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The word “tabby cat” describes cats with markings on their fur that are unique and one-of-a-kind. It's because no two cats have the same markings; they can only look similar but not the same.

Regardless of what coat patterns they have, they have an iconic M marking on their head. Many people associate this mark as a religious icon, like a representation of Mary, Mother of God, or the prophet Muhammad.

Tabby came from the French word tabis, which means “a rich watered silk.” This concept of the word is referring to their striped and spotted patterns.

Here are some facts about Tabby Cats that you might want to know and not miss!

History of Tabby Cats

1. History of Tabby Cats

In ancient Egypt, cats are considered the most sacred animal that played a significant role in the Egyptians' lives. They firmly believe that cats are descendants of Bast or Bastet, directly translated to “cat” in Greek, the goddess of moonlight and fertility. 

However, ancient Egyptian cats are not just regular cats; they are tabby cats. They were often depicted through paintings, resting on top of their owner's lap, or through statues and wall carvings, sitting beside their owner's chair. 

The oldest tabby cat was recorded in prehistoric times around 8000 B.C. Now, this Cat is allegedly lying with its master in its grave somewhere in Cyprus. 

The Cat is presumed to have died at eight months old, and its preserved bones are about 9000 to 9500 years old.

Nevertheless, the tabby coat only evolved and gained recognition by the Middle Ages, when domestic cats hunt mice for convenience—resulting in synchronized harmony between cats and humans, especially in maintaining the food chain.

The earliest documented direct ancestry of modern tabby cats dates back to as early as 4400 B.C. in Europe and Southwest Asia. However, it was only in the Ottoman Empire that humans can identify the gene for tabby cat markings.

Through the years, wild and domestic cats show no sign of modified genetic composition. The only way to identify these felines is through their mannerisms, structure, and tabby coat markings.

The etymology of "Tabby."

2. The etymology of “Tabby.”

Aside from its direct translation specified in the introduction, the word tabby originated from several etymologies. The term is prevalent throughout many Muslim countries, particularly in the Middle East, especially in Baghdad in Iraq and Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The word may also have come from the Middle French word atabis, which stems from the Arabic word attabiya, which describes a particular piece of silky cloth showcased in striped patterns.

However, the word “tabby” became more popular around the 1970s to describe the cats mentioned above. 

Several pet owners believe that we must only use the phrase tabby to classify female cats. The explanation for this possibility is because tabby is a derivative of Tabitha, an Aramaic word that directly translates to “female.”  

Tabby Cats Aren't A Breed 

3. Tabby Cats Aren't A Breed 

Contrary to popular belief, tabby cats are not a breed of their own but rather a preexisting pattern of their coats. It's ubiquitous to see anyone refer to them as a breed of its own, but it isn't.

Tabby cats, in general, are domesticated cats. They are often referred to as alley cats because of their peculiar but prevalent look. 

They can be of any shape, size, and breed. Tabby cats have a fundamental similarity in their coat pattern, which you may find widely in most cats.

They can be an American Shorthair, a Maine Coon, an Oriental, and many other cat breeds. Their personalities also do not equate to what everyone considers a Tabby but instead still conforming to their actual breeds.

The Many Pattern Formations of a Tabby Cat

4. The Many Pattern Formations of a Tabby Cat

There are four pattern formations within the population of tabby cats, all sharing a similar and solid genetic composition. These patterns are common because of the chromosomes shared by cats and possibly even in crossbreeding.

The four specified and well-known pattern formations are mackerel tabby, classic tabby, ticked tabby, and spotted tabby patterns.

There is also a fifth one called the calico pattern, also known as the turtle shell pattern. 

Classic Tabby Pattern

Classic Tabby Pattern

Also known as the spotted or marbled Tabby cat, classic Tabbies are explicitly known for their distinct “M” marking on their forehead and unique coat patterns called “butterfly” and “bullseye.” 

Their coat pattern is similar to a butterfly and bullseye target, thus its name. Besides, they may also have unique irregular lines, swirls, and stripes on their coat, primarily divided into thick segments on their arms and legs. 

Although these cats fall under the category of “classic,” they are only the second most common among the population of tabby cats because their pattern is simply a recessive variant of their genes; therefore, their small number. 

Nevertheless, classic Tabby cats populate worldwide, especially in the United Kingdom and the Middle East. 

Mackerel Tabby Pattern

Mackerel Tabby Pattern

The mackerel tabby pattern can also be named the “bonefish” tabby pattern. Its principal characteristic is its vertical and sloping stripes that end at the chest, resembling the inner markings of the mackerel meat or fish bones.

Their stripes may be continuous or segmented, depending on which area it forms (e.g., stomach, neck, back, etc.). But they also have rings on their tails, arms, legs, and an M-shaped marking located on their forehead.

Mackerel tabbies also earned themselves the “tiger cat” title because of their coat pattern closely resembling tiger stripes. 

Ticked Tabby Pattern

Ticked Tabby Pattern

Unlike other tabby cats, Ticked Tabby cats do not have any superficially visible patterns. Instead, each of the individual hairs has a color pattern only visible if you ruffle their fur.

What they have is what we call agouti hair. This type of hair has two or more bands of fur pigments, usually darker and light colors, like brown and gray. 

The agouti hair on Ticked tabbies gives them a salt-and-pepper appearance, thus making them unique and rare. You can only find this pattern in certain breeds.

Ticked tabbies also have a distinctive M-mark on their head.

Spotted Tabby Pattern

Spotted Tabby Pattern

Spotted tabby patterns are precisely what its name implies. Instead of stripes, these cats have several spots that vary in size, but they're usually short and small. 

Experts believe that the genes of Spotted tabbies derive from the Mackerel tabbies because of their resemblance. However, their differences are apparent due to their coat pattern. 

They also have a distinct M figure on the top of their head like the other tabby patterns.

Calico/Tortoiseshell Pattern

Calico/Tortoiseshell Pattern

This fifth pattern exists because of a genetic imprint that includes many tabby patterns within a cat. It is the Calico or Tortoiseshell pattern. 

This pattern varies among tabby cats that can affect crossbreeding of two cats of different patterns. They'd look like a mix of two or possibly even more tabby coat variations.

If you see a tabby cat with Classic and Ticked patterns, they highly have Calico or Tortoiseshell patterns.

Other Tabby Patterns

Cream, lynx, or seal point variations determine the Cat's appearance, which are factors that make no two cats look alike. You may find these points on their tails, paws, chests, and maybe even their faces.

Cream points revolve around cream, ivory, or caramel color points on their tails, paws, chest, and face.

Lynx points will usually vary; this happens when you mate a ticked or colorpoint tabby to another tabby coat variation.

Seal points are after seal color variations. They usually have a fawn-colored body and dark fur on their face, paws, chest, and tail. 

80% of Orange Tabby Cats are Male

5. 80% of Orange Tabby Cats are Male

The orange tabby is a variant of any coat patterns mentioned above. 

Their coat contains pheomelanin, a reddish-yellow sulfur-containing pigment. This melanin is different from the usual eumelanin, which is dominant and available in many cat types.

As a result, the appearance of their spots or stripes may come off as brown or dark orange. Furthermore, their primary color is usually reddish, but it can be bright or slightly dull orange. 

On the other hand, orange tabby cats, regardless of their coat pattern, are predominantly male. The reason behind this is that the pheomelanin gene is only available on the X chromosome.

And because it is only available in the X chromosome, both parents must give X to form female orange tabbies. When developing males, however, only one X chromosome is required.

The most famous example of this type of Cat is Garfield, the orange Persian tabby cat in comic strips.

There Are Numerous Breeds with Tabby Patterns

6. There Are Numerous Breeds with Tabby Patterns

Tabby cats constitute about 60-70% of the cat population in the world. 

As they are not a breed of their own, various breeds populate this percentage. These cats are still different because their genetic makeup in terms of appearances may still differ.

Some of these cat breeds potentially carrying the Tabby genetics are the following: 

Domestic Shorthaired Cats

Domestic Shorthaired Cats

Domestic Shorthairs come in various sizes, patterns, and colors. They usually come in hues of white, black, charcoal, or orange; and in different patterns, like classic, charcoal, ticked, or spotted. 

Abyssinian Cats

Abyssinian Cats

The Abyssinian breed, a high-maintenance cat, often comes with a ticked Tabby pattern, making their coat seemingly simple yet elegant. Given the nickname Aby, these agile cats come in shades of brown, tan, orange, and even golden patterns. 

Maine Coon Cats

Maine Coon Cats

This breed is the most popular and highly pedigreed tabby cat. They come in grey, silver, brown, and black patterns and have a long fur coat famous for its softness and elegance.

Ragdoll Cats

Ragdoll Cats

On the other hand, Ragdolls come in different shades and patterns—an ideal example of a tabby cat. They come in tan, silver, blue, and white colors, with white mittens on their paws, regardless of the color pattern they may have.

Oriental Cats

Oriental Cats

The prestigious Oriental Cat may come in over a hundred color patterns and combinations; thus, making them identifiable as tabby cats. They can come in cream, white, silver, tan, brown, or a variety of these colors. 

Persian Cats

Persian Cats

Persian cats, well-known for their elegance, come with many patterns and points that may be similar to each other. They may go in classic patterns of cream, gray, brown, and white, as well as lynx, tortoise, or solid points.

Egyptian Mau Cats

Egyptian Mau Cats

With the word “mau” directly translating to “cat,” Egyptian Mau cats come in spotted patterns, usually dark. These cats come in colors of brown, black, and gray.

American Bobtail Cats

American Bobtail Cats

American Bobtails, an uncommon breed of cats, are notable for their stubby “bobbed” tail shorter than a typical cat's tail length. These cats are usually calico or classic coated; they may come in dark shades of grey, charcoal, tan, or brown.

Siamese Cats

Siamese Cats

This breed is one of the first distinct breeds of Asian cats and comes in either classic or ticked patterns. Their colors are usually cream with brown points on their face, paws, and tail.

Javanese Cats

Javanese Cats

Also known as the Colorpoint Longhair, Javanese cats are under the ticked tabby cat patterns. They come in cream, red, and tan colors.

Tabby Cats' Health

7. Tabby Cats' Health

The health of Tabby cats will always vary on what their breeds are not on the coat pattern. Their coats do not signify anything related to the potential risks or hazards within their health.

However, there are still potential threats in regards to their health.

Hyperthyroidism in cats is their most common endocrine health issue, with an average number of 10% cats diagnosed with the condition.

They could also be at risk for Feline Leukemia Virus, a retrovirus that only passes to cats through secretions. Cats with FLV suffer from anemia, lethargy, and prolonged secondary respiratory symptoms.

Regardless of the breed, these cats may also suffer from urinary problems, like feline urinary tract disease and kidney stones.

Their average lifespan can be up to 15 years, more or less depending on their breed's average.

Morris the Cat, Ithaca Kitty, and Garfield

8. Famous Tabby Cats

Some famous cats are Morris the Cat, the plushie Ithaca Kitty, and even Garfield!

Morris the Cat is an orange cat advertising mascot for 9Lives cat food starting in 1969. This feline fellow became an icon in media, especially in television, and even became a “cat-didate” for the U.S. Presidential Elections.

On the other hand, Ithaca Kitty is an iconic plushie during the post-World War I icon. This cat trademark was a delight for young or older people circulated with its seven fingers on its front paws.

Lastly, Garfield himself is an icon. In comic strips, he is a lazy feline with the love of food, particularly lasagnas. 

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, Tabby cats are not a type of breed but rather a coat pattern that's dominant among the population of cats.

They're not rare, but all of them are a piece of gems that have been part of different cultures of history. They've coexisted with the people before, and now they've coexisted with us. 

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