Types Of Tabby Cats - Breeds, Colors, Patterns (2023)

Tabby cats are the most common domestic cat on the planet, but how much do you know about these everyday cats? They are easy to overlook – there are so many of them – but in truth, there is a huge variety of types of tabby cats, breeds, colors, and patterns.

Table Of Contents

  1. What Is A Tabby Cat
  2. What Does A Tabby Cat Look Like
  3. Types Of Tabby Cats
    • Tabby Patterns
    • Classic Tabby
    • Spotted Tabby
    • Mackerel Tabby or Striped Tabby
    • Ticked Tabby
    • Red Tabby
  4. Other Types Of Tabby Cat
    • Calico Tabby – Caliby
    • Tortoiseshell Tabby – Torbie or Patched Tabby
    • Silver Tabby Cats
  5. Tabby Cat Colors
  6. Tabby Cat Breeds

Read on to learn about tabby cats and you will never look at one of these cats in the same way again!

What Is A Tabby Cat

Tabby cats are one of the most common types of cats on the planet. It is believed that as many as 70% of the 700 million domestic cats on earth are actually tabby cats! This means there are lots of tabby cats all over the world.

Tabby cats are not a distinct breed of cat. “Tabby” describes the pattern on a cat’s coat. This means that a mixed breed cat can be a tabby cat and a purebred cat like a Persian or a Maine Coon can also be a tabby cat.

You can get long-haired tabby cats and short-haired versions – so long as they have the pattern they are a tabby.

(Video) Tabby Cat Common Patterns and Colors

Torties and calico cats are also cats that are described according to their coat pattern rather than being a breed of cat. Tortoiseshell cats and calico cats are female 99% of the time. Tabby cats can be male or female.

Types Of Tabby Cats - Breeds, Colors, Patterns (1)

What Does A Tabby Cat Look Like

There are several different types of these cats with different colors and versions of tabby coat patterns, but if you have to quickly identify a tabby cat there are some good rules of thumb that tend to apply to all tabbies.

The most obvious identifying feature is an “M” fur marking on their forehead with dark lines of hair that run over the top of their head.

Every tabby has this mark and it has given rise to some interesting stories. In the Christian tradition, some say the mark was put on the cat as a blessing by Mary after a cat kept the baby Jesus warm in a crib. In the Islamic tradition, the “M” is thought to mark the cat as the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBH) favorite animal after a tabby cat defeated a snake that was causing danger to the prophet.

Types Of Tabby Cats - Breeds, Colors, Patterns (2)

The next potential giveaway to look for is a ringed tail. The tip of the tail will have darker fur and then there will be rings of lighter and darker fur along the length of the tail – a sure sign of a tabby cat!

If you need even more confirmation then look for markings on the cat’s legs. Tabby cats tend to have rings or stripes of dark fur around their legs. The ring marks may not be along the full length of the leg, but so long as some rings of dark fur are on their legs they are highly likely to be a tabby cat.

Types Of Tabby Cats

You might be surprised to know that these cats are actually quite varied. They can vary in color, pattern, and type – as well as by breed. They are broadly recognized as having five main patterns, but then there are also several different types of tabby. Let’s check them out here :

Tabby Patterns

Beyond the identification marks on the head, legs, and tail, you can spot a tabby by the markings on their body, but these markings can vary in shape and pattern. There are five main patterns to look out for.

Classic Tabby

Types Of Tabby Cats - Breeds, Colors, Patterns (3)

The classic tabby is the most common pattern type, hence the “classic” moniker. Classic tabby cats have dark markings over a lighter body color.

The dark markings are usually patches, swirls, whorls, and marbling patterns – they look like they are wearing a dark camo pattern.

(Video) 10 TABBY CAT BREEDS 🐯 Cats with Striped Coats

Spotted Tabby

Types Of Tabby Cats - Breeds, Colors, Patterns (4)

The spotted tabby has the usual “M”, tail and leg stripes but then has a coat that is characterized by dark spots over a lighter background along the flank of the cat. The Egyptian Mau cat is a famous variety of spotted tabby.

Mackerel Tabby or Striped Tabby

Types Of Tabby Cats - Breeds, Colors, Patterns (5)

The mackerel tabby is identified by dark markings that consist of a dark strip of hair along the backbone with dark stripes that emanate from the backbone stripe down the flanks of the cat.

They are called mackerel cats because when viewed from above their pattern looks like that of a fish skeleton. The most recognizable mackerel stripe pattern in the cat world is actually the tiger – so if you see a tabby with tiger stripes you know you are looking at a mackerel tabby cat.

Ticked Tabby

Types Of Tabby Cats - Breeds, Colors, Patterns (6)

Ticked tabby cats are slightly easier to identify than the other tabby patterns in so much as there is barely any body pattern!

Often ticked tabbies will have a body coat that looks fairly even in color and fairly unmarked but when inspected at close quarters you will see an even distribution of dark markings over the body – almost like a speckling of markings.

Like other tabbies, ticked cats have the “M”, leg, and tail markings – so if you see a tabby with these marks but barely any distinct body marks you are probably looking at a ticked tabby cat.

Red Tabby

Types Of Tabby Cats - Breeds, Colors, Patterns (7)

Perhaps the most distinctive of all tabby cats is the red tabby or orange tabby cat. These fall into their own pattern. Basically, cats have two primary colors from which all other shades come – black and red.

Cats with black as the primary color can be diluted to shades of brown and grey, but red cats can never be black cats or brown cats, so red tabby cats are distinct – they can have a classic or mackerel pattern but the orange color of the hair puts them all in a group of their own.

Other Types Of Tabby Cat

Whilst there are five recognized tabby patterns there are also cats with tabby markings that are not quite the full tabby! Check out some of these distinctive types of tabby cat variants.

Calico Tabby – Caliby

Types Of Tabby Cats - Breeds, Colors, Patterns (8)

The calico tabby cat is a calico cat that has tabby markings on its color patches.

(Video) Feline Colours and Patterns - Variations!

Calico cats are female cats that have two colors, red and black, on a coat that is between 25 and 75% white. This means they look like a white cat with patches of red and black hair, or if they have a dilution gene, cream, and grey hair.

Your standard calico cat will have patches of solid color, but sometimes those patches of color will have tabby markings displaying. These cats are caliby cats or calico tabby mix cats. The cat will have a white body but the red patches might be striped and the black patches might have faint spotting marks! This is a caliby cat.

Like traditional tabby cats, they will often display the forehead “M” mark.

Tortoiseshell Tabby – Torbie or Patched Tabby

Types Of Tabby Cats - Breeds, Colors, Patterns (9)

A tortie cat is very similar to a calico cat except it usually has a coat with less than 25% in white and the remainder in red and black – basically a darker version of a calico.

Like a calico, a tortie can inherit the tabby agouti gene which can result in its orange and black patches being distributed with tabby patterns or actually making up a tabby pattern. So, you might have a tortie with orange patches that are striped like a tabby, but dark black patches. Or, you might have a tortie with a black coat that has red spots.

These cats are tortoiseshell tabby cats or torbie cats. Again, they will exhibit the forehead “M” mark so they are relatively easy to identify.

Silver Tabby Cats

Silver tabby cats are not grey tabby cats – they are not even black and grey tabby cats. Silver tabby cats can be any color or pattern of tabby cat so long as the hairs on the lighter areas of the coat are white at the skin. Most tabby cats have hairs that have color at the skin so silver cats are easy to identify by parting the fur and inspecting the color at the skin.

When the hairs are white at the skin it gives the lighter area of the coat a distinctive sheen hence the silvering. In cats that are solid color, hairs that are white at the skin give a similar sheen but in these cases, the cat’s coat is described as “smoke” rather than silver.

Tabby Cat Colors

What color is my tabby cat? It can be hard to tell because most tabby cats have a multitude of colors but here is an easy way to classify the color of your cat.

First, identify the dark color hair that makes up the markings. The best way to do this is to look at the color of the hair on the darkest hairs at the tip of the tail. Then look at the agouti hairs that make up the lighter body color of the cat’s coat. The agouti hairs are lighter in color because they are not a solid color – they are single hairs made up of bands of color and colorless areas.

(Video) Happy Tails - Cat Coat Patterns

Types Of Tabby Cats - Breeds, Colors, Patterns (10)

A cat with dark black hair on the tip of the tail and markings and brown or grey hairs on the lighter areas is officially called a brown tabby cat.

Some people call a cat with grey stripes on an even lighter grey or buff background a grey tabby cat but they are officially called blue tabby cats.

A cat with orange or red stripes over a cream body is a red tabby cat. Whilst a cat with cream stripes over an even lighter shade of body is called a cream tabby cat.

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Silver tabbies will have a darker set of stripes over a lighter body but the body hairs will be white at the skin. Silver cats can be blue, red, or cream silver tabbies.

If your kitten is tabby but has white patches to the chest or white paws it would normally be called something like a “brown tabby and white”. If your cat is mainly white with tabby patches then it would be called a “harlequin” cat. If the cat is white but with tabby markings on the head and tail it is called a “van” cat.

Tabby Cat Breeds

The majority of tabby cats are not purebred – they are domestic longhair and domestic shorthair cats – cats of mixed heritage. This often means that tabby cats are amongst the healthiest cats out there, they tend not to suffer from genetic health issues and the tabby cat lifespan can be long.

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But, if you want a cat with a particular set of characteristics like size, intelligence, or length of coat then choosing a tabby from a specific breed is often the easiest way to get a tabby cat with specific qualities.

These breeds are some of the most popular breeds which offer a purebred tabby option :

Maine CoonPersian CatBritish Shorthair
British LonghairSingapuraManx
American ShorthairNorwegian Forest CatEgyptian Mau
American BobtailAmerican CurlOriental Cat
Scottish FoldThai CatOcicat
European ShorthairBengal Cat
Types Of Tabby Cats - Breeds, Colors, Patterns (13)

The beauty of these breeds is that you can find longhair tabby cats in the Persian or British Longhair breeds, if you like big cats then a Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest Cat might be interesting, if you want a cat with spots then the Egyptian Mau might be for you or if you want a very small ticked cat then a Singapura would be ideal – basically you get a great choice of tabbies with distinct characteristics. Ideal for people who want a cat that will stand out from the crowd!


How many patterns are there with the tabby colour? ›

Tabbies are recognised in 4 patterns: classic(blotched), mackerel, spotted and ticked. A scarab or "M" on the forehead. Unbroken stripes running back from the outer corner of the eyes to meet a broken line running from the corners of the mouth and narrow penciling on the cheeks and around the eyes and nose.

What are the 4 types of tabby cats? ›

Tabby cat coats aren't just one pattern.

There are actually four basic tabby cat coat patterns: mackerel, ticked, spotted, and classic, which is also referred to as marbled. The mackerel pattern is the most commonly occurring one, and is the pattern most people think of when they think of tabby cats.

What are tabby patterns? ›

“Tabby” is not a breed but a coat pattern in cats. Its appearance can vary slightly from stripes to whorls, spots, and more. These variations all have their own names, but often an “M” shaped marking appears on the head of Tabby cats, just above the eyes.

What colors can tabby cats be? ›

These cats are affectionately known as "torbies" if they have tabby and tortoiseshell colors and "tabicos" or "calibies" for a mix of tabby and calico patterns. Some other patched tabbies are blue, brown, or silver tabbies with patches of red or cream on their fur.

What is the most common tabby pattern? ›

Tabby Coat Colors

Distinct color patterns with one color predominating. Black stripes ranging from coal black to brownish on a background of brown to gray. Brown mackeral tabbies are the most common.

What are the color patterns of cats? ›

There are six varieties of cat fur patterns. These are Tabby, Solid, Bicolor, Tricolor, Tortoiseshell, and Colorpoint. These various markings arise from the cat's genetics, and the results can be stunning.

How do I know what breed my tabby cat is? ›

To tell what breed your cat is with absolute certainty, you need a cat DNA test. These kits use your kitty's DNA (obtained through a cheek swab) to decode his genetics and give you in-depth information on his lineage.

How can I tell what kind of tabby cat I have? ›

Check the color. Typical tabby cats have black stripes over an otherwise brown coat. Other color variations do occur, but these typically have the qualifying color added before the word tabby, such as a ginger or red tabby (shades of orange and white) or a blue tabby (gray and white).

What is a rainbow tabby cat? ›

The Rainbow Cat is a kind of Special cat that is rare and thus not commonly found. The rainbow cat has a color-shifting rainbow effect instead of a solid color. You can see the Rainbow Cat with a Kitten Lure here. It also can be hacked. The background and cat both cycle through the color spectrum.

Why do tabby cats have patterns? ›

Geneticists recently discovered a gene in domesticated cats that triggers changes in fetal cat development, resulting in those trademark feline tabby stripes. The gene, Dkk4, produces a “pre-pattern” of thick and thin skin on the developing cat embryo that ends up mapping the pattern of stripes on the cat's fur later.

Is tabby pattern dominant? ›

Solid white is a masking gene and is dominant to all other colours; black (or seal) are dominant to chocolate or cinnamon; tabby (agouti) is dominant to self or solid (non-agouti); shorthair is dominant to longhair, to mention just a few.

Do all cats have a tabby pattern? ›

All cats have a tabby pattern!

In fact, there are different genes at play in tabby cats: one that determines if the cat is agouti or solid, and others that determine the tabby pattern of the cat. This means that all cats have tabby patterns but this tabby pattern is masked if the cat is solid.

What is the rarest tabby cat colour? ›

Lavender is considered the rarest of all the cat color patterns, and therefore lavender colored tabby cats are really hard to come by. Of all the cat breeds, you will mostly find the lavender color in Siamese and Colorpoint Shorthair cats.

What is a butterfly tabby cat? ›

Classic tabbies each have a light-coloured "butterfly" pattern on the shoulders and three thin stripes (the center stripe being darkest) running along the spine. The legs, tail, and cheeks of a classic tabby have thick stripes, bands, and/or bars. The gene responsible for the coloring of a classic tabby is recessive.

What is the rarest tabby cat in tabby cat? ›

Legendary Cat

This is the rarest cat. It can only be obtained by modifiers the luckiest of Tabby Cat users.

What is a ghost tabby? ›

A ghost tabby is a genetically solid (aka not tabby) smoke cat who still shows faint tabby markings. Ghost tabby may also apply to young kittens, who often show ghost markings when they're younger even though they aren't smoke.

What is mackerel tabby pattern? ›

Mackerel tabby cat

Striped, a.k.a.“mackerel,” is the most common tabby pattern. Narrow stripes run parallel on the cat's body coat, sometimes gently curving, other times breaking up into bars and spots. Sometimes referred to as “tiger” cats, mackerel tabbies also feature an “M” shape on the center of the forehead.

What is the rarest cat pattern? ›

The albino cat is the rarest color pattern of all. To get an albino cat, you need parent cats with two recessive genes and the offspring must receive both.

What is the most common cat color pattern? ›

Tabby: The most common pattern seen in domestic cats.

There are 4 types of Tabby patterns as well as variations i) Striped: The cat has vertical stripes along its entire body including the tail.

What are different cat patterns called? ›

There are six varieties of patterns, which are combinations of colours: Tabby, Solid, Tortoise, Colourpoint, Tricolour and Bicolour.

What breed is a ginger tabby? ›

Ginger cats are not a specific breed, but rather refers to the colour of their fur. In fact, all ginger cats are tabbies. But not all tabbies are gingers. Tabbies are also not a specific breed, but a coat type.

How many tabby breeds are there? ›

A tabby cat is not a breed; it's actually a coat pattern and there are five different types of tabby cats.

What breed is my orange tabby cat? ›

Whether you call them orange, red, ginger or marmalade tabbies, orange tabby cats are not a specific breed of cat, rather it is referring to their fur color. Orange tabbies can be many different breeds, from Persian and Maine Coon to your standard Domestic Short Hair!

What does a tortoiseshell tabby look like? ›

Tortoiseshell cats aren't a specific breed.

The pattern combines two colors — and never white — and is typically described as ginger-red and black. The “red” patches can sometimes be cream, orange, yellow, or gold, and the “black” can sometimes be gray, chocolate, or tabby.

What does the M on a cats forehead mean? ›

In gratitude, his mother Mary stroked the cat's head and left an 'M' mark on its forehead. Whereas in one Islamic legend, a tabby cat named Muezza saved his master Mohammed from a poisonous snake. To mark their special place in the feline world, all tabby cats from then on were rewarded with an 'M' on their forehead.

Do all tabbies have an M on their forehead? ›

Most all tabbies have a distinctive “M” on their foreheads, and there are a couple of legends that describe the origin of the mark. The first legend comes from the ancient Egyptians. Cats were called Mau, most likely because of the sound they make. The word “Mau” also translated to seeing, or light.

How do you get the flower crown tabby cat? ›

To get it, use Chomusuke, Elly3, or any mods by TheSwiftPhantom from the hacks page, or attempt to modify the extension yourself to get it (This is very hard to do.). You can still find the Flower Crown in the files, and it is still a registered hat in the code.

How many cat patterns are there? ›

There are six varieties of patterns, which are combinations of colours: Tabby, Solid, Tortoise, Colourpoint, Tricolour and Bicolour.

What is the rarest tabby cat Colour? ›

Lavender is considered the rarest of all the cat color patterns, and therefore lavender colored tabby cats are really hard to come by. Of all the cat breeds, you will mostly find the lavender color in Siamese and Colorpoint Shorthair cats.

What is the rarest tabby color? ›

Rosette pattern. The rosette pattern is also known as the spotted tabby pattern, and it is determined by the agouti gene. This is a rarer variant of the pattern, and it is commonly observed among Bengals, Serengetis, Egyptian Maus, Arabian Maus, Maine Coons and other breeds.

What is the rarest tabby cat game? ›

Legendary Cat

This is the rarest cat. It can only be obtained by modifiers the luckiest of Tabby Cat users.

What are cats with patterns called? ›

A tabby is any domestic cat (Felis catus) with a distinctive 'M'-shaped marking on its forehead; stripes by its eyes and across its cheeks, along its back, and around its legs and tail; and (differing by tabby type), characteristic striped, dotted, lined, flecked, banded, or swirled patterns on the body—neck, shoulders ...

What does the M mean on a tabby cat? ›

Mohammed and Muezza

The final story as to why tabby cats have an “M” on their forehead comes from the religion of Islam. In this legend, Mohammad (the founder of Islam) had a tabby cat named Muezza.

What is a grey tabby called? ›

American Shorthair

Though American shorthairs can be a vast array of colors and patterns, gray tabby cats are one of the most popular. This all-American breed can be traced back to the Mayflower and other working cats who came to the New World with European settlers.

How many types of tabby cats are there? ›

A tabby cat is not a breed; it's actually a coat pattern and there are five different types of tabby cats.

What is the difference between an orange tabby and a ginger tabby? ›

Tabby cats are, simply put, cats with stripes of white and some other color. Orange tabbies, also called red or ginger, are white with any shade of orange, from the palest cream to the deepest red.

What is the 2 rarest cat? ›

2. Devon Rex. The Devon Rex cat earned its name from its place of origin, Devonshire, in the United Kingdom. “The Devon Rex is a breed of unique appearance.

What are most tabby cats? ›

The most familiar tabby coats are black, but there are variations in the pigment, resulting in black, orange, and gray tabbies. Interestingly, orange tabby cats are usually male (about 20-25% of orange tabby cats are female).


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