The Origins and History of the Tabby Cat

The Origins and History of the Tabby Cat

Tabby cats have unique personalities that some cat enthusiasts compare to dogs. It’s not uncommon for these remarkable felines to follow their human family members around just like puppies! Tabby cats love to play and explore and thrive on attention. They are amusing, highly intelligent, and incredibly affectionate, making them excellent household companions!

What Is a Tabby Cat?

Tabby is not an actual, recognized breed but rather, a category of cats with unique markings on their coats. You’ll often see a characteristic “M” on the forehead, right above the eyes. A tabby pattern can be found across a wide range of purebred cats and in mixed breeds. The most familiar tabby coats are black, but some variations in the pigment result in brown, orange, and gray tabbies. Interestingly, orange tabby cats are usually male, with only about 20-25 percent of them being female. 

The Origins and History of the Tabby Cat

Tabby cats got their name by being compared to striped cloth and silk from the “Attabiy” district in Baghdad. The 14th century Middle French term was “atabis,” which then became “tabis,” and eventually our English word, “tabby.” A large study using DNA analysis to trace the geographical dispersal and domestication of these beloved felines from ancient to modern times revealed that the tabby cat’s distinctive coat appeared in the Middle Ages and didn’t become common until about the 18th century.

What Are the Tabby Cat Patterns?

There are five distinct tabby patterns:

  • Classic Tabby Cat: Sometimes referred to as a blotched tabby, a classic tabby has a bold, swirling pattern that closely resembles a bullseye.
  • Mackerel Tabby Cat: Also known as a tiger cat, a mackerel tabby cat has rings around the tail and legs and narrow solid or broken stripes that run down the sides in a vertical pattern.
  • Spotted Tabby Cat: A spotted tabby has large or small spots all over the sides that sometimes appear to be broken mackerel stripes. 
  • Ticked Tabby Cat: Also known as an Abyssinian tabby or agouti tabby, a ticked tabby doesn’t have stripes or spots but instead has tabby markings on the face and hairs striped with alternating light and dark bands, known as agouti hairs on the body.
  • Patched Tabby Cat: Often referred to as a tortoiseshell or tortie, a patched tabby usually has dark or grayish brown and red or orange patches with any of the previous tabby patterns.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Veterinary Hospital 

If you are considering adopting a tabby cat, your trusted team at All About Cats Veterinary Hospital is here to help. We are proud to offer a wide range of services to ensure our feline patients enjoy healthy, happy lives. You can always count on our team for purr-fectly compassionate care because, after all, we are all about cats!

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RICHARD LESTER, DVM

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