a cage for a year, we have had her for two years now she is a lovely cat,
    and rules the home, she is lucky as we live in woodland where she is now free to roam,

  17. […] Tabby – Tabby cats are said to have the personalities of dogs. I know what you’re thinking ‘dogs?! But they’re cats!?’ when I say this, I mean in the sense that they love to play, explore and follow you around like a puppy! They can even play fetch if taught! Tabby’s are also considered to be more intelligent than they’re fellow feline sisters. A Tabby cat isn’t a ‘breed’ as such, it’s more of a description of their pattern! To read more about Tabby cats, click here. […]

  18. Pasha says:

    I worked at a Animal hospital when I saw my Tiger Tabby Tortie she was a spunky 8 week young kitten, and THEE most active kitty in the bunch that came in for spay/neuter. I loved her pattern, her long hair in her ears, her golden spot on top of her ‘M’ , her paws, her eyeliner eyes (lol she almost looks Egyptian) everything about HER I found the lady that was adopting those kitties out and adopted her THAT day!! She and my other cat got along really well and quickly, she is VERY smart and yes she plays fetch with me!! It surprised me when she did it the first time I only threw her toy mouse again to see if she was actually running to retrieve and return and uhhh yeah, she was! Lol awesomeness. She cuddles and STILL kneads her purrs are loud and soothing along with her vibrations. She gets so comfortable she drools lol…I’m so happy we adopted each other, she’s definitely one of a kind ❤

  19. Pallergy says:

    Tabby cats can be considered as a rare animal. Their skin tells that they’re beautiful and very soft. Having a cat like this can bring good fortune. With their soft skin, you can tell that it is really a gorgeous cat.

  20. Dawn says:

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed the touches of the mythic stories about tabby’s. A very nicely written article indeed!

  21. Lorraine says:

    I have a beautiful Tabby cat named Oscar who is now 13 years old. I got him from the RSPCA and I know another family had him when he was very young because he liked to bite. It had mentioned not to have children with this cat as obviously he didn’t like being pulled around. My cat has done many amazing things in the past. We had building work behind us and as he fell in a hole we got a ladder and he climbed up it and out. He also got stuck up a tree for a few days and when I called him as he was lost he responded and came down. He also use to carry pieces of wood and bits in his mouth along the fence to give to us as a present. He is still a very affectionate cat and he is a very big cat just like a tiger. He has been great fun over the years and still is and loves to play. A great character I would say that the article is correct. I have had other types of cats but he has certainly been more special.

  22. Zia says:

    Got a Tabby through kijiji about a week ago. He is 3 months old and damm he is active. He bites and claws quite often but have observed that even when he is biting, he does not intend to harm you but may be its a show of love in his style. Best thing he was poop trained. I heard they are shy and dont poop and pee just anywhere. They will always go to their litter box. I have observed this so far.The only problem is that he is jumping on the dining table and kitchen counter tops which me and my ,kids and my wife is not liking. He really follows us around and sometimes its hard to leave him in the living at night as we are all scared a bit to take him in our beds. Any word of advice from an experienced owner????? Oh did I mention that I never owned a cat before. and that our tabby is continuously messing up with my budgies in the cage and tries to catch them and scare them.

    Thanks
    Zia

    • Susan says:

      I have had several tabby cats (different colors) for many years since I was a teenager. I absolutely adore them. Many people don’t know that even cats (not just dogs) can be trained. For instance, my latest tabby can walk with me while wearing a harness and leash. None of my cats as kittens were permitted to jumped up on tables or scratched wallpaper or couches. Nip these natural habits in the bud (just tap paws gently whenever you see these habits occurring). Always be gentle and patient when training so that the cat does not grow up being afraid of you. My current tabby is an indoor cat. We have always been afraid of accidentally rolling over her in our bed; so we never allowed her to sleep with us. We were always afraid of accidentally stepping on her in the middle of the night; so she was always confined to the downstairs. She is now 14 years old, has a little arthritis, and I want it easier on her to get to her litter box in the middle of the night. I don’t want to “lock her up” by closing doors; so, instead, I use a doorway to put up a light-weight wooden expandable pet gate to confine her to the kitchen/family room/and downstairs bathroom (where her litter box rests) throughout the night. In the morning I lift the gate out of the way and permit her to move about anywhere she wants. Confining a cat to a specific area of the house is not only safe for the cat but also for the owner(s). Tabbies like to keep close tabs on their owners and like to keep an eye on their owners; so sometimes they are under foot without the owner knowing it. My sister broke her foot while trying to avoid stepping on her cat. One more thing about cats: don’t treat them roughly as you would a dog. Cats like to cuddle and like soft handling. AND–very important–if a cat wants to leave your lap or doesn’t want any more “loves,” don’t hold her back and “force” her to do what YOU want. How do you know that the cat isn’t leaving you because it needs to go to the littler box? When a cat plays with you, it may grab your hand simply to pull it down toward its mouth or nose. If your cat loves you and you love your cat, it will never bite you (unless, of course, you have accidentally pinched it or pulled her hair). One more thing, do not forget yearly checkups and immunizations. Very, very important! After all, you brought the cat home; you are now responsible for its well-being just as you are for your children’s. That kitty is now part of your family; it depends on you for food, shelter, well-being, and companionship. Talk to it; don’t keep silent. And it will frequently meow (“talk”) to you, too. As it ages along with you, you will both “understand” one another. Don’t ignore your cat; it is not a fixture in your home.

    • Hina says:

      Keep a water in a spray bottle, if he scratches or jumps on things you don’t want give a small spray on him. As he is a kitten he will learn. Don’t take him to your bedroom if you don’t want, cats are independent, he will learn to sleep in the living area. Don’t play fight with him, and don’t pet him a lot.
      He is hyperactive as he is still a kitten, as he will grow up, he will start calming down and will spend most of the time sleeping.
      Give him a scraching post and also cover your couches if you can.

  23. susan says:

    I adopted my 1 1/2 year old male neutured tabby on 9/01/15 from a shelter. They believed he was a run away but no one came to claim him so he was placed for adoption. The poor thing was put in a 10 day quarantine cause he nipped at someone who touched him at the shelter. I knew that this cat had a low tolerance for petting when I took him home.

    He allows me to pet him longer each day & follows me around from each room. He sleeps in my bed with me but does not allow me to cuddle. He is a biter and when I get up to go to bathroom in the middle of the night he will clamp his teeth down on my arm or leg and literrally try to pull me towards the living room to play.

    We are still getting to know one another but I think we are both in agreement that we are a good match. I love my Butterscotch very much, (renamed him from Toby), and wouldnt trade him for the world.

  24. Elizabeth says:

    My husband and I just recently adopted a tabby cat, it was like love at first sight. She is to adorable and friendly,very affectionate. ..loves to sleep on us and gets along with my shih tzu. We are very happy and in love with her!

  25. I got a tabby cat from the animal pound. He just stood out from the other cats with his good natured personality.
    He sure is A LOT of fun and entertainment.
    Couldn’t have picked a better cat out.

  26. John newton says:

    I become the mother figure of 5 baby tabbys after their mother quit feeding them at 2 weeks. I have decided to keep the litter intact and they are great cats (4 months).

  27. Terry says:

    Pick up a young Tabby kitten 9 wks. someone dropped it at the country church i attend , after 4 days staying at the church i had to bring it home because it was so friendly , it was certain someone had handled & played with it a lot , i`m positve it had been inside a lot each time a door opened it would run in the church sit on porch & meow constantly , anyway i could not leave it there alone anymore so i brought it home took to barn with my several other cats & it took to them like duck to water, it stays at barn because my rat terrier will not allow cats in my yard period , it`s learned quickly & loves its new home , i handle the kitten each barn trip 3-4 times daily. It is a very Happy kitten now I`m in my mid 60`s & this is my first Tabby sense a young boy. Of the several cats i have it has won my Heart because it is so gentle & friendly .

  28. miyanaga Alexander says:

    I have a tabby kitten and I love her to death I never knew a tabby cat saved jesus. I guess I’m lucky maybe one day she’ll save my life when I need her.

  29. Great information on Tabby cats! My parents used to have one when I was growing as a child, I hardly remember him though.

    • Zoila says:

      Yesterday, went to Pet Smart to see if there had kittens so my daughter and I recently adopted a tabby cat 2 months old.. we are felling in love tabby kitten… I never had tabby cat but I used Calico cat so lovely too..

      Great information here to learn their personality… thank you for sharing.

      • Ava says:

        Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m glad the post gave you some insight into these wonderful kitties. Congratulations on adopting!

        • Ann Brown says:

          We lost our dear son after a long struggle with cancer. When we returned home were devestated. Grand children told us we needed a kitten. Shelter had no kittens and said to check back as they did not call people! I told them they were on my speed diel! A week later the lady at the shelter CALLED. Against rules but she said SHE JUST HAD TO CALL ME! And what a wonderfull tabby kitten we got! She was 12 Wks old, very smart, curious and loving! Sleeps in our bed, follows us around the house, and has really helped us in our time of sorrow! Her purring at night is comforting. (We have always had a cat, but after retireing just never replaced old pet.). Our new kitten is Gray/white and her name is HILLERYand this little kitten has won our votes for TABBIES!

  30. […] Click here to read The Glorious Tabby Cat. […]

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