Tabby Cat Personality: Fact or Fiction?

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In an effort to better understand and explain their cats’ behaviors, pet owners have attempted to find a link between breed and personality. While tabby is not a breed of cats but a way to describe a feline coat pattern, some cat lovers suggest that there are personality traits that are unique to tabby cats. Are these links fact or fiction? We’ve done the research to answer this question for you.

There is no scientific evidence that links a cat’s behavior to their coat pattern, including tabby. However, many tabby cat owners still claim that their cat’s personality is a direct result of the tabby status. Here are some common personality generalizations: 

  • Tabbies are more aggressive
  • Orange tabby cats are lazy
  • Tabby cats are more affectionate 
  • Tabby cats are good first pets 

Is there any truth to these myths? If not, where did they come from, and why do they persist? Keep reading to explore the answers to these questions and learn more about tabby cats.

An orange tabby cat peeping out of the blanket, Tabby Cat Personality: Fact or Fiction?

Tabby Personality Myths

Let’s dig deeper into some of the tabby stereotypes we mentioned above.

Tabbies Are Aggressive

Researchers have attempted to determine whether fur color and pattern play a part in a cat’s tendency toward aggressive behavior.

Take this study conducted by the University of California as an example. Using surveys, the researchers collected information from cat owners and analyzed the results. They determined that no particular group of cats was particularly more aggressive than the others.

Why Does My Tabby Cat Bite Me?

Cats have claws and teeth, and they may occasionally use them, even on their owners. There can be many reasons for feline aggression though, and they’re not related to the tabby pattern (or any other coat color or pattern).

While some cats bite as a form of play, especially if they are still young, biting is typically a form of communication. Pay close attention to what is going on before your cat bites you to find out what message they are trying to convey.

If you are petting them before they bite you, for example, they may be trying to tell you that they want you to stop. If you are in the middle of something and not acknowledging your cat, on the other hand, the bite might be their way of trying to get your attention.

Read more:

Cat Bites – What Every Cat Owner Needs To Know

Orange Tabbies Are Lazy

Orange tabby cats have earned the reputation that they are lazier than other cats and even other tabbies. One reason for this could be that orange tabbies in pop culture have been given this personality trait.

Garfield is a great example of this. An orange tabby, Garfield spends half his day sleeping and the other half eating. Because people tend to try and connect with or re-create their favorite characters, it is possible that the characteristics of this popular cartoon cat may have been projected onto pets with a similar appearance.

How popular is Garfield? Popular enough to be on a US postal stamp!

A Garfield post stamp

What do our members think?

Whatever the reason for this personality connection, many cat websites perpetuate the idea that orange tabbies are lazy. While there are probably many orange tabbies who like to lay around and be lazy, it is not because of their coloring and pattern that they have these personality traits.

Members of our forums have noted in past discussions that they haven’t noticed their red tabbies – or any other tabby cat – to be particularly lazy. In fact, our member MoonstoneWolf shared that they have never met a tabby cat that wasn’t a ball of energy!

Tabbies Are More Affectionate 

While the thought that tabbies are more affectionate is a positive generalization, it is still inaccurate. While researching different breeds and types of cats, you will see conflicting information about this myth. Some resources confirm that, yes, tabbies are very affectionate cats. Other resources acknowledge that tabbies may be very affectionate, but remind potential cat owners that tabbies are not more or less affectionate just because they are tabbies.

Again, 70% of cats have tabby markings, so even though there may be large numbers of affectionate tabbies reported, it is most likely because there are simply a lot of cats that are tabbies. Forum user Dave2006 sought advice about his very affectionate tabby kitten. Many users responded with advice and cited the cat’s age, how much attention she is given, and the simple fact that she is a cat as reasons for why this tabby kitten is such a lovebug!

Tabby Cats Are Good First Pets

The idea that tabby cats are good first pets isn’t necessarily a myth. Cats, in general, are identified as good first pets because they are relatively low maintenance while also affectionate and interactive. Of course, tabbies are good first pets because they are cats!

It is important to keep in mind that cats, like any other pet, will have their own unique and individual personalities. If you choose a cat to add to your family, take the time to interact with each cat and get to know their personality. Ultimately, you want to choose the cat whose personality is compatible with the members of your household. There is a good chance that the cat you choose will be a tabby, but cats without tabby markings are just as amazing as pets.

Read more: 15 Things You Should Know Before Adopting A Cat

Are Tabby Cats Good For Kids?

The tabby coat pattern can be found in many different breeds of cats, including the adorable domestic shorthair and domestic longhair cats you’re likely to find in your local shelter. If you have your heart set on a kitty with a tabby coat, you can rest assured that you will likely be able to find one that will be good with kids too.

Adopt from a shelter or a rescue organization that knows their cats. Ask the volunteers there to match you up with a cat or kitten that they think would be good with kids.

And remember, it’s up to you to teach your kids to respect the new family pet.

Read more: How To Mix Cats And Kids The Right Way

What Is A True Tabby Cat?

A tabby cat starring at the camera

Contrary to popular belief, the characteristic tabby does not refer to a breed. Instead, it describes a particular coat pattern.

There are several tabby patterns but they all share the following traits –

  1. At least some hairs have agouti coloration (more on that in a bit)
  2. Facial markings, including the shape of an M on the cat’s forehead.

Agouti is a type of coloration where each shaft of hair has at least two different bands of color. You’d have to look closely to see them because the overall effect is often a brownish mix. Agouti coloration is extremely useful for camouflage, making it a popular pattern in many animal species.

Big cats that appear to be brown, such as lions or mountain lions, typically have agouti coloration.

A big and strong mountain lion stalking his prey

The agouti makes the base layer of any tabby pattern.

While a pure agouti tabby is rare in domestic cats, you can see it in Abyssinian cats. Some fanciers refer to this as a ticked tabby pattern.

An Abyssiniian cat sitting on a white background

The tabby patterns

As mentioned, there are several tabby patterns. Pure agouti being just one of them. The other types consist of a mix of agouti hair and a darker solid matching color in varying patterns. Most of the cat fancy associations note the following tabby patterns –

  1. Ticked/agouti
  2. Striped or mackerel tabby
  3. Spotted tabby
  4. Classic, blotched, or Marble tabby

The fun doesn’t end there though! Tabby cats can also have a bullseye pattern, and some Bengal tabbies even have rosette markings.

What Does The Tabby Cat ‘M’ Marking Symbolize?

Believe it or not, the meaning of the ‘M’ marking is rooted in religious legend and myth. A Christian myth explains that the marking was given by Jesus’s mother, Mary, as a symbol of gratitude after a tabby cat approached baby Jesus to provide him with comfort.

A very similar legend from the Islam religion also characterizes the marking as a symbol of gratitude. In this legend, a tabby cat killed a snake that had been hiding in Muhammad’s sleeve, saving him from potential danger.

The Egyptians also had an explanation for the marking, but theirs was more of an observation than a blessing. It was believed that cats had a connection to the moon, as evidenced by the way light reflects in their eyes. According to Egyptian culture, the ‘M’ marking symbolized that connection, as well as the Egyptian word Mau for “cat”.

Are Tabby Cats Predominantly Male Or Female?

Tabby cats can be either male or female. In fact, the tabby pattern is a dominant trait, so there is a high likelihood for a cat of either gender to have a tabby coat.

This question isn’t totally irrelevant, though. The belief that there are a greater number of male tabby cats than female tabby cats comes from the fact that there is a significant sex difference in orange tabby cats, specifically. The color of a cat’s fur depends on the genes that are passed down from their parents. Male cats need only one X gene to have orange fur, where female cats need two X genes to have orange fur, so only 20% of orange tabbies are female.

Famous Tabby Cats

From fictional cartoon characters to celebrity pets, there are many famous tabbies that we have grown to know and love!

Garfield

A huge Garfield themed air balloon flying in the sky

While many people believe that the beloved cartoon character is supposed to be a Persian cat, the comic’s creator has admitted that he did not have a particular breed in mind when he designed Garfield. Nonetheless, he has tabby markings.

Morris the Cat

Morris was the well-known spokes-kitty for the popular brand of pet food, 9 Lives. He was in many of the brand’s commercials, and his picture was featured on the 9 Lives packaging.

Actually, Morris was played by various red tabby cats. All of them were rescued from shelters. Here’s one memorable commercial featuring Morris –

Larry, the Chief Mouser

A cute tabby cat sitting on the front porch

Many famous cats are made so by being pets of celebrity families. While Larry may have fallen into this category, he has also earned a reputation of his own. Larry was appointed the Chief Mouser of 10 Downing Street by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Appointing a resident cat to be the chief mouser has been a tradition in the United Kingdom since the 1500s. Larry has been serving since 2011 and is well-known for being horrible at this job, earning him the new nickname, Lazy Larry.

In Closing

While there is no evidence to support the idea that cats of certain colors possess certain personality traits, it is not surprising that cat owners continuously try to find a connection. They want to try and understand why their cat acts or behaves a certain way. Attributing those characteristics to appearance is an easy way to do so, especially when other cat owners may have cats that look the same and have similar behaviors.

It is far more effective, however, to get to know your cat and treat them as individuals with their own personalities. This way, you’ll never miss out on a great pet because you’ve heard untrue information about their potential behavior!

To read more about cat personalities and myths, check out these articles:

Does Coat Color Affect Cat Personality?

Black Cat Facts And Myths

2 comments on “Tabby Cat Personality: Fact or Fiction?

catloverfromwayback September 25, 2021
I’ve had four tabbies and a torbie, all with completely different personalities. Only one was aggressive and I suspect he had been teased or abused as a kitten. He was affectionate but you had to be very careful around him - one second past his time limit and he’d shred your hand. One of the others was my darling girl, her biting was limited to a love-bite (or love-chomp) on my chin when she was lying on my chest.
carlygirl August 4, 2021
Tabbies are so cool.

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