Are tabby cats a specific breed?

Tabby cats are often seen as one of the most common and recognizable cat coat patterns. Their distinctive markings and striped fur make them stand out from the rest. But have you ever wondered if tabby cats are a specific breed in their own right? In this article, we’ll explore the question of whether tabby cats belong to a particular breed or if they are simply a unique coat pattern found in various breeds. Join us as we uncover the truth about these charming and lovable felines.

Are tabby cats a specific breed?

What is a tabby cat?

Tabby cats are not actually a specific breed of cat, but rather a coat pattern that can be found in various cat breeds. The term “tabby” refers to the distinctive markings on a cat’s coat, which can vary in color and pattern. Tabby cats can have a wide range of coat colors, including brown, gray, cream, and orange, and their patterns can range from classic tabby, with bold swirls and stripes, to mackerel tabby, with thin, parallel stripes. Tabbies are known for their unique and iconic look, which adds to their charm and popularity among cat lovers.

Physical characteristics

In terms of physical characteristics, tabby cats generally have a medium to large build, with a well-muscled body and a strong bone structure. They typically have a round face with expressive eyes that can come in various colors, including green, gold, and amber. Their ears are usually medium to large in size, with pointed tips. Tabbies often have a strong jawline and a straight nose, giving them a regal and elegant appearance.

Coat patterns

What distinguishes tabby cats from other coat patterns is their distinct markings. The most common tabby pattern is the classic tabby, which features bold, swirling patterns on the body and a distinctive “M” shape on the forehead. Another common pattern is the mackerel tabby, which has thin, parallel stripes running along the cat’s body. Other tabby patterns include spotted tabby, ticked tabby, and patched tabby. Each pattern is unique and adds to the individuality and beauty of tabby cats.

Different tabby cat breeds

While tabby cats can be found in various breeds, there are a few breeds that are particularly known for their tabby coat patterns. These breeds have long been recognized and appreciated for their unique tabby markings and have developed a strong following among cat enthusiasts.

Maine Coon

The Maine Coon is a large and majestic breed known for its fluffy coat and impressive size. It is no surprise that this breed can also come in tabby patterns. Maine Coon tabbies often have a classic tabby pattern with large swirls and bold markings. Their thick, tufted ears and bushy tails beautifully complement their tabby coats, making them even more stunning.

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American Shorthair

The American Shorthair is a versatile and adaptable breed that comes in a wide range of coat patterns, including tabby. These tabby cats often exhibit the classic tabby pattern with distinct swirls and markings on their bodies. American Shorthair tabbies are known for their friendly and easygoing personalities, making them a popular choice for households looking for a laid-back and affectionate companion.


The Bengal breed is a unique and exotic breed that can also have tabby markings. Bengal tabbies are renowned for their striking beauty, which combines the wild appearance of a leopard with the domesticated nature of a house cat. Their tabby coats often feature a more intricate pattern, with spots and rosettes that resemble the markings of a wild cat. Bengal tabbies are highly energetic and intelligent, requiring lots of mental and physical stimulation.

Tabby cats and genetics

As mentioned earlier, tabby cats are not a specific breed but rather a coat pattern that can be found in various cat breeds. The tabby pattern is influenced by genetics and can be inherited from one generation to another.

Tabby gene inheritance

The gene responsible for the tabby coat pattern is known as the “agouti gene.” This gene determines the distribution and variation of pigment in a cat’s fur, resulting in the distinct markings seen in tabby cats. The agouti gene can be passed down from both the mother and father cats, resulting in a variety of tabby patterns in the offspring.

Tabby coat variations

There are different variations of tabby coats that can be found within the tabby cat population. In addition to the classic tabby and mackerel tabby patterns, there are also spotted tabbies, which have small or large spots on their bodies, and ticked tabbies, which have agouti hairs evenly distributed throughout their coat. These variations occur due to different combinations of the agouti gene and other genetic factors, resulting in an array of beautiful and unique tabby cats.

Tabbies in different cat associations

Tabby cats are well-represented in various cat associations around the world. These associations help recognize and organize different cat breeds, including those with tabby coat patterns. Here are a few notable cat associations that acknowledge and celebrate tabbies:


The International Cat Association (TICA) is one of the largest cat registries in the world and recognizes a wide range of cat breeds, including tabbies. TICA provides a platform for cat owners and breeders to showcase their tabbies’ unique characteristics and participate in cat shows and competitions.


The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) is another prominent cat registry that promotes the welfare and preservation of purebred cats. CFA recognizes many cat breeds, including those with tabby coat patterns. This association provides a standard for judging and classifying tabby cats based on their breed standards, ensuring that they are evaluated fairly and accurately.

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The Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) is a European-based cat federation that represents and regulates various cat breeds across different countries. FIFe recognizes and evaluates tabby cats based on their breed standards, ensuring that they maintain their unique qualities and adhere to the organization’s regulations.

Are tabby cats a specific breed?

Misconceptions about tabby cats

Despite their popularity, tabby cats are often subject to several misconceptions. These misconceptions can lead to misunderstandings and stereotypes about these unique and beautiful felines. Let’s address some of the most common misconceptions surrounding tabby cats:

All tabbies look the same

One common misconception is that all tabby cats look the same. While tabbies share a common coat pattern, the actual appearance and characteristics can vary greatly. From the size and shape of their markings to the depth and richness of their coat colors, each tabby cat is unique and has its own individual beauty.

Tabbies are mixed breeds

Another misconception is that tabbies are mixed breeds or mutts. As mentioned earlier, tabby cats can be found in various breeds, including some with long and distinguished lineages. The presence of the tabby coat pattern does not necessarily indicate mixed breeding, but rather the inheritance of the agouti gene from their ancestors.

Tabbies are less desirable

Some individuals may mistakenly view tabbies as less desirable compared to cats with solid coat colors or more exotic patterns. In reality, tabby cats are highly sought after and beloved by many cat owners. Their unique and striking coat patterns, combined with their friendly and affectionate personalities, make them highly desirable companions.

Breeding tabby cats

Breeders who specialize in tabby cats often focus on selectively breeding for specific traits, including coat patterns, body structure, and temperament. The goal is to produce kittens that adhere to the breed standards and possess the desired characteristics that make tabbies so captivating.

Selective breeding for specific traits

Selective breeding involves choosing parent cats with desirable traits and mating them to produce offspring with those same traits. In the case of breeding tabby cats, breeders may select cats with specific tabby coat patterns, such as classic or mackerel, to ensure the consistency of the pattern in future generations. They may also consider other factors, such as temperament and health, to produce well-rounded and healthy kittens.

Ethical breeding practices

Responsible and ethical breeders prioritize the health and welfare of their cats above all else. They ensure that their breeding cats are in good health, receive proper veterinary care, and have suitable living conditions. Ethical breeders also follow guidelines set by reputable cat associations, such as TICA and CFA, to ensure the preservation and improvement of the tabby breed.

Popularity and recognition

Tabby cats have gained immense popularity among cat lovers worldwide. Their unique coat patterns and endearing personalities have endeared them to many households as beloved pets.

Tabbies as pets

Tabby cats make wonderful pets due to their friendly and outgoing nature. They often have sociable personalities, enjoying the company of their human family members and getting along well with other pets. Tabbies are known for their playfulness and affectionate nature, making them delightful companions for individuals and families alike.

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Famous tabby cats

Throughout history, tabby cats have captured the hearts of many and have even achieved fame and recognition. One notable example is the famous orange tabby named Garfield, a fictional character known for his humorous and mischievous personality. Garfield has become an iconic representation of the lovable and lazy domestic cat, further enhancing the popularity and recognition of tabby cats.

Recent trends in tabby cat breeds

In recent years, there have been some interesting trends in tabby cat breeds. These trends have given rise to new and unique variations of tabby cats that have captured the attention of cat enthusiasts.

Designer tabby breeds

Designer tabby breeds have emerged as a result of intentional hybridization and selective breeding. These breeds aim to create cats with specific coat patterns or traits that cat lovers find appealing. Examples of designer tabby breeds include the Toyger, which has been bred to resemble a miniature tiger, and the Serengeti, which combines the look of a leopard with the sociable nature of a domestic cat.

Hybrid tabbies

Hybrid tabbies are the result of crossbreeding between domestic cats and wild feline species. These hybrids often exhibit more exotic tabby patterns, resembling their wild ancestors. Hybrids such as the Chausie and the Bengal are known for their striking tabby coats and energetic personalities. It is important to note that hybrid tabbies may require specific care and living conditions to ensure their happiness and well-being.

Rescue and adoption of tabby cats

Tabby cats, like any other cat, can be found in shelters and rescue organizations in need of loving homes. Adopting a tabby cat can be a rewarding experience and a meaningful way to provide a second chance to a deserving feline companion.

Tabby cats in shelters

Tabby cats often populate shelters due to various circumstances, including being stray or abandoned. These cats may include both mixed-breed tabbies and pedigreed tabbies who have ended up in rescue organizations through unfortunate circumstances. Shelters and rescue groups strive to find loving homes for these tabby cats, giving them the opportunity for a brighter future.

Adopting a tabby cat

Adopting a tabby cat requires careful consideration and preparation to ensure a smooth transition and a happy life for both the cat and the adopter. Potential adopters should consider factors such as their lifestyle, living situation, and ability to provide proper care and attention to a new furry family member. It is essential to visit local shelters, rescue organizations, and reputable breeders to find the perfect tabby cat that aligns with one’s preferences and desires.


Tabby cats may not represent a specific breed, but their distinct coat patterns have captivated cat lovers around the world. From classic tabbies to mackerel tabbies and everything in between, these felines showcase the beauty and variety that can be found within the tabby pattern. Whether adopted or acquired from reputable breeders, tabby cats bring joy, companionship, and a touch of uniqueness to every home fortunate enough to have them. Embrace the enchantment and charm of tabby cats, and you’ll find a loyal and loving friend for life.