Despite popular belief, the term “tabby” isn’t the name of a cat breed. Tabby is a coat pattern that features stripes, dots, lines, or swirls with a distinctive “M” marking on the forehead. This pattern is so widely spread that you can find a lot of pedigreed tabby cat breeds. However, many people still associate the term “tabby” with domestic cats that roam the streets and peek out of dumpsters.
Genetically, all cats are tabbies, however many of them possess modifier genes that prevent this pattern from being expressed. However, the pattern is present in so many cats that you won’t have trouble finding the perfect tabby to be your new feline companion. Even if you have your eyes set on a specific breed, there is a good chance that you will be able to find one with distinctive tabby markings, but to make sure you make the right decision, it is beneficial to first learn more about tabby cats.
In this article, we will list all known tabby patterns so you will get a better understanding of your cat’s unique markings. Furthermore, we will compile a list of cat breeds with a tabby coat pattern.
Types of Tabby Patterns
The gene for the tabby pattern can be found in all cats. You are probably wondering how a completely black cat can be a tabby, but take a look at her coat on a sunny day and you will notice the hidden tabby markings all over her body.
Although there are many variations, this coat pattern has four distinctive types: mackerel, classic, spotted, and ticked. There is a fifth type, known as “patched”. Tortoiseshell and calico cats with tabby underlines belong to this group.
#1: Mackerel Tabby
Also known as stripped tabby, the mackerel is the most commonly found tabby pattern. It is so widely spread that some people believe it should be called classic. Cats with this pattern have a vertically gentle curling solid or broken stripes on the sides of their bodies.
Mackerel tabbies also have stripped rings around their tails and legs and a necklace of stripes along their chests. A distinctive “M” shape can be found on the forehead and is accompanied by thin dark lines across a cat’s cheeks that spread to the corners of her eyes.
This pattern got its name from the mackerel fish, and cats with this coat variation are also called mackerel tabbies.
#2: Classic Tabby
Also known as “blotched” or “marbled,” the classic tabby pattern can occur in dark browns, ochres, black, and gray tones. Classic tabby cats have a distinctive “M” marking on their foreheads, and a whirled or swirled pattern on the sides of the body that is also knowns as a “bullseye.”
Like the mackerel tabbies, classic tabbies too have dark rings on their legs and tails, and stripes on the cheeks.
#3: Ticked Tabby
Also known as stripeless or agouti, the ticked pattern is produced by an agouti effect that creates alternating bands of lighter and darker color through the length of each hair.
Cats with this coat pattern seem to shimmer in the sunlight. In some cases, a ticked tabby will have light stripes on the lower legs, face, belly, and on the tip of the tail. Additionally, a long, darker line can run throughout the entire length of the spine.
#4: Spotted Tabby
This type comes in many variations. The spots can be oval, round, and in the shape of rosettes. It is still unknown if these spots were developed from a mackerel tabby or they are the result of a separate gene.
25 Breeds That Have a Tabby Pattern
As we mentioned earlier, the tabby pattern is so commonly seen in cats that there is a lot of pedigree tabbies. Tabbies come in all shapes and sizes, and you can easily find a pedigree tabby in almost every variation. The following list contains all cat breeds that are allowed to have tabby variations according to the Cat Fanciers Association.
The Abyssinian is known for their ticked, shimmering coat. The agouti effect creates alternating bands of darker and lighter color on each hair and contributes to the overall beauty of this breed.
The breed comes in four main colors—ruddy, cinnamon, blue, and fawn, and most people don’t realize that this breed is a tabby.
#2: American Bobtail
The bobbed tail of the American Bobtail is the breed’s most recognizable feature. Their coat comes in a variety of different colors and patterns. The Bobtail can be a mix of solid and tabby, and the tabby patterns can vary. Most commonly, the Bobtail is found in a classic swirled tabby pattern.
#3: American Curl
The American Curl stands out amongst other breeds thanks to their uniquely shaped curled ears. This cat can have both short and long coats that come in a variety of colors and patterns. One of these patterns is a patched tabby—the inclusion of stripes with a basic coat color.
#4: American Shorthair
The American Shorthair is a good-natured cat with strong hunting instincts. Their coats come in a variety of colors and patterns. However, the most popular one is a silver classic tabby pattern. The cat has a silvery coat with distinctively black marbles on the sides.
#5: American Wirehair
The American Wirehair is unique when it comes to their springy, resilient coat that has a pleasant texture. Like others, the Wirehair also comes in a variety of colors and patterns. This breed can come in mackerel tabby pattern or be a patched tabby.
The Birman cat is one of the breeds that come in tabby points. That means that these cats have a distinctive “M” marking on their forehead and lighter colored rings on their legs and tails. Since this breed comes in points, their face, ears, legs, and tail are of a darker color than the rest of the body. Thus they have lighter tabby bands on these areas.
#7: Colorpoint Shorthair
The Colorpoint Shorthair was a breed created by crossing Siamese with Abyssinian and other red-coated domestic cats. The breed comes in many color points including lynx points that are also known as tabby. The tabby Colorpoint Shorthairs have an “M” marking on their forehead and darker bands on their legs and tails.
#8: Egyptian Mau
This is one of the few naturally spotted breeds of domestic cats. The Egyptian Mau has the original spotted tabby pattern with spots that can range in shape and size. This breed also has an “M” marking on their forehead, and their tabby pattern only enhances the beauty of their silver or bronze coat.
#9: Exotic Shorthair
Considered to be the short-haired version of the Persian cat, the Exotic Shorthair comes in a variety of colors and patterns. The Exotic Shorthair can come in classic and mackerel tabby patterns. An especially memorable one is the silver tabby Exotic Shorthair that resembles a tabby American Shorthair.
Also known as a Colorpoint Longhair, the Javanese comes in color points, as their name suggests. This breed can come in a striped tabby pattern or a classic tabby pattern. The colors can vary, and every one of them brings out the beauty of this breed.
This breed has a curly coat that can range in length. The curls are thickest on the belly, the neck, and at the base of the ears. The LaPerm can come in any color and pattern. Striped and patched tabby patterns are some of the most commonly seen in this breed.
#12: Maine Coon
The Maine Coon is one of the largest cat breeds and probably the most popular pedigree tabby cat. The brown tabby pattern is so common in this breed that many people don’t realize that the Main Coon comes in other colors. Maine Coons can be found in classic tabby, stripped, or patched tabby pattern.
This breed is known for their lack of tail. However, not all Manx cats are born without it. The double coat can be short or long and comes in different colors and patterns. The Manx cat can be found in classic, mackerel, and patched patterns that are combined with many different colors.
#14: Norwegian Forest Cat
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a natural breed that developed a long double coat to serve as insulation from harsh weather conditions. The coat can come in many colors and patterns including tabby. The most commonly seen tabby variations include patched, stripped, and classic patterns.
The spotted coat of the Ocicat gives them a memorable wild look. The coat comes in 12 colors and is adorned with a spotted tabby pattern and a necklace around the neck and chest. Some Ocicats can have classic, mackerel, and ticked tabby coats; however, these variations aren’t officially accepted.
The Oriental cats can come with both short and long hair, and more than 300 colors and patterns which is the highest number of coat combinations found in any cat breed. You will be amazed, but the Oriental comes in 112 tabby combinations! So if you are desperately seeking a tabby pedigree cat, consider bringing the Oriental to your home.
The Persian cat has a distinctive appearance and a long, thick, and shiny coat that has a silky texture. This breed has a wide range of looks and can sport solid colors and a variety of different patterns.
When it comes to tabby Persian cats, you will find that they have a distinctive “M” marking on their foreheads and are most commonly found in classic and mackerel variations.
This is a large cat that has a medium length coat that is very easy to maintain. The coat comes in color points, and the lynx point is considered to be a tabby variation. The Ragdoll also has an “M” mark on their forehead and lighter colored bands on the legs and tail.
#19: Rex (Devon, Selkirk, and Cornish)
The soft and wavy coat of the Devon Rex comes in every color and pattern. The Devon Rex can be found in patched and mackerel tabby pattern.
The Selkirk Rex has a soft, woolly, and very curly coat that can also come in a variety of different colors and patterns. The mackerel is the most commonly seen tabby pattern in the Selkirk Rex.
The Cornish Rex has a velvety curly coat that comes in many different colors and patterns. The most commonly seen tabby patterns in the Cornish Rex are patched and stripped tabby.
#20: Scottish Fold
The most notable feature of the Scottish Fold cat is the bent forward ears. The dense and plush coat is soft to the touch and comes in a number of different colors and patterns—probably the most popular one is the classic silver tabby, but the breed also comes in mackerel and patched variations.
The Siberian is a breed native to Siberia. Thus they have long triple coats that protect them from the elements. The coat comes in all colors and can sport classic and mackerel tabby patterns.
The Singapura cat has a short and fine silky coat that comes in sepia tones. Like the Abyssinian cat, the Singapura also has a tabby ticked pattern that gives their coat a shimmering quality.
The Somali is a graceful and athletic medium-sized cat with a long coat. The coat comes in a variety of different colors and has a ticked tabby pattern. The alternating bands of lighter and darker color on each hair give this breed a majestic and glowing look.
#24: Turkish Angora
The Turkish Angora is best known for their long and fine silky coat. Most people think that this breed comes only in a white color, but that isn’t the case. The coat comes in different colors and 14 different tabby patterns amongst others. The most commonly seen tabby patterns include classic, mackerel, and patched combined with various colors.
#25: Turkish Van
The Turkish Van is a white cat that has patches of color on their face and tail, but some cats can also have colored patches on the legs and body. The patches can vary, and you can usually see a red tabby pattern amongst other colors.
The term “tabby” is so commonly used that most people think it is the name of some cat breed. However, tabby is a coat pattern that comes in four different variations: classic, mackerel, ticked, and spotted, and some people regard the inclusion of tabby pattern with a basic color as the fifth variation, called patched.
Most people think that the tabby pattern is only seen in domestic cats, but there are actually quite a few pedigree tabby cat breeds.
Tabby cats vary in shape and size, and each one of them has a distinctive personality. The American Shorthair, Abyssinian, and Maine Coon are some of the most popular cat breeds that can be found in the tabby pattern.
Do you own a tabby cat? Is she a glorious pedigree cat or a charming moggy? Tell us a bit more about your cat in the comment section below. If you love tabby cats and plan to adopt one, you’ll need a name for them, so check out our article on tabby cat names.