Stripes, Spots & Swirls

Tabby is the most common pattern for cats’ coats. The gene for the tabby pattern can be found in all domestic cats (look at a black cat in the sun, and you may see hidden tabby markings). A tabby cat refers to a cat who has a pattern of stripes, swirls, spots, or blotches of colors. They can be various shades of brown, grey, or ginger with darker stripes or patterns. It is believed the name tabby comes from a type of striped silk called Atabi, which was made in Attabiah in the Middle East.

All tabbies have thin lines on their faces, expressive markings around the eyes, and a distinct letter “M” on their foreheads. If your tabby sheds, you will notice that individual hairs have dark roots. These are called agouti hairs and have alternating light and dark segments.

These similarities don’t mean all tabbies are the same. There is a wide variety of patterns and colors within tabbies. The four main patterns are mackerel, classic/blotched, spotted, and ticked.  

Mackerel tabbies have stripes of dark fur running vertically along their bodies. These stripes can be uninterrupted or divided up along the stomach and flanks. Mackerel tabbies are also referred to as fishbone tabbies and are the most common type of tabby cat.

Blotched tabbies, also referred to as classic or marbled, have a combination of circles, swirls, and stripes on their bodies.

Ticked tabbies have a gradient of color in each fur follicle, with a lighter shade at the base and a darker color at the tip. Their body may not look patterned, but they have distinct tabby markings on their faces and legs.

Spotted tabbies, as the name suggests, have spots on their sides and backs. The number, size, and spacing of these spots vary.

When it comes to the tabby cat’s personality, many owners think there is something special about a tabby. Some believe tabbies are the most outgoing cat of all, playing and exploring like no other. Others think their tabby cat shows higher intelligence than other cats.

If you are in search of a mouser, a tabby may be your best friend. Tabbies are hunters by nature, which may be a benefit of their tabby patterns assisting to camouflage when hiding in tall grass or brush hunting for prey. Tigers and leopards both have tabby patterns. 

All this information is shared to encourage people to adopt a tabby cat! We have so many grey tabby kittens and young cats who are waiting for their forever homes. Stop by the shelter and visit Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

 Second Chance Humane Society’s Animal Resource Center and Shops have served San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties since 1994. Adoption hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 pm. View our shelter pets and services online: