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When asked what breed their striped cat is, many people reply with “Tabby.” However, like many common cat monikers (Tuxedo, Tortoiseshell, Calico, etc.) “Tabby” refers to the coat pattern, not a specific breed of cat. In fact, every feline has the tabby gene, but it does not present in the coat of every cat. To make things even more interesting, there are five types of Tabby markings: classic, mackerel, spotted, ticked and patched.


Tabbies are known for their stripes, swirls and spots, making up one of seemingly infinite color and pattern combinations. Their coats have one dominant color and stripes in the brown and black color families. Brown mackerel markings are most frequently seen.


Tabbies can easily be identified by their sweet nature and the legendary capital ‘M’ on their furry forehead.


Because many different breeds of cats sport the tabby coat, it’s hard to generalize about their personalities. However, chances are almost certain that there’s a tabby for any type of family, including those with children and other pets.

Breed Traits


4 out of 5

Activity Level

4 out of 5

Friendliness To Other Pets

5 out of 5

Friendliness To Children

5 out of 5

Grooming Requirements

3 out of 5


3 out of 5

Need for Attention

3 out of 5

Affection Toward Its Owners

5 out of 5


3 out of 5


4 out of 5


4 out of 5


4 out of 5


Tabbies can range in personality just as they range in coat characteristics. Knowing a tabby’s breed may give you hints into the cat’s personality.

An Abyssinian tabby is very active—climbing high and enjoying a fun game of chase. They are also an affectionate breed and will seek out their parent’s attention often. Their brains need frequent stimulation or they may get a little mischievous.

An American Shorthair tabby likes attention but not too much attention. They are social and do well with strangers. They’ll even cuddle up with you but don’t pick them up and carry them around. They’d much prefer to snuggle!

Maine Coon tabbies go with the flow and do well with children. They’ll stay on the lookout and watch what the family is doing if everyone is busy and can’t give them some one-on-one love.

Found in more than 100 color and pattern combinations, the Oriental tabby cat breed loves a good conversation and being near their parents. They also like having a playmate around to keep their creativity and curiosity well fed.

Even though they look like a wild feline, the Ocicat tabby is one smart and social cat. They can be leash-trained and enjoy being carried. This breed typically sports a spotted tabby look.

One of the newer breeds, the American Curl is a tabby with adorable ears that curl back. They love their families, including children, and are okay being left alone if no one is available for some feline fun. Their coats come in a wide range of patterns.

For the most common types of cats—domestic short, medium and long hairs—the tabby look has no influence on their personality. These cats don’t claim to be a particular breed–they are just themselves! Their look and personalities are so varied they can’t be generalized. Regardless of their non-pedigreed background, these unique felines are valued by countless pet parents as cherished family members.


The Egyptian attribute the unmistakable ‘M’ on their worshipped tabby’s forehead to the cat’s Egyptian name “Mau.” The Islamic world believes tabby cats are born with an ‘M’ to remind the world of Mohammed’s love of cats. There is even a popular ‘M’ legend surrounding the birth of Jesus.

Upon his birth, Jesus lay in the manger shivering in the cold. Mary tried to keep him warm with blankets, and even beckoned the stable animals to come in close to help warm the baby with their body heat. It wasn’t until a tabby cat cuddled up in the manger with the newborn, that he was lulled to sleep with warmth and soft purring. This legend states that Mary placed the ‘M’ on the tabby’s forehead so the world would forever remember the day the tabby kindly comforted the baby Jesus.

Tabbies continue to play a big role in modern storytelling. Garfield the cat and Puss in Boots from the Shrek movies are both tabbies. More recently, the tiny brown tabby known as Lil BUB took over a good chunk of the internet. The Indiana native was the runt in a litter of feral cats found in a shed. Thanks to her awesome parent, Lil BUB helped raise big money to aid homeless pets and put the spotlight on pet adoption and special needs cats. Lil BUB’s was a one-of-a-kind cat, just as we’d expect from a tabby.

Physical Attributes


The different types and colors of cats have fascinated us for ages. Illustrator and cat enthusiast Harrison Weir’s book Our Cats and All About Them: Their Varieties, Habits, and Management; and for Show, the Standard of Excellence and Beauty was written all the way back in 1889 and is considered a classic.

Fur length and other details like facial structure, shape of ears and body type are often determined by the cat’s breed. However, regardless of breed, the tabby fur pattern essentially fall into five categories.

Classic tabbies are also known as the “blotched” tabbies. They have larger whorls that look like a target.

The mackerel has a ringed-tail and legs with stripes that travel around their entire body.

Push off the stripes! Spots are all the rage for the spotted tabby. The bands that travel the body of this tabby are not solid but are broken into spots instead.

Some tabbies try patches on for size. The patched tabby sports brown and red/orange patches. They resemble tortoiseshell, a colorful material used in manufacturing, and have been nicknamed Torti Tabbies, or Torbies.

Ticked tabbies have a subtler tabby patterning. Instead of bands of dark fur on their body, these tabbies have stripes or spots–called agouti–on each individual hair of their fur.

Regardless of their fur pattern, tabbies proudly wear the defining ‘M’ on their foreheads and a unique personality that is sure to find them their perfect home.


Note: While the characteristics mentioned here may frequently represent this breed, cats are individuals whose personalities and appearances will vary. Please consult the adoption organization for details on a specific pet.

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