Despite common perception, “Tabby” is not a breed. It’s a physical description, like describing a human as being blonde or brunette. Just as there are many variations of blonde and brunette, so are there many variations of tabby cats. Find out which cat breeds are often tabby in coloring.
Tabby Cat Breeds
Tabbies’ patterns may be swirled like marble, which is called classic coloring. They may be striped like a tiger, called mackerel coloring. They may be spotted, like an Ocelot. They may also have a striation that makes them appear shimmery in the sunlight, and that type of tabby is called "Agouti" or "ticked." Some cats have a Tortoiseshell or Patched type of tabby. Patched tabby can show up as red and brown tabby patches on a single animal. Patched tabby cats are sometimes predominantly dark in color, with lighter patches here and there, as if their batter wasn’t properly mixed.
Tabby cats often have a distinctive M-shaped marking on their foreheads, and the myths and legends around that M-shape are as varied and interesting as cats themselves. Tabbies may come in all shapes and sizes, and many cat breeds include a tabby variation along with solid color variations.
The Abyssinian was bred to be versatile in appearance, and versatile they are. They’re not always tabby, but when they are, the pattern tends to be of the Agouti ticking variety, which gives them an exotic or wild look. In fact, Agouti or ticked tabby is also known by another name: Abyssinian Tabby. Agouti or ticked hair means fur that has several colors in a single strand. This gives cats with the ticked tabby pattern a stunning shimmery look.
The good old fashioned Domestic Shorthair (or DSH) can be the perfect housepet. Because Shorthairs are a very intermixed breed, they have relatively few genetic health problems. Also due to their mixed breeding, you never know what you’ll get in the way of personality. Some Domestic Shorthairs love kids and other pets, some absolutely do not. Some are outgoing and vocal, others are shy and skittish. The DSH comes in all colors of the cat rainbow, and their tabby can come in all four tabby varieties.
The bobbed tail is this American breed’s most distinctive feature. In fact, the American Bobtail may come in any color of the rainbow, and can vary in size. The shorter tail is their one most consistent characteristic (and even that’s not a sure thing, as the gene that causes the short tail is not dominant, and can skip a generation or two). Bobtails can be a mix of solid and tabby, and the tabby can vary, but usually shows up as the classic swirled pattern.
Available in almost every pattern and color, American Curls often display some tabby coloration on at least some part of their body.
The American Shorthair, one of the lowest-maintenance cats out there, is known for their classic tabby patterning.
The Maine Coon is one of the more popular pedigree breeds in North America. Most “elite” pedigreed cat breeds are of solid or ombre coloring. Maine Coons, on the other hand, are probably the most popular pedigreed tabby cat.
The Ocicat was selectively bred with the sole purpose of making them look fancy. The breeders sure did do their job! The Ocicat’s spots resemble -- that’s right! -- an exotic ocelot. Happily, they look wild but are in fact entirely domestic.
The most diverse tabby cat on our list is the Oriental Cat. The Oriental has the distinctive Siamese body type, with big almond eyes and large ears. What differentiates them is that they come in many, many colors, including varieties of tabby. The Oriental is known, in fact, to have over a hundred tabby combinations!
More on Cat Breeds
The History of Cats
Where Cats Come From - Infographic
Wild Cat Breeds for Adventurous Cat Parents