Tabby Cats – Their Striking Patterns and Colors

There's a certain charm attached to tabby cats. These wonderfully unique felines have captivated humans for generations.

Is it their bewitching patterns that weave a rich tapestry across their fur? Or their delightful range of personalities that bring warmth and zest into our lives?

If you've ever looked into the mesmerizing eyes of a tabby cat and felt a tug of curiosity, you've arrived at the perfect place. We're here to answer all of your questions about tabby cats!

And there are many questions we need to answer!

What exactly is the mysterious "M" marking on a tabby's forehead?

Why are there spots, stripes, and a whole swirl of other patterns at play in a tabby's coat?

Are orange tabbies just more Garfield-like, or is it just a well-perpetuated stereotype?

We're about to dive whiskers-first into the captivating world of tabby cats, unraveling their intricate patterns, multicolored coats, diverse personalities, and the best places to find your very own tabby companion.

Let us start with the basics.

What Is A Tabby Pattern?

Two types of hair colors create the tabby pattern:

The first type consists of hairs that create a lighter background color, known as agouti hair. Agouti hair possesses unique coloring characteristics.

If you look closely at one of the agouti hairs, you will see that it has several bands of different colors along its length. This creates the ticked base color in any tabby pattern.

The second type comprises darker hairs that create the distinctive tabby pattern on the agouti background.

All tabby cats and kittens share similar marks on their face. These marks include dark lines that go from the eyes toward the back of the head and special marks on the cat's forehead that resemble the letter "M".

Gray cat with M marking on the forehead laying on the floor with face looking straight to the camera

These marks are visible in all tabby pattern variations and colors. They earn the name "tabby mask."

Pattern Variations

The tabby can exhibit one of four sub-patterns:

Striped Tabby

It is where the cat has vertical stripes along its body. Sometimes people refer to this pattern as a "Mackerel" pattern due to its resemblance to a fishbone.

stripped cat sitting on the branch of the tree

In a show-quality striped tabby, the stripes should be whole and evenly spaced.

Blotched Tabby

a kitten with rounded stripes and circles

It is where the two shades create a blotched pattern of rounded stripes and circles. It is also known as a "marble" pattern.

Spotted Tabby

Spotted Tabby looks directly at camera, sitting sideways

It is where the dark color appears in spots all over the agouti body. In a show-quality spotted tabby, the spots should be round and evenly spread.

Ticked Tabby

It occurs when the entire body is covered with ticked agouti hair.

Ticked Tabby

There are no clear markings other than the tabby facemask. This pattern is typical in several breeds, such as the Abyssinian and the Singapura, but is otherwise rare.

Color Variations

The tabby pattern shows itself in various colors. You can have tabbies in black, red, blue, chocolate, cream, and many other colors. Ticked tabbies usually come in red, ruddy, blue, and fawn shades.

The tabby pattern can also be found in combination with other color patterns. For instance, a cat can be a bi-color with a combination of red tabby, and white.

calico cat

Calico cats can have patches of white, black, and tabby red. The tabby markings will show on the colored patches.

Tortoiseshell cats can have a special pattern in which the overall Tortoiseshell pattern is intermingled with tabby markings all over the body—this is sometimes referred to as a "torbie."

Colorpoint cats can also have tabby markings. These will show only on the darker parts of the cat's body: the face, legs, and tail. These tabby colorpoints are sometimes called "lynx" cats.

Do Tabby Cats Have Different Personalities From Other Cats?

Since the tabby pattern exists across a number of breeds as well as among non-purebred cats, there really isn't a "typical" tabby personality.

As a group, tabby cats are regarded as friendly, sociable, and great family companions. At least, not less so than cats of other coat patterns. Most tabby owners find their kitty to be quite affectionate.

tabby cat sleeping on owner's hand

It's important to remember that each cat is an individual and needs to be regarded as such. You can encounter a tabby that needs lots of attention while another one would be quite independent.

Some say that orange tabbies tend to be more loving but also lazier. This is very likely a stereotype that has simply been perpetuated by Garfield!

Based on testimonials from our members over the years, domestic tabbies are incredibly diverse when it comes to personality.

Some are chatty, some are shy, some love people and some prefer to keep to themselves.

Some cat breeds are known to have tabby patterns. These may be mandatory in the breed description or optional depending on the breed.

Let's take a look at some cat breeds that support the tabby pattern and what their personalities are said to be.

Abyssinian Cats

As mentioned above, Abyssinian cats show the agouti tabby pattern. In this case, no other pattern is actually allowed in the breed standard.

abyssinian cat playing

Also known as Abby cats, these kitties tend to be curious and athletic. They are said to love their owners and follow humans around the house.

American Shorthair Tabby Cats

An actual official breed—not just shorthair cats who were born and raised in the US! These cats can come in a variety of coat patterns and colors. Tabbies—or tabby and white—are very popular within the breed.

Cat sleep calm and relax on the floor near the glass door

American shorthairs have a balanced personality. They enjoy attention but are also happy to enjoy some alone time. They're smart and typically unafraid of strangers (as is often the case with most show cats).

Maine Coon Tabby Cats

Maine Coon cats are best known for their stunning looks as well as good-natured personality.

cat at outdoors in a green garden looking and walking towards camera

Many Maine Coon kitties are in fact tabbies—or at least a mix of tabby and white. These gentle giants are great with kids. They are often fairly active felines who love chasing other animals and toys.


Oriental Tabby Cats

Oriental cats have long svelte bodies and facial features to match them. They come in a variety of colors and patterns—tabbies certainly included.

tabby cat posing

Orientals—like their Siamese sibling breed—are active, curious, and often quite vocal.

If you don't have a member of the family home at all times, you might want to consider getting a second cat to keep your Oriental tabby company.


The Ocicat is another good example of a cat that comes only in the tabby variety.

ocicat male cat on dark brown background

More specifically, Ocicats come in the spotted tabby pattern. They're said to be confident and independent cats, yet dedicated to their owners.

Where Can I Get A Tabby Cat?

a man hugging and cuddling a tabby cat

Apparently, quite a lot of people have their hearts set on adopting a tabby cat.

If you're one of them, you're in luck!

Tabby cats are quite common so if you're looking to include one of these loving companions in your home, you will not have to look far.

Adopting From A Shelter Or Rescue Organization

One of the best, most loving things that a person can do is adopt a cat from an animal shelter or a local rescue. Shelter cats make excellent pets.

Many cats end up in shelters because of family issues or due to a person's misunderstanding of the responsibilities that come with being a pet owner.

many tabby cats at a shelter

By choosing a shelter cat, not only are you likely saving the cat's life, but you're also opening up a spot in the shelter for another animal who needs food, shelter, and warmth.

Remember, kittens are not the only cats in shelters that need homes.

Older cats are loving and an especially great choice if you're away from the home for some of the days, as they are more likely than kittens to enjoy spending time alone without becoming bored or destructive.

Read more:
A Kitten Or An Older Cat — Which Should You Adopt?

Buying A Tabby Cat From A Breeder

Purchasing a tabby cat from a breeder is another option.

By now, you know that tabby is not a specific breed but rather it is a marking pattern. This means that there is no such thing as a "purebred" tabby without any designation of a particular breed.

bunch of tabby kittens in female hands

If you choose to purchase a cat from a breeder, make sure that the breeder is registered and ethically raises the cats.

A reputable breeder will be able to show you their registration paperwork and will be happy to let you see the living conditions of the cats and kittens in their care.

Read more:
How To Choose A Cat Breeder

Rescuing A Tabby Cat

And sometimes, cats adopt us. Your tabby friend could just walk into your life unattended as you rescue her or him off the streets.

Dirty little kitten sitting on a street near the car wheel

If you take in a stray tabby cat, be sure to take your new friend to the vet as soon as possible.

The vet can check to see if the cat has been reported missing by looking for a microchip to reconnect them with their owner.

Your vet will also be able to check the cat for ailments that commonly affect strays, ensuring that your furry companion is in tip-top shape, or treating the cat to get to that point.

Famous Tabby Cats In History

There's a reason tabby cats are so popular—they're everywhere in the media! When most of us picture a common housecat, we automatically picture a tabby.

Over the years, many tabby cats rose to fame and left their claw marks on the pages of history. Let's take a look at a few of them.

The Tabby Mayor

Talkeetna, Alaska had a very special tabby cat named Stubbs who was the town's mayor!

Long ago, the 900-person town elected Stubbs to be the mayor and he enjoyed his reign of the town until he sadly passed away in 2017.

Stubbs is remembered by residents and visitors of Talkeetna alike.

Churchill's Cats

One of England's most famous Prime Ministers, Sir Winston Churchill, was a major fan of tabby cats. His two favorite cats, Tango and Mickey, often joined him at official meetings and dinners.

The Prime Minister would sneak them bites of tuna and salmon under the table!

The Tabby Jailbird, Errr Cat!

It's rare to hear of someone wanting to go to prison, but a cat named Tiger did exactly that!

Tiger is an orange Tabby who broke into New York City's Sing Sing prison over 10 years ago by squeezing his body in between the bars surrounding the area.

Tiger has enjoyed tuna treats from inmates ever since and has shown no desire to leave the prison.

Sing Sing has opened its gates to several other cats after seeing the positive effect that Tiger's calming presence had on the inmates.

face focus of a tabby cat


We hope you enjoyed our tabby cat's guide! If you did, please share it with your friend so they can learn more about these adorable felines, you may use to pin the image below. Thank you!

Tabby Cats: Everything you need to know about the tabby coat pattern in cats

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29 comments on “Tabby Cats – Their Striking Patterns and Colors

Cynthia February 16, 2024
Is my cat a bengal mix tabby
Yahirluvscats February 23, 2022
i have a stripped tabbey,colors r grey,black and dark grey
Leah April 12, 2021
I have a orange tabby, blue tabby, and two mix tabbies. Their so cute! Plus I have a tux but shhhhhhhh.
tarasgirl06 May 30, 2018
Many thanks for yet another fascinating and informative article! And heartfelt thanks for encouraging people to adopt tabbies from shelters and rescues.
Official.buttercup September 3, 2017
gonger said:
My cat is a torbie. She's salt and pepper grey agouti hairs with marbled tabby markings made up of two shades of orange as well as brown. :)
She must be such a beautiful kitty!
tarasgirl06 July 3, 2017
Thank you for sharing the facts about tabbies! Ancient Egyptian cats, depicted in the tombs of pharaohs, were tabbies, too. They are gorgeous little tigrets, whatever pattern/color/size they are!
IndyJones June 29, 2017
Anne said:
Oh, I'm sure it's photoshopped. It was made to be a black&white image, only leaving the eyes in color, for a more dramatic effect. I used it mostly to show the M markings, which I thought were clearly displayed there (and I also just found the picture pretty ;) ).
There's actually a story associated with how the tabby got its M. It's said that the baby Jesus was cold and crying and nothing could sooth him but a tabby hopped into the manager and began to purr. The baby Jesus quickly fell asleep and as her thanks, Mary marked the tabby on the forehead with her M. So all tabbys to this day have an M as a sign of thanks.
    yelloweyes July 14, 2023
    Um, not to burst anyone’s bubble, but Mary would have spoken and written in Hebrew.
      Anne November 27, 2023
      Actually, He spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew.
      Anne November 27, 2023
      I mean She would have spoken Aramaic.
IndyJones June 29, 2017
The first picture of the long hairs look just like Indy. Except for her hair length she even has the ear tipping they have.
biancavd December 27, 2016
The Blotched pattern is also called 'Classic' ^^ 
gonger January 7, 2016
My cat is a torbie. She's salt and pepper grey agouti hairs with marbled tabby markings made up of two shades of orange as well as brown. :)
darren7481 December 24, 2015
I love my lynx point siameses, they're talkative & playful & loyal. My favorite sort of cats. They can also be a lot of trouble & moody as hell, yet they'll always growl when a stranger's @the door & I have no doubt that if someone ever broke into my home they'd have Siamese cats clawing their eyes out in 2 seconds flat:)
StefanZ December 11, 2015
The "classic" tabby, is an mutation, upcoming sometimes in Medieval age in England. So why classic while its a newcomer among the tabby variations? The bulls-eye classic tabby become fairly soon common in England, and the early leading cat fancy assocations were british. For THEM it was the typical british tabby....  :) Interesting enough, the Sokoke from Africa are blotched tabbies them too.  If they are descendants from cats "reimported" from Britain, or if they got the same mutation on their own, I dont know. But an "reimport" from England is fully possible and is my guess.
endercat June 23, 2015
Interesting about the "classical tabby" markings, my cat has a G on one side and a 6 on the other! I'm quite fond of the marbling, so pretty, she just had kittens and all but one look like they will have marbling.
caralian September 12, 2014
My two are a male striped tabby and a female marble tabby.  Great article, like so many on this site!
taty caty June 16, 2014
Cool. :)
keyes May 12, 2014
To StefanZ-It;s amazing that you should say that.  I took in Tortoise, feral male cat, to be neutered and I was told the same thing.  Good thing he's not a deer, otherwise they'd be calling the pattern Bulls Eye!!
StefanZ May 12, 2014
The blotched tabby, with its bulls eye on the side of the tummy,  this pattern is often called for "classical tabby".
jtbo March 17, 2014
It is very nice picture indeed, quite stoppingly pretty pic, that made me think if there really is so beautiful tabby cats some place. Golden color eyes and gray coat is almost hypnotic I find many of these article pics really interesting of their own Oh and I like this article too, now I know I have striped and blotched/marble tabby cats
Anne March 16, 2014
Oh, I'm sure it's photoshopped. It was made to be a black&white image, only leaving the eyes in color, for a more dramatic effect. I used it mostly to show the M markings, which I thought were clearly displayed there (and I also just found the picture pretty ;) ).
jtbo March 15, 2014
That 2nd picture, grey orange/yellow eye cat, is there really such colored cat? Even inside of ears are grey, as is background, so I think it is mostly photoshop, but such grey cat with orange eyes, black and white whiskers, black nose, quite striking appearance, but I'm not sure if such really is or if those too are edited features in photoshop? With those tabby stripes that makes one really beautiful cat.
Anne February 18, 2014
Sounds like she might be a cream colorpoint. If the pattern is showing mostly on the head, tails and legs, then she could be that. It's like a flamepoint colorpoint, only diluted. Very pretty! 
yarra February 18, 2014
My all white girl Emma, the baby (now 5 years old) in my avatar, shows tabby "texture" in certain light! She's ALL WHITE, but it's like her hair GROWS in a tabby pattern. Specifically, she has rings on her tail, and the tabby M. Again, it's a white on white pattern. It's really cool. When she was a baby, she had 3 single red hairs that grew on the top of her head, between her ears. It's how I told her apart most easily from her twin sister. Lol. She has since lost these three hairs though.
thecatjt January 29, 2014
Hmmm... I have a also have a lynx! She has a hostile personality! 
keyes January 24, 2014
I have an orange spotted tabby in my feral cat colony.  He's gorgeous!
katocats December 27, 2013
Beautiful tabby cat pictures my favourite is of course the Mau.

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