Tabby Cats: Types, Patterns, Colors

Mar 13, 2024 | Cats & Kittens | 0 comments

Written by: Alex Ramsey. Explore our editorial process.

Tabby cats, with their distinctive markings and warm personalities, are a favorite among cat lovers. These felines are not a specific breed but exhibit a common coat pattern across many cat breeds. Here’s a dive into the intriguing world of tabby cats, exploring their patterns, colors, and the science behind their beautiful coats.

1. Classic Tabby

The classic tabby pattern, “blotched” or “marbled,” features swirling patterns on the cat’s sides resembling a marble cake. These swirls often form a pattern resembling a bullseye on the cat’s flank. Compared to other tabby patterns, the classic tabby has a more random, less striped pattern.

american shorthair cat breed picture


  • American Shorthair: Known for its robust health and friendly nature, it often sports a classic tabby pattern.
  • British Shorthair: This breed can also exhibit a beautifully marbled classic tabby pattern, especially in blue or silver.

2. Mackerel Tabby

The mackerel tabby pattern is characterized by narrow stripes that run parallel down the cat’s sides. This pattern resembles the skeleton of a mackerel fish, hence the name. These stripes are often continuous and may branch or break into bars and spots on the cat’s flanks.

Egyptian Mau cat breed


  • Egyptian Mau: One of the few naturally spotted breeds, the Egyptian Mau can display a mackerel pattern within its spots.
  • Maine Coon: This large, friendly breed often shows a mackerel tabby pattern, among others.

3. Spotted Tabby

Spotted tabbies have spots all over their bodies, which can vary in size and shape. The spots can be large or small, round, oval, or rosettes. Some spotted tabbies might have stripes on their extremities, like legs and tail, with spots on the body, making them look like a blend of mackerel and spotted patterns.

Bengal Cat Breed picture


  • Bengal: Renowned for its wild, exotic look, the cat has prominent spotted patterns that mimic those of wild leopards.
  • Ocicat: Designed to resemble a wild cat, it has a distinctly spotted coat, though it does not have wild cat DNA.

4. Ticked Tabby

The ticked tabby pattern is distinguished by agouti hairs, with individual hairs striped with alternating light and dark bands. This pattern gives the cat an overall sandy or agouti appearance without the traditional stripes or spots on the body. However, ticked tabbies may still show tabby markings on their face, legs, and tail.

singapura cat


  • Abyssinian: Famous for its “ticked” fur, its coat gives it a unique, wild look reminiscent of the coats of cougars.
  • Singapura: One of the smallest cat breeds, the Singapura also has a ticked coat, giving it a distinctively refined appearance.

5. Tortoiseshell

Tortoiseshell cats, also known as “torties,” are not strictly a tabby pattern but often exhibit mixed patterns of orange and black or their dilute forms (cream and blue/grey). They may have patches of tabby patterns, making some tortoiseshells also be considered tabby cats if they show distinct tabby patterning along with their tortoiseshell coloring.



  • American Bobtail: This breed can come in a tortoiseshell pattern with tabby markings, often called a “torbie.”
  • Cornish Rex: Known for its curly coat, it can display a mix of tortoiseshell and tabby patterns.

6. Brown Tabby

Brown tabbies have a base coat of rich, warm brown with black markings. The brown tabby pattern is one of the most common and comes in various shades from warm amber to cool brown. The stripes, swirls, or spots contrast with the base coat, making the pattern quite striking.

Siberian Forest Cat


  • Norwegian Forest Cat: This sturdy breed often comes in a striking brown tabby pattern, among other colors.
  • Siberian: Another breed that commonly exhibits the brown tabby pattern, the Siberian cat has a luxurious, dense coat.

7. Red or Orange Tabby

Red or orange tabbies have a rich, vibrant orange fur base, with patterns in a darker shade of orange or even red. These tabbies are often very bright and eye-catching. The patterns can vary across the classic, mackerel, spotted, and ticked types.

persian cats breed picture


  • Persian: Although Persians come in various colors and patterns, the red or orange tabby pattern is especially striking.
  • Munchkin: Known for its short legs, the cat can also sport vibrant red or orange tabby markings.

8. Silver Tabby

Silver tabbies have a silver or gray base coat with black or dark gray markings. The silver background gives these tabbies a shimmering appearance, especially in sunlight. Like the brown and red tabbies, the silver tabby pattern can appear in any main tabby pattern.

female and male Scottish Fold cats


  • Scottish Fold: This breed can have a beautiful silver tabby pattern, often accentuated by its unique folded ears.
  • American Curl: Known for its distinctive curled-back ears, it can also come in a stunning silver tabby coat.

9. Calico Tabby

Calico tabbies, often called “torbies” for tortoiseshell tabbies, combine the calico pattern with tabby stripes or spots. They typically have large orange, black, and white patches, with parts of the orange and black patches showing the tabby pattern. This combination makes them unique and colorful.

two cats domestic shorthair and longhair tabby


Domestic Shorthair and Longhair: While not a breed per se, domestic cats (both shorthair and longhair) can exhibit the calico tabby pattern, showcasing the diverse genetic makeup of mixed-breed cats.

Each tabby pattern results from specific genetic markers that dictate the distribution and color of the cat’s fur. These patterns are not breed-specific but can occur in many breeds and mixed-breed cats. The diversity in tabby patterns contributes to the feline world’s wide range of beautiful and unique appearances.

The Origin of the Name “Tabby”

The term “tabby” is believed to have originated from Atabi, a striped taffeta fabric from the Attabiah district of Baghdad. This name was chosen because the cats’ coats were patterned, reminiscent of the fabric’s wavy lines.


American paws divider



Do tabby cats have a specific personality associated with their pattern?

While it’s a common myth that cat coat patterns can influence personality, no scientific evidence supports this. Cat personality traits are more closely related to breed and individual experiences than to coat patterns.

Can tabby cats be any color?

Tabby patterns exist across various colors, including brown, grey, orange, and silver. The pattern refers to the markings rather than the color itself, with background and stripe color variations.

Does the tabby pattern affect a cat’s personality?

No, a cat’s coat pattern, including tabby, doesn’t directly affect its personality. Personality traits are more closely related to breed, individual genetic makeup, and environment than fur patterns.

Can tabby cats have blue eyes?

Yes, tabby cats can have blue eyes, especially as kittens. Most kittens are born with blue eyes that change color as they age, but some breeds, like Ojos Azules, can retain blue eyes into adulthood.

How common are female orange tabby cats?

Female orange tabby cats are less common than males due to genetics. Orange fur is linked to the X chromosome, and since females have two X chromosomes, they need two copies of the orange gene to be orange. Males with one X chromosome only need one copy, making orange males more common.

Is it easier to find lost tabby cats due to their unique patterns?

While tabby patterns can help identify and distinguish lost cats, finding a lost pet often depends on microchipping, collars with ID tags, and the efforts made to search for and report the missing animal. Unique markings can help, but they are just one piece of the puzzle in pet recovery.



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