Tabby cats can be distinguished by their beautiful coat pattern, that normally features stripes, dots, as well as swirls. Tabby is however, not a specific cat breed, as assumed by many. It basically refers to a coat pattern, which can be found in a number of domestic cat breeds.
In cats, the coat color and the coat pattern are not genetically related, which is why tabby pattern can be found in cats of many different colors, of which silver and brown tabby cats are more common. Apart from the attractive coat pattern, these cats can be distinguished by the presence of an 'M' mark on their forehead, just between the ears.
Types of Tabby Coat Pattern
The tabby coat pattern can exhibit wide variations among different cat breeds. Nevertheless, this coat pattern is broadly classified into four major types - classic, mackerel or striped, ticked, and spotted. Another type of pattern is known as 'patched', which is usually found in calico or tortoiseshell cats.
The Classic Pattern
The classic pattern is characterized by the presence of large swirls or whorls that usually end in a circular pattern on the sides of the body. Three broad lines can be found to run from the neck to the tail of the cats with the classic tabby pattern. In the shoulder region, the bands or stripes are much wider, and they form a pattern that is termed as the 'butterfly pattern'.
The pattern on the flank resembles a bull's eye or oyster. The tail, as well as the legs of the classic tabbies usually have broad bands, and their belly or stomach contains a row of 'vest button' blotches. The characteristic 'M' mark can be found on their forehead. The American short hair cat and Sokoke (Khadzonzos) are some common breeds with the classic tabby pattern.
It is the most common tabby pattern, which can be easily distinguished by the vertical and slightly curved stripes. The stripes are usually narrow. They can be solid on the stomach and the flank region, or broken into bars or spots. Towards the tail and the legs, one can observe striped rings, while on the shoulder and the sides, the stripes are usually parallel.
The fine parallel stripes on the sides and the shoulder resemble the bones of fish, which is why this pattern is called mackerel. In the chest area, one or more wide bands can be observed, which are termed as 'necklaces'. Mackerel tabbies are also characterized by the presence of two rows of blotches on the belly, that are termed as 'vest buttons'. Like the classic pattern, the M marking can be found on the forehead. Toyger is a new cat breed with this pattern.
The spotted tabby pattern can be distinguished by the presence of some large or small spots on the coat, that substitute the stripes or whorls of the classic and the mackerel patterns. Many consider that the spotted pattern is not a true pattern, but a modification of the stripes and the whorls of the mackerel and the classic patterns. The usual stripes of the mackerel pattern may get broken and appear as small spots.
Similarly, the swirls of the classic pattern can be replaced by large spots. A line of spots from the neck to the tail, and a faint necklace in the chest can also be observed in some cats. However, it is not known whether spotted tabby pattern is developed from the mackerel pattern, or it is a result of a different genetic mutation. Some common spotted breeds are, American bobtail, Australian Mist, Egyptian Mau, and Ocicat.
This pattern can look quite different from other tabby patterns, as the characteristics stripes, swirls, or the spots of the tabby pattern cannot be observed, especially at the first glance. Only a closer look can reveal that the fur is indeed striped with bands of light and dark colors. This gives the coat a shimmering appearance in the sunlight. The 'M' marking on the forehead and a faint necklace can however, be observed in these cats. Abyssinian cats exhibit this pattern.
So, these are the major types of tabby patterns. As these patterns can be found in so many cat breeds, it is really difficult to describe the personality of tabby cats. Some breeds are known to be intelligent and gentle, while a few tabbies can be quite aggressive. On the other hand, some tabbies are shy, and they love to be in a quiet place. So, the personality, as well as the behavior of the tabbies can be quite different. Nevertheless, they are one of the cutest and wonderful pets to have around.