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What Makes A Tabby Cat Special?

Marlon Brando’s iconic opening scene in The Godfather was made more dramatic when director Francis Ford Coppola added a cat to the stage. It highlighted that though Brando’s tone was warm, he was dangerous, much like a cat with hidden claws. Brando’s cat was a gray tabby. 

A tabby is a domestic cat with a distinct M-shaped forehead marking. Tabby is a coat type found in practically all genetic lineages of domestic cats. Tabby came from the French word tabis, meaning “a rich watered silk.”

What is a Tabby Cat?

Tabby, contrary to common understanding, is not a specific breed. The cat’s coat patterns define tabby. The appearance of the patterns differs from stripes, whorls, spots, and even a combination of these usual patterns. (Source: ASPCA)

All of these pattern varieties have their names, but an “M”-like mark typically occurs above the eyes on the head of Tabby cats. A large variety of purebred cats and mixed-race cats can have Tabby patterns.

Tabby cats got their name from being compared to silk from Baghdad’s “Atabiy” area, and the 14th century Middle French term for it was “atabis,” which subsequently became “tabis,” and finally our English word, “tabby.” (Source: We are all about cats)

There are different legends of how tabby cats came to be. One tale is set in the manger, on the birth of Jesus Christ. It was said that when Jesus was cold and fussy, a cat snuggled up to him. Mary was grateful for the act, bestowing her initial “M” on the cat’s forehead.

Another legend talks about how Mohammed loved cats. Numerous stories showed Mohammed’s love for cats that the assumption was that the “M” on the cat’s foreheads stood for Mohammed. (Source: Spruce Pets)

Tabby cats come in many colors, but the common colors are black, orange, and gray. Tabby patterns are useful camouflage in the wild, as noted with tigers and leopards – who both have tabby patterns.

Tabby cats are known to be quite affectionate and social. Tabby cats love cuddles and delight in the attention they receive, which make them excellent family pets. Tabbies are also known to possess “big” personalities. Despite being friendly, affectionate, and playful, tabbies are known to make their owners know if they are sad or angry. They can also become cranky when they don’t get their way. (Source: We are all about cats)

Tabby Patterns

There are five common tabby patterns, which can be seen in different cat breeds.

A classic tabby is described with whorls, creating a shape that resembles a target on the side of the cat. They are also referred to as blotch tabbies. Most American shorthair cats have this pattern.

Mackerel tabby cats usually have rings on their tails and legs. They also demonstrate bands of stripes on their bodies. This is the most common pattern of tabbies.

A spotted tabby has bands of spots instead of rings as compared to a mackerel tabby. American bobtails are good examples of this pattern.

A ticked tabby usually doesn’t demonstrate patterns in their bodies, except their feet. But once you give their furs a closer look, you’ll see the strands have different bands of colors. This is known as the Agouti hair. (Source: Spruce Pets)

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