Tabby portraitPortrait of a Tabby Cat

Tabby cats aren't a breed. The word "tabby" refers to a color pattern that may occur in almost any type of domestic cat. 

The word "tabby" describes a color pattern of stripes, swirls or dots in grey, brown, buff or orange tones. 

"Tabby" is also sometimes used as a generic term for any cat, just as "hound" is sometimes used to describe any dog.

The term "tiger cat" is also used to describe striped tabby cats.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, "tabby" referred to a female cat, and "tabby" specifically referred to a female cat belonging to a witch.

Witches cats were called "familiars" in those days, and were believed to be either a reincarnated human, a human who fell victim to a spell, or a cat possessed by a demon or human soul.

The tabby color was originally considered to be the witches cat color of choice, not a black colored cat as might be assumed.

In any incarnation tabbies were assumed to have magical powers, and -of course- nine lives.



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Orange Tabby CatGorgeous Orange Tabby

Owners of tabby cats believe that there is more than just the color of their cat that is special.

These beautiful cats tend to be quite "cat-like", occasionally aloof, but more often mysterious, whimsical and even a little magical!

The tabby pattern may occur among any number of breeds of purebred cats, and of course, among mixed breeds and un-registered house cats as well.

The tabby color does appear in some particular breeds quite often, though. So, if you love the color pattern, and want to have some idea of the likely size, temperament, and genetic tendencies your new kitten may have, consider these:

The Manx cat, the Scottish Fold cat, the American short hair British short hair, Oriental short hair cat, Siberian cat, Exotic short hair cat, and the Persian cat.

Even exotic breeds like the LaPerm cat, Munchkin cat, American curl, the Sphynx cat and the Devon rex and Cornish rex cats have tabby colored individuals on a regular basis.

So with a little effort, you could find a cat that is not only a perfect fit for you, but also your favorite color!

assorted Tabby CatsAssorted Tabby Cats
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Tuxedo KittenTabby Kittens!

Tabby kittens tend to be very active , busy and adventurous.

They may be a handful to corral and a little head-strong. They may put themselves in precarious situations until they learn their limitations.

Kitten-proofing is definitely recommended for anyone considering adopting or purchasing any kitten. High furniture should be off limits, caution should be taken when holding these wriggly little youngsters, particularly when carrying them across hard wood or tile floors, and spaces under counters and doors should be blocked off as they have a very strong urge to explore.

In appearance, the Tabby kitten is basically a miniature adult, although sometimes tabby kittens are born without their stripes and swirls and the tabby coloring appears slowly over the first few weeks of life.

They tend to grow at an average rate and reach mature height at about 6 months, filling out and maturing to full size and weight at about one year old.

The color can be found in any of dozens of pure-bred cats so there are many to choose from, and tabby kittens are regularly available for adoption at local shelters..


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cat tales red tabby

Tabby cats come in red brown or grey colors and in four distinct coat patterns: Classic, Mackerel, Spotted, and Ticked  The coat may be fully striped as on the red tabby to the left, or may have white points like the sincere looking kitty on the right.

You may also find the tabby patterns as part of a completely different coat color. "Tabby point" Siamese cats hatabby point Siamese catve the typical solid buff siamese coloring on the body, with tabby coloring on their extremities instead of the solid points like this blue eyed kitten...

The Classic tabby pattern is also called "marbled". These cats are not so much striped as swirled, often with a circular "bullseye" design on each side. Classic tabbies marble or classic tabby catusually have three stripes running down the back, and thin dark stripes on the legs and tail. All tabby cats have a series of distinctive dark stripes on the forehead that usually form the letter "M"  like this little guy...

Mackerel tabby cat
Named after the common mackerel fish the Mackerel tabby has narrow vertical stripes sometimes broken into spots or dashes.
Mackerel tabbies always have the "M" shape in the middle of the forehead. The legs and tail have thin dark stripes, and there are usually distinctive dark "eyeliner" type stripes on the this stretching kitty ...

ticked tabby

The Ticked tabby has less defined markings with muted stripes, dots and swirls. Many of the hairs are banded with color in an aguti pattern which lends to a soft, pastel look.. like so...

The spotted tabby may have the color pattern of either the classic or the Mackerel, but the stripes are broken into a series of spots or dashes,  like this guy....  

spotted tabby pattern
           And finally, a calico cat with tabby patches is called a calibycaliby, and a tortoiseshell cat with tabby patches is called a torbietorbie. These coat varieties are called "patched" tabbies.       

Tuxedo CatsTabby Cat Coat Patterns


Streetwise Tabby CatStreetwise Tabby Cat
  • A cat must have stripes, swirls or dots on a brown grey or red tone to be a "tabby"
  • "Morris the Cat" was a very famous tabby cat who starred in cat food commercials for decades
  • The word "tabby" is sometimes used as a generic term for any cat, like "hound" may be used to describe any dog
  • Tabbies are the favorite cats of witches!
  • Tabby cats are usually very "cat-like" in personality.
  • Garfield is probably the most famous tabby of all- he also might be considered a "tiger cat"
  • "Tiger cats" are tabby cats with stripes.

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