National Tabby Cat Day

Three Minutes
Apr 18, 2022

Tabby Cat History

Analysis of feline DNA may suggest cats lived alongside humans for thousands of years before they were domesticated.  Since rodents were attracted to the agricultural offerings grown by human civilizations, cats likely followed the rodent populations and came in contact with human settlements. 

Another feline lineage may have formed in Egypt, where cats were worshipped and treated like royalty.  

Where Does ‘Tabby’ Come From?

The word “tabby” comes from “Al-Attabiya, a type of fabric made in Baghdad, that was woven into a beautiful, yet irregular, wavy pattern.  Classic, mackerel, spotted, ticked, and patched are the five types of tabby patterns.  Some are so faint that they can only be seen when the wearer of the coat is caught basking in the sunlight. 

The classic tabby pattern (also known as marbled or blotched) consists of thick stripes or spots that swirl into a bullseye on either side of the cat’s body.  Classic tabbies also have a faint “butterfly” pattern on their shoulders with 3 thin stripes running down the spine.

The mackerel tabby pattern (also known as fishbone) is common, and presents as slender vertical stripes, gently curving on the sides of the body. The stripes may be continuous or broken into shorter segments as they reach the flanks and stomach.

Spotted tabbies are thought to result from a gene that breaks up either the mackerel or classic patterns, turning stripes into spots.  The Mau, Maine Coon, Bengal, Savannah and Ocicat breeds are among the tabbies bearing this pattern.

Ticked tabbies have few to zero stripes or bands, but their distinctive pattern is the result of agouti hairs that break up the tabby pattern into a salt-and-pepper or sand-like look.  Agouti is when individual hairs have distinct bands of color.

patched tabby pattern is two-toned, often mixed with tortoiseshell.

The Theory of The Tabby ‘M’ Marking

Regardless of the type of tabby pattern, one thing all tabbies can have in common are 3 or 5 vertical lines that appear in an ‘M’ shape on the forehead, as well as dark lines coming from the corners of their eyes and that may cross the cheeks.  

Regardless of where the ‘M’ came from, most tabbies also appear to have dark eyeliner surrounding their eyes, splotched pigmentation on the lips and paws, and an outlined pink nose.  

No matter the design or breed, a tabby by any other name is just as sweet.  April 30th is a special day for tabbies, National Tabby Awareness Day!  Consider adopting one from your local sheler.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

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