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Tabby Cats


cats are often mistakenly thought of as being a particular breed of cat, but it is the coat pattern that is known as "tabby", and this pattern can occur in all breeds of domestic cat.

All breeds of domestic cat carry the tabby gene. Our feline friends that we know and love as house cats, originated from the African wild cat. These wildcats had similar markings to those we see on tabby cats, an effective form of camouflage.

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.

There are many variations of the tabby pattern and tabby cats can be found with stripes, spots, ticks and swirls, and in various colors - brown tabby cats, silver tabby cats, red tabby cats and blue tabby cats to name a few.



Mackerel tabby markings closely correspond to the patterns seen on African wild cats.

Some people have suggested that the mackerel tabbies should have been called classic tabbies, because their coat pattern was the original, and more reminiscent of the domestic cat's 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'.

The sides, shoulders and haunches can show fine parallel lines or markings somewhat like the bones of a fish, which is how they came to be called mackerel tabby cats, (they are also sometimes known as tiger tabbies.)


It is this pattern that appears most frequently on tabby cats.

The classic tabby has large swirls or blotches that end in a circular pattern at the sides, these are called 'oysters'

Three broad parallel lines run from the neck to the tail (spine lines), and around the neck there are wide bands of colour known as 'necklaces'.

Classic tabby cats tails have broad bands of self colour, as do their legs, and the belly will have a row of vest button spots.

On the shoulders are patterns that are very similar to butterfly wings.

It is thought that the Classic tabby originated in England during the Elizabethan era. These cats became mousers on the many trading ships that sailed the ocean, thus continuing to spread the tabby gene around the world.



The dark patches of the coat pattern of some tabbies are formed into oval or round spots.

The legs and tail are bared with fine close lines and there should be traces of a necklace. The forehead has the classic 'M' and the head and neck markings should be close together. A stripe runs down the length of the back to the tip of the tail and ideally be formed of spots.

The flanks, shoulders and legs are also marked with spots which may vary in size and shape. The belly should display the characteristic vest buttons.